Is there a kind of TV show more comfortable than a sitcom? Some people relish reality TV because they know it’s terrible, and some never feel more at home than when they’ve got their teeth sunk into a crime-of-the-week detective show. But sitcoms transcend them all; a compact package of laughs that you can fall into no matter what time of day, no matter what episode of what season, and no matter how many times you’ve seen it before. We’ve all seen every episode of Friends a million times. We all have our favourites, and I thought I’d seen it all, until I made the impromptu decision to start watching Seinfeld.
Seinfeld is the iconic adventures of comedian Jerry Seinfeld, playing a fictionalised version of himself alongside his bizarre group of friends; ex-girlfriend Elaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), eccentric next door neighbour Kramer (Michael Richards) and hilariously pathetic best pal George (Jason Alexander). Four terrible people, making their way through life in New York, and something I truly couldn’t believe.
To maybe oversimplify the show a little, it’s humour consists of almost entirely observational pieces on people, life, love, all sorts of topics. In other words, it’s very easy to see that it’s written by a comedian. But it’s well known that Seinfeld is a show about ‘nothing’…It took me longer than I should have to pick up on this. Over the course of the show’s nine seasons, it very rarely contains any kind of important narrative, and almost entirely does away with the concept of consequences. It wasn’t until the fourth’s season when the show starts getting a bit meta – Not something that lasts – that it truly hit me, and I was blown away. Where shows like Friends and How I Met Your Mother base it’s comedy and emotion on the ever developing relationships of it’s main cast and consistently come back to it for the progress of the show, Seinfeld takes pride in being exceedingly detached, and seriously makes it work.
And yet, for a show so detached and so uncaring, how can it mean so much to so many people? This was question that hit me in the face when I found myself close to tears at it’s unsurprisingly non-event of a finale – Saying that, it wasn’t quite as uneventful as many claim – and I realised, it was because there just isn’t anything like it. It feels so unique, yet it’s set up and execution seems so simple. It’s a strange feeling to be so entranced with four objectively awful people, another trait that this show takes pride in, and for every episode to move on from disaster to disaster simply because these characters refuse to learn their lesson and grow up, a strict rule in the writing of the show. Like most sitcoms, it takes a little while to find it’s feet, but once it gets there it’s unstoppable. It lead to some of the best supporting characters and quotable lines that TV had to offer. The four leads are perfect; Jerry is charming, but is ultimately not that dissimilar to his real life persona. It’s the effort of his co-stars that really shine, in particular that of Michael Richards’ almost entirely physical performance and Jason Alexander’s constant anger, depression, desperation, over the top, and just about anything else that George requires.
For a show about nothing, it truly is something; Seinfeld is one of the best TV shows of all time. To quote the Green Day song used in it’s final season, “It’s something unpredictable, but in the end is right”. It’s one of the most consistently funny and undeniably impressive shows around, and it may take you several weekends to get through. Trust me, it’s completely worth it.
Seinfeld is available on Netflix!