Synopsis: The show about nothing. It stars Jerry Seinfeld playing “Jerry Seinfeld”, a character based largely on himself, and is set predominantly in an apartment block in Manhattan’s Upper West Side (see Geography of Seinfeld). It features an eclectic cast of characters, mainly Jerry’s friends and acquaintances such as Elaine Benes (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), George Costanza (Jason Alexander) and Cosmo Kramer (Michael Richards).
Seinfeld: Season 1 7.75
eyelights: the cast. the exchanges.
eyesores: the stand-up routines.
“C’mon, there will be people to mock.”
I just watched my first season of ‘Seinfeld’. Yeah, yeah… I know: I’m two decades late. Obviously I’d heard of it, and I had caught one episode in the early ’90s, but I just don’t watch television much, and ‘Seinfeld’ was only barely on my radar. Granted, it came highly recommended by many over the years, but there are so many options out there and I rarely follow trends.
However, between having two friends who are mega fans of the series, and having been given the Seasons 1+2 boxed set, I decided to finally take the plunge. Not only was I curious to know exactly what they’d been raving like lunatics about (kidding: they’re not actual lunatics. Well, maybe just a little…), but I figured: “What the heck… the worst that could happen is boredom.”
What I’ve discovered in this extremely short first season (it was merely a summer fill-in, after a few false starts) is that the show still plays well now. Granted, the fashion is out-dated, and the style is no longer novel (to me it feels like a conventional sitcom in many ways), but it still resonates by touching on issues that happen in our daily lives, that aren’t usually rooted in a time and place.
I wasn’t bowled over, however. I found the episodes quite entertaining, and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, but it didn’t hook me in a way that makes me crave another episode, and another, and another…
1. The Seinfeld Chronicles: Jerry misreads the signals of a woman that he met on the road – with the assistance of George, his closest friend, of course. It’s a little conventional and it has a contrived feel to it, but given that this is the original pilot (which is a blueprint of a show) we can ignore its flaws. This one is a good enough to want to see the next episode 7.5
2. Male Unbonding: Jerry is annoyed by a guy friend who won’t leave him alone. The big quandary: how do you break up with a friend? I like the concept, but I found Jerry a bit wimpy in this situation, which brought about the usual sitcom-y turns of events. It’s excellent for the basic idea more than anything else; it makes you think. 7.5
3. The Stake Out: Jerry meets a woman at a dinner party, but all he knows about her is where she works. And yet, he wants to see her again. This one was interesting as well, even if I found Jerry’s acting (Or was it the direction? Or both?) quite poor at the dinner. Again, it’s more about the concept than the execution, although this episode delivered more solidly than the previous ones did. 8.0
4. The Robbery: After having his placed burgled, Jerry decides to move – except he’s eyeing a place that George also wants and Elaine is eyeing his old apartment. The basic idea isn’t very good on paper, but the dynamics between the main characters makes it work. It was fun to see their personalities get a bit more complex than it had been thus far. 8.0
5. The Stock Tip: George gets a stock tip and convinces Jerry to invest as well. But not everything works out as expected. This one was so predictable that it spoiled the characters’ interactions for me. By this point, they’re all blooming and developing (especially Kramer), but the plot and its outcome was rote, paint-by-numbers. 7.75
The cast is all terrific. Seinfeld is not much of an actor, but he plays himself so he’s very casual and relaxed throughout – and it works. Jason Alexander plays a part that could easily have been written for Albert Brooks – Alexander’s facial expressions, body languages and even his delivery are all reminiscent of the comedian. Julia Louis-Dreyfus is also pretty good but she’s not given all the great lines – she actually gets some of the corniest ones. And Michael Richards is growing in his role as Kramer – in just a few episodes, we can see the character develop. I can’t wait to see what he’ll be like after a few seasons.
If I have any criticism to make about these shows, it’s with regard to the Jerry Seinfeld stand-up routines that are spliced into the show here and there. I love the idea: it’s not just an easy way to edit the show together, but it changes things up. It’s just that I don’t find Jerry Seinfeld’s shtick funny at all. It’s amusing, but I often find his observational humour too corny to bust a gut to. It’s chuckle-friendly at best.
Nevertheless, I looking forward to exploring the world of ‘Seinfeld’ further. One friend of mine, who usually doesn’t like sitcoms much, said that he likes the whole series, doesn’t tire of it and that there’s not one episode that he dislikes. Coming from him, that’s high praise indeed. And I’m very curious to see if that holds up for me as well. Over time, I’ll find no doubt out.
Date of viewing: Dec 25, 2012-Jan 1, 2013