Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Seinfeld (1989–1998)

Creators: Larry David, Jerry Seinfeld
Cast:       Jerry Seinfeld, Jason Alexander, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Michael Richards

I had finished my second time watching of the entire series in order, around 4-5 months back. I was meaning to write about it at that point but 'Yadda yadda yadda' and I missed it. See what I did there.  Now am on fourth season in my third time watching. I guess it is never late to write about it amidst plethora of articles coming about the show's 25th year anniversary.

First of all I don't rate Seinfeld as my favorite sitcom. It is 'The Thick of It' for its sheer genius in all its episodes. Maybe it is not fair to compare Seinfeld which had 180 episodes to 'The Thick of It' which had just  24 episodes in which it had to maintain the quality. Well that is generally the difference between US shows which tends to go for over 10 episodes a season whereas 6 is the norm in British TV. But Seinfeld is more of a British show with its sense of humor and maybe one of the reason why I like it a lot.

As they themselves describe in the show 'It is a show about nothing' and that is why it is so timeless. The show really gets its identity from the third season onwards with the creators getting bolder and bolder and having a clear idea about where they want to take it. First season is quite ordinary and their interactions almost unrecognizable from how they are later on. It would seem like just another show about relationship troubles. Jerry's father is played by a different actor and Kramer is named Kessler in the pilot. Still it has its moments with the second episode 'Stake Out' establishing 'Art Vandelay' and George's desire to be a architect which is a running theme throughout the series. I had seen many random episodes of Seinfeld before I got all of them together and watched it in order. You will miss so much if you don't watch it in order because you won't get many of the in-jokes like Kramer's friend whom we never see 'Bob Sacamano', imaginary erotic film 'Rochelle Rochelle', Kramer's sharp lawyer 'Jackie Chiles' etc.   

Many articles have referenced the fact that it was the first popular show with despicable characters as protagonists and laid out the path for characters like 'Tony Soprano' and 'Walter White'. But the genius of it is that I don't find them despicable maybe because I find plenty of it very relatable with my nihilistic, narcissistic attitude towards life. Plenty of us will relate most to the neurotic George Constanaza, the self proclaimed Lord of the idiots who will drape himself in velvet if it was socially acceptable.

I normally prefer sitcoms without laugh tracks but the Seinfeld is different from other shows in its usage because they perform in front of a live audience during recording. That is why we can see them waiting for the laugh to subside especially during Kramer's entrances. We can also see them clearly being not able to hide their laughter during performances and this would normally constitute bad acting. But when they do it it is endearing and we love the show more because of it. Plenty of hoopla was around the finale which I found to be quite crap on second viewing. But that really doesn't matter because it is not a drama where the finale would change the way we view the previous episodes. When they decided to stop the show while it was at its peak, Bill Gates was offering Jerry more than one million dollars an episode. It has now earned more than $1.5 billions through syndication and both Jerry and Larry are about $500 million rich. Certainly I wouldn't cite financial success for quality of the product as can be evidenced by my disdain towards 'Titanic' and 'Avatar'. But for Seinfeld since it is success is earned though a long period of time justifying the timeless nature of it, the financial success is indicative of its quality. 

Larry David went on to make Larry David starring sweary HBO's 'Curb Your Enthusiasm' which is also among my favorites in my top 5. It is largely improvised but there is some predictability to each episodes in the way they structure it. For people suffering from Seinfeld withdrawal symptoms it is a sure shot remedy. 

Rating: 5/5