July 13, 2019

SEINFELD’S 30TH ANNIVERSARY: How It Revolutionized the Sitcom Genre.

If the show centered on characters, its chief subject was mores, or etiquette. Etiquette is a Sierra Nevada of comedy gold, and nobody else had staked much of a claim on it. Should a note making reference to the arrival of a baby employ an exclamation point? What is the minimum distance someone should maintain while engaging in conversation? Is it okay to sleep with the cleaning lady at work? Should you spare a square for your desperate neighbor in the adjoining bathroom stall? Can you re-gift a present? Seinfeldian misunderstandings are grounded in reality, not the contrived dumb-guy misconstructions of Friends’ Joey Tribbiani.

In an exchange related almost verbatim in episode ten of season five, one Seinfeld writer asked a Chinese postman if he knew where a nearby Chinese restaurant was, and the postman took this as a racial inference. But the writer didn’t think Chinese people knew where all the Chinese restaurants are, he thought letter-carriers knew. Such is the fractious nature of this city and its inexhaustible pool of umbrage. Seinfeld captured it beautifully, in the Talmudic spirit of tearing a situation apart from every angle, with such concision that it popularized lots of neologisms and phrases for its various embarrassments and predicaments. Close-talker! Double-dipper! Shrinkage!

Of course, Seinfeld was made in an era when left-leaning Democrats laughed at political correctness, and even warned of its dangers. Today, they embrace it fully to devour each other: ‘C’MON MAN’: Biden Criticized Over Use Of ‘Gendered’ Phrase.

Earlier: ‘Seinfeld:’ The Ultimate ‘Show About Nothing’ at 30.

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