The Morality of Immorality… and the Immortality of Seinfeld

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This blog has had, from its inception, an open invitation to anyone who would like to have something posted on a relevant topic, to have it presented here. Robert Taylor, a longtime friend, wrote this piece on Seinfeld, in conjuncture with our Seinfeld countdown. It appears unedited, as all guest pieces will.

I am of the “Jerry Generation”. A senior in high-school the same year the show went off the air; my life has been impacted in a real way by the show’s presence. I still own my original copy of the Wizard of Oz-themed send-off issue of Rolling Stone. As some type of bizarre trophy for my decades long love of the show, I proudly still preserve a number of unlabeled VHS tapes which we used to record the episodes we weren’t home to watch. I am of the population who’s use of Seinfeld quotes and references is as normal as saying “Hello” when I leave and “Goodbye” when I arrive…see how I did that? Admittedly, the show’s dialogue and circumstances ring through my mind daily and influentially; almost mantra-like. I often find myself smiling while choosing whether to refrain from alerting friends and co-workers that our current situation (whatever it happens to be) is similar to one that George, Jerry, Elaine or Kramer fumbled through. I point these things out not just to acknowledge that I write this with an everlasting adoration for the show, its actors, characters, and creator (so I confirm some amount of nostalgic-bias) but also to set up my true motive: to contend that TV (and we) will never be the same.

I suppose I should acknowledge that Seinfeld means something very different to me today than when I was glued to its original run in the 90’s. As the silver years have passed, I still softly chuckle at the show’s undeniable physical humor. No less funny now are Elaine’s “kicks”, her exaggerated shoves, her tantalizing head tilts; George’s sweatpants, his Dennis Franz idolization and pre-teen bedroom décor; Kramer’s unceremonious entrances, his spastic collapses, even his eccentric hairdo; Jerry with his sneakers, his knowing smirks, and his propensity to crack mid-scene under the weight of his co-stars’ incredible comedic presence. These are all engrained in the show’s DNA. What has unquestionably surpassed these intricate comedic details though, as my (and I know many others’) personal watch counts of each episode have elevated beyond good taste, is the recognition and appreciation of the show’s commitment to its original rules of humor. In doing so, they not only perfected their satirical (yet irresistible) colliding story-line formula but jolted opened the doors for an entirely new era of TV and put away for the good the notion of taboo network subject matter. Thus the show’s immortality in both quality and influence is indisputable. Continue reading

1. ‘The Conversion’ (Season 5, episode 75)

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King Edward. King Edward, Jerry.
Yeah, well, King Edward didn’t live in Queens with Frank and Estelle Constanza.

Recently completing a whirlwind watching of the complete series of Curb Your Enthusiasm—a show I hung my head as a Seinfeld aficionado in not being overly familiar with sans 5 episodes or so pre-watching—I was struck by many things most wouldn’t think to contemplate. This isn’t a brag in the slightest, more that I think I was predetermined to see different aspects than others as I had waited to see everything this long (so the shows influences had sunk in), had so immersed myself in Seinfeld (I think I’ve seen every episode at least five times and some as much as 15 or 20 times) over the years, and lastly, the condensed time frame (the entire Series in about 6 weeks or so) allowed for some of the more subtle nuances to expose themselves in what could almost be called ‘glaringly’. The show, as implied with the tongue thoroughly in cheek title, was in many ways a direct commentary on Seinfeld; on the show Larry David created, or more exactly, the show he tried and thought he (co-) created.

That last point, the show Larry David tried, and thought he co-created was one of the more interesting thoughts for me to consider. Largely because it synced with many of my thoughts on Seinfeld as well. Every time we see a cast member from Seinfeld acting as some version of their ‘real’ self (I use quotes because there is quite a bit of sarcasm going on there) a sly point is made; Elaine is a wonderful examination of feminine individuality because David appears to, on some level, see Julia Louise-Dreyfus as overly headstrong and stubborn (can be a negative and/or a positive). Kramer was sublimely aloof and irreverent because Michael Richards is some sort of pie-in-the-sky dreamer, one easily distracted by adult life. Jerry Seinfeld, seemed to get the fairest shake on Curb, always mingling with Larry step-for-step, every bit the equal that their much covered life-long friendship would indicate. Then there is the caricaturization of Larry David himself, in the George Costanza character, as realized by Jason Alexander in the role of a lifetime performance on Seinfeld. Curb handles this relationship in the most interesting manner, breaking from the others by seemingly not saying anything about Jason Alexander as he pertained to the ‘real life’ George Constanza. In fact, the most important thing to take away from their relationship, is how much Larry David thinks he fundamentally didn’t understand what George Constanza really meant and what he symbolized. Jason Alexander is used by Larry David as a mouthpiece to fully confront the prevailing idea in our culture of George Costanza as a liar, a schlub, a bum, or an endless screw up/off. David appears to think—and here is where I agree with him—that where Costanza came from, and why he reacted to every situation the way he did went over virtually everyone’s heads, including, rather ironically, the very actor that played him on screen. It seems to me that Larry David thought people misread him (as he is the original basis of the George character), but also, in the very actions where the character strays from the real life Larry David (and what these actions imply about him and the satire being employed).
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