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Reflections on Seinfeld

Written on:June 26, 2011
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My wife and I just started re-watching the seventh season of Seinfeld on DVD this past week. I have seen every episode of the series at least three or four times each. In my opinion, Seinfeld is the best television sitcom ever made. Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld created a masterpiece that has stood the test of time. Despite the fact that it has been thirteen years since the show went off the air, Seinfeld is still relevant today because the show focused on relationship centered humor. Therefore, even though we now live in a completely new world technologically, the humor is still relevant because human nature and human interaction remain rather constant.

One of the enduring strengths of the show was that it was extremely edgy without being vulgar. Granted, the restrictive censorship of network television during the nineties played a role, but the overriding factor in this was that the humor was smart. Using Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm as a comparative model, the genius of Seinfeld is that it worked out the same compromising scenarios as Curb Your Enthusiasm does now, but without the crutch of vulgar language. Some of Seinfeld’s most enduring moments come from the characters coming up with creative alternatives (such as “master of your domain”) to stereotypical language while navigating through controversial subject matter. While David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm is structurally the same show as Seinfeld, the freedom to put vulgarity front and center on Curb is actually a regression in the genius of the writing. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of Curb Your Enthusiasm, but the humor is never as sharp when the writer constantly takes the easy path to the laugh.

Of course, the most infamous component to the Seinfeld writing, and what probably more than anything else separates it from other sitcoms, was the interwoven connectivity of multiple plot points. Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld, episode after episode, were able to take multiple seemingly independent plot points and tie them together while resolving the overall plot line. A prime example of this is in episode 78, “The Marine Biologist.” Kramer’s subplot is that he is obsessed with improving his golf swing so he goes out to hit golf balls from the beach into the ocean. George’s subplot is that he is trying to impress a woman that he wants to date with one snag, Jerry had told the woman that George is a marine biologist. As the plot unfolds, naturally George finds himself trying to save a beached whale while masquerading as a marine biologist. In his dramatic retelling of the whale saving at the end of the episode, George reveals that the whale’s problem was an obstructed blow hole. He reveals that he saved the whale by pulling out the obstruction which happens to be a golf ball. Kramer retorts, “Hole in one!”

Moments like this have allowed Seinfeld to stand the test of time and should allow it to remain in most lists for the greatest sitcoms of all time. I think that its unpredictability as well as its shelf life (it is just as entertaining on the fifth view of an episode 13 years later as it was on the original view) make it worthy of being the first television program explored and deconstructed at theLeftAhead.

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  1. avatarTed James says:

    Tonight I was watching The Daily Show and Jon was doing a bit about Rep. Michelle Bachmann and her husband, Dr. Marcus Bachmann. The bit centered around Dr. Bachmann’s “pray away the gay” practice and Jon began making jokes about Dr. Bachmann himself having homosexual proclivities. He then brought out Jerry Seinfeld to help in fight against his inclination to go for the “cheap” laughs. At any rate, the reason that I bring this up is that I realized that Jon and Jerry missed an opportunity to incorporate an old Seinfeld character into the bit. Dan “the high-talker” from Episode 89, “The Pledge Drive.” They should have made a correlation between Dr. Bachmann and Dan “the high-talker.” That would have been hilarious.

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