Bring on the Seinfeld
Jimmy Kemper | Wednesday, February 15, 2017
Recently, Netflix announced a huge deal with Jerry Seinfeld: It would acquire the Emmy-nominated “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” from streaming service Crackle, producing 24 episodes for a new season set to release later this year. Additionally, Netflix will release two brand new stand-up specials from Seinfeld, which would be his first since the 1998 HBO special, “I’m Telling You for the Last Time.”
Any time Netflix announces a major deal like this, there’s bound to be excitement from all corners of the internet. Throw Jerry Seinfeld — one of the most well-known and influential comedians of the past few decades — into the mix, and the internet, in its uncontainable hysteria, spits out a series of tweets, thinkpieces and other hot takes that analyze brief tidbits of the news to death.
Sometimes, knee-jerk reactions like this are bad. Take, for instance, Paste Magazine’s “Please No More Seinfeld.”
It boils Seinfeld’s legacy down to a few key points. First, it argues that Seinfeld’s main contribution to popular comedy is his ability to produce tepid, safe material about everyday life that everyone can relate to. Then, it argues that this contribution lowered the bar for comedy to the point where bad comedy is now the norm.
Given how much “Seinfeld” changed mainstream comedy and how many great comedy programs inspired by “Seinfeld” exist not only on television, but also on streaming platforms, these two points seem like a disservice to Jerry Seinfeld’s work.
It also argues that “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” is a bad show, which — to be fair — is an OK opinion.
I’m personally not that excited for 24 more episodes of Jerry Seinfeld showing off his expensive car collection and his Taylor Swift-esque squad of white comedy celebrities, but I’m enthralled by the idea of two new standup specials from Seinfeld.
Because let’s face it — most of the work that Seinfeld has done outside of his show and his standup isn’t fantastic. First, there was “Bee Movie,” the bizarre family flick that’s become fodder for some of 2017’s weirdest memes. We all know Jerry made it so his kids would know he has a cool job. Then, there was “The Marriage Ref,” Seinfeld’s quirky and incredibly average take on “The Jerry Springer Show,” “Maury” and other daytime relationship resolution shows. Beyond these two “flagship” programs, Jerry’s work post-“Seinfeld” hasn’t encapsulated much more than cameo appearances in credit card commercials and the occasional bland tweet.
His standup and his show, however, are vital parts of the American comedy canon. Unlike other mainstream comedy shows of the nineties, “Seinfeld” left a comedy legacy that stands as more than just a single, meme-able catchphrase, a la “Family Matters” or “Home Improvement.” Seinfeld’s legacy is in his offensive, borderline nihilistic outlook in the world and his radical approach to the burnout caused by copy-and-paste sitcoms.
This was the show that skirted past FCC guidelines with an entire episode centered about masturbation through constant, non-explicit innuendo. This was the show whose cast of characters spent an entire episode waiting in line at a Chinese restaurant. The examples go on and on; “Seinfeld” was the show that continually broke the barriers of sitcom tropes and forced viewers to grapple with the absurdity of seemingly inane parts of day-to-day life.
Seinfeld’s approach to humor is fundamental to the influx of alternative comedy programming that takes absurd risks and has taken over both broadcast and cable networks in the past few years. Such shows range from “New Girl” to “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” and even “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” which once famously promoted itself in ads as “Seinfeld on crack.” “Seinfeld” pioneered the concept of amoral characters who don’t achieve resolutions at the end of every episode (or any, for that matter) and who furthermore don’t experience character growth over the course of the entire series, becoming more and more embedded in their heinous, sinful lifestyles.
Netflix has done a fantastic job over the past few years of expanding its standup offerings over the past few years — signing exclusive deals with everyone from Patton Oswalt to Dave Chapelle — so finally getting Jerry Seinfeld to produce new standup material, his first since the aforementioned 1998 HBO special, is a significant moment for the network.
Finally, for the first time in literal decades, Seinfeld is producing the content that everyone first fell in love with him over.
So please, bring on the Seinfeld.