Why I'll really miss "Seinfeld".

I Find Karma (adam@cs.caltech.edu)
Mon, 11 May 1998 11:58:58 -0700

Tim asked:
> Isn't everyone making just a little too much out of this show's demise?

Nope. First off, Jenny Holzer reminds us that all things are delicately
interconnected, so the demise of anything as big (30+million weekly
viewers across the country, which is like 9% of the U.S.) as Seinfeld
will have feedback effects. It is a common experience among a good
number of the U.S. adult population, bringing us together in an era of
increasingly pigeonholed demographics skewering. Anything that brings
so many people together, like Seinfeld does, is to me a good thing,
whose demise is worth lamenting.

| Even The New York Times uses [the word] Seinfeldian! It's the next
| best thing to Seinfeldesque. Actually, I prefer Seinfeldian.
| -- Jerry Seinfeld, to Entertainment Weekly

Second, Seinfeld acts as a mirror of 1990s American society. The end of
the show means the end of the cynical, self-aware 1990s. Are you sure
you want to move on to what comes next after this? Doesn't Revelations
site the end of Seinfeld as the breaking of one of the seven seals?

| George Costanza: If 95% of the population is undateable, then how are
| all these people getting together?
| Jerry Seinfeld: Alcohol.

Third, Seinfeld's group dynamic is rooted in jealousy, rage, insecurity,
despair, hopelessness, and a touching lack of faith in one's fellow
human beings. It's cathartic to sublimate our own feelings by seeing
our darker thoughts being played out for entertainment.

| His struggle is man's... He is a loathesome, offensive brute, yet I
| can't look away.
| -- pretentious art patrons' reactions to Kramer's canvas visage

On a personal note, the show has made me closer to Michelle. It's like
we have thousands of little in-jokes that only we get because we pay so
much attention to a show that offers so many creative little nuances
ripe for the plucking. Thinking of Seinfeld's wonderfully original
little humorous moments helps us not take life too seriously. And it
gives us one more thing to look forward to at the end of the day
whenever life is getting us down.

| You take the TV out of this relationship, and it is just torture.
| -- George Costanza

Also, much as the show likes to tell you it's about nothing, it really
is about something: social etiquette and conventions in premillennial
America. In a wonderfully postmodern (yes, Baudrillardian even) way,
the show is a wicked satire that reflects our society, while at the same
time society reflects back on it. I'm sad to see something like that end.

| Comics are like gossamer, and you don't dissect gossamer.
| -- The New Yorker editor on Seinfeld

People say Seinfeld is about nothing because when they dissect it,
there is nothing left. However, if one takes the show as a whole,
then between the humorous gems and the intertwined storylines is
something as timeless as any good literature. So I lament the end of
the series like I lament getting to the end of a really good book: I
enjoyed it the entire time it was with me, and it in the future will
reflect my outlooks and my attitudes in life. And I can go back and
read it (or in this case, watch it) again in the future, but nothing can
compare to experiencing it for the first time and having your mind blown
by considering and pontificating things you never thought before.

| I would compare writing Seinfeld to writing the Talmud - a dark Talmud.
| You have a lot of brilliant minds examining a thought or ethical
| question from every possible angle.
| -- Larry David, in Entertainment Weekly

Seinfeld taught me to pay attention to the details in life, because it
is in the details in life that we find the most interesting, the most
humorous, and the most thought-inspiring moments. Details are like the
spices of life.

| The sea was angry that day, my friends. Like an old man trying to
| send back soup at the deli.
| -- George Costanza

George Costanza represents Rohitian mockery in the world as we know it.
In the Entertainment Weekly issue devoted to Seinfeld that's out in
newsstands right now, we learn that George's most consistent trait is
his breathtaking selfishness, including an extraordinary disregard for
the boundaries of good taste and an inability to gauge when he has gone
too far. For this, he is always cosmically punished -- he loses his job
or girlfriend or apartment, he is humiliated, he endures, he goes on.
Eternally suffering from the pain he invariably creates for himself,
George is a tragic Job turned into a brilliant bad joke of a human being
that we can laugh at and reflect on.

| George: You don't have a replacement for ME lined up, do you?
| Jerry: [silent...] [sips coffee...]

The EW issue also indicates that Seinfeld also tells us indirectly that
jobs shouldn't get us down. In Seinfeld, careers are treated with dread
(George), breezy nonchalance (Jerry and Elaine), or blissful ignorance
(Kramer). They're merely a distraction that prevents on from pondering
life's really important issues and questions (like the hierarchy of toes
and which one is the Captain; like what it means to bunk something as
opposed to debunking it; like how a Latino deals with the linguistic
similarity of seltzer and salsa)...

| You don't take apart a frog to see how he jumps.
| -- Seinfeld

The EW issue goes on to point out that Jerry's most frequent position
within the foursome is to be genially aloof, the sardonic commentator on
the peculiar actions of his compadres. He needs them to be active so he
can be passive. At the series' end, he has become more finicky and
neurotic - a pickier, pricklier Jerry who would throw away a loose
shoelace that merely brushed the floor of a public restroom.

It is through Jerry that we realize so many of the small things in our
everyday lives that we otherwise wouldn't notice, and thanks to his
insightful commentary, we sometimes even get an appreciation for the
minutiae of existence.

| It's become very vogue to say [Seinfeld is a hit show revolving around
| four very venal, dishonest, selfish, even hateful people], but that's
| only on one level. There's a great warmth beneath the surface of
| these characters. Just the fact that we forgive each other shows you
| that.
| -- Jerry Seinfeld, in Entertainment Weekly

Seinfeld works on so many levels, from physical comedy and broad
observations to social satire and biting reflections. Some people just
watch the show, but Michelle and I really think a lot about some of the
issues being brought up. There are symbols and metaphors and allegories
and homages everywhere, so repeated viewings hold up well. The style,
structure, and stories are all top-notch, and the writing is packed
with as much as possible.

For all these reasons, and many more I couldn't even begin to
articulate, I love the show and I'll miss the show. Its ending to me is
like the death of a close friend, and I'll mourn its passing even as I
watch reruns in syndication until I die.


I make no distinction between truth and good bullshit. What do you
think philosophy is? Immanuel Kant and the inevitability of the well.
What IS that? It's just a notion. It's a piece of bullshit.
-- Jerry Seinfeld, in Rolling Stone 5/28/98, which places "Seinfeld"
in a "Wizard of Oz" context. Jason Alexander says, "It's almost a
perfect metaphor: George has no guts, no courage; Jerry has no heart;
Kramer has no brains; and Elaine just wants a new pair of shoes. We're
going away from [munchkinland] New York down that yellow brick road to
see where the hell it goes." Julia Louis-Dreyfus adds, "Perhaps Elaine
at her core yearns for some sort of home base. Why does she hang around
these people? I don't know." Michael Richards declares, "I'm the one
who takes the falls. Kramer has a little difficulty staying upright,
because he's made out of straw." And in characteristic fashion, Jerry
Seinfeld's thoughts naturally relate to the minutiae of the Tin Man's
existence: "You know, the basic barrel body is fine, but then there's
that very questionable groin area on the Tin Man. What is that? It's
not tin. It's some kind of silver panty. And I don't imagine Jack
Haley had it any better than me." Play THAT to Pink Floyd's "Dark Side
of the Moon," baby.