Best Of The Web
“Seinfeld, one of the most successful TV shows ever made, turns 30 on July 5, 2019. Its pilot, “The Seinfeld Chronicles,” aired that evening in 1989, but the show wouldn’t return for nearly a full year — its second episode didn’t air until May of 1990.
Despite that inauspicious debut, the series is self-evidently one of the most influential television programs ever made; when it debuted in 1989 it entered a sitcom landscape that was still shaking off the last cobwebs of the 1970s sitcom revolution, and it suggested, boldly, that sitcoms didn’t need to be about important issues or even use traditional storytelling methods to be great. Instead, they could just focus on the minutiae of life, the little bits and pieces of larger things that add up to form our points of view. It was a show that reveled in detritus.
Easy to miss in all that, however, are the ways that Seinfeld influenced TV via its underpinnings. Jerry Seinfeld’s observational humor affected many other shows of the era, as well as many that premiered long after the series had ended. The “single people living in the big city” premise became the centerpiece of seemingly every other sitcom. But Seinfeld was so huge that it influenced television in many smaller ways, too. Here are five of them.
1) Seinfeld changed the way sitcom stories are written
It’s not terribly exciting to think about television in terms of its story structure — the combination of plot developments, scenes, and raw dramatic beats that make up any given episode of TV — but Seinfeld’s impact on television comedy is actually most pronounced in this arena. The famous “show about nothing” pitch obscured just how much structural work was going on beneath the show’s hood. Prior to Seinfeld, most sitcoms broke down into an A-story and a B-story, and the surrounding material could take the form of a so-called “runner,” a joke that continued throughout the episode and told a very loose story but didn’t do much more than that.”
JJ Editor's Picks
"Congratulations, Mr. President. It took an extraordinary effort, but you finally managed to spark a serious global crisis. I know you don’t like to share credit, but don’t worry. The current mess in the Middle East centered around Iran is all..."
"We’re approaching the anniversary of one of the nastiest political battles it has been my misfortune to witness—the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court despite credible accusations of sexual harassment and assault and his..."
"There are few one-offs in life on Earth—rarely can a single species boast a trait or ability that no other possesses. But human language is one such oddity. Our ability to use subtle combinations of sounds produced by our vocal cords to create..."
"He walked through the coffee shop door and scanned the crowd. A familiar smile bloomed as he recognized me, despite how my appearance had changed over the years. I’m bald and bearded now, and heavier. I wear an extra decade on my face, and I’m..."
"The poverty rate in the United States fell to 11.8 percent in 2018, according to data released last week by the Census Bureau — the lowest it’s been since 2001. But this estimate significantly understates the extent of economic deprivation in..."
"Streaming is the future of TV. But for now a big part of the streaming business revolves around old TV shows. Latest case in point: Netflix is paying a lot of money for the rights to show Seinfeld to its 150 million subscribers around the world..."
"On the eve of the second Israeli election of 2019, there is no shortage of apocalyptic rhetoric about the potential consequences of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s re-election. From the New York Times' editorial column to The Forward’s..."
"Is there a backlash toward the technology industry in the culture? I tend to think so, having written about its various twists and turns most weekdays for the past couple years now. But sometimes an obsession with a beat can lead to myopia, and..."