Seinfeld: The sitcom that rewrote the rulebook
Andrew Jones | On 14, Jan 2017
We look back at the sitcom that rewrote the rulebook.
It is the ultimate anti-situation comedy. The show that cited only two rules: “No hugging, no learning”. It’s the “Show About Nothing”. The most respected sitcom of the 90s. The anti-Friends that works perfectly in tandem. Cynical, dry, narcissistic, it’s a TV show where the characters are likably unlikable, where everyone is an awful person, with devious schemes to get what they want and hopefully screw a lot of people up along the way. Seinfeld: what a show. And all of it’s now available on Amazon Prime Video in 16×9 HD remasters, which look pretty, pretty good.
Jerry Seinfeld is a comedian with a TV show, in which he plays Jerry Seinfeld, a comedian who pitches a TV show with an angry, irrationally-annoyed friend about Jerry Seinfeld and his angry, irrationally-annoyed friend… and his quirky neighbour. Before every TV show referenced being a TV show and broke the fourth wall with glee, there was Seinfeld. It’s a show stuffed with treats of dialogue, reaction shots, beats of silence, inept humanity and a general sense of black-hearted meanness, all wrapped in a multi-cam safe mainstream TV set.
While the first two, truncated, seasons of the show take a while to find the ultimate sardonic voice of the protagonists, Seasons 3 through 7 (the Larry David years) are truly outstanding concepts of character, situation and formula (the end is there from the beginning), not to mention wonderful stances on the pitfalls of humanity and culture. Jerry Seinfeld’s smiley, happy face mixed with Larry David’s angry, peeved voice melt into a warm sandwich of deliciousness that just refuses to stop giving. After all, this is the show that gave the world such catchphrases as “the Double Dip”, “Yada, Yada, Yada” and “Re-Gifting”. Thanks to Seinfeld, life became easier when we had terms for the annoying traits of humanity.
Like any sitcom worth its salt from the era, it is easy to drop into an episode of the show and understand every important character relationship within seconds. Nobody changes or grows on Seinfeld, so if you want to jump to Season 4’s beloved The Contest, where the ‘gang’ pool money in a bet that none of them will master their domain (and whoever finishes last, ahem, wins big), you can. It’s a simple plot, the characters are clear, the jokes are low-brow performed to the highest standard, and it edges so close to rude without spewing into offensive. Or you can forgo the Christmas TV traditions and celebrate Festivus with Season 9’s The Strike, which sees George Costanza’s (Jason Alexander) father, played by Jerry Stiller, celebrating his very own holiday, which involves a singular red and white pole and ‘The Feats Of Strength’. It amounts to a father making his son feel less of a man, and is painful, hysterical and not one iota the usual feel-good family holiday classic.
In 2016, Seinfeld is perfect for a world as warped as ours. With people getting worse and worse, Seinfeld was the first TV show to dive deep into how wrong it is to be so bad, and then make those who comment on this fact just as bad, if not worse. The world is black and white, Seinfeld reassures out, and that white is really just dark, dark grey.
Seinfeld is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £9.99 monthly subscription.