The SEINFELD Chronicles: An Introduction

I’ve decided to go back to the very beginning, to watch Seinfeld the way it originally aired, episode by episode... I hope you will join me.

There's something awkward about being a devoted Curb Your Enthusiasm fan and possessing almost no knowledge of its closely-related predecessor, a show that practically ensured the existence of the well-loved HBO comedy currently in its eighth season. Its predecessor is a show, after all, that shares so much in common thematically, is directly alluded to, and serves as a spiritual companion to Larry David€™s hilarious follow-up. I€™m talking about Seinfeld, of course, the sitcom co-created by Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld that became ritual viewing for up to 20 million Americans week after week for almost 10 years. A critical and commercial darling for most of its run, Seinfeld never managed to make an impact in the UK in the same way it did across the Atlantic. Saying that, I€™m well aware that there are many Seinfeld fans in Britain, most of them passionate and encyclopaedic in their knowledge of the show, but it€™s obvious that it never became a fully-fledged phenomenon in this country €“ not like its user-friendly counterpart, Friends, a show with a shadow so large you can turn on your TV at any time and find an episode lurking somewhere. Given the evidence, it isn't obtuse to propose that most people in Britain have probably never even heard of Seinfeld. How does a show of that size disappear beneath the radar? Well, easier than you might think, especially given the near-midnight slot the show was granted on BBC2. It€™s easy to understand why it never appealed to mass audiences here, and somewhat frustrating, even if you don€™t possess an inch of Seinfeld knowledge €“ the cast of Friends are witty, attractive, all-American, and instantly likeable. Just looking at the poster for a season of Seinfeld is enough to put anybody off. Friends also dealt with broader sitcom problems that focused on (romantically mirrored, really) everyday life €“ relationship complications, struggles with the workplace, issues with friendship, and dealing with family. Seinfeld focused on another side of life entirely: the little things. I€™m talking about those tiny idiosyncratic peeves that human beings encounter each and every day and choose to ignore, most of which had never been explored to such an extent through the medium of television. Though Britain is renowned for its tolerance of underdog comedy and disillusioned characters, the show just didn't get a proper shot. In America, then, it's understandable that executives were terrified that Seinfeld wouldn€™t catch on. It was unashamedly Jewish (the creator€™s words, not mine), oddly plotted, and chose to adopt (what Larry David called) a €œno learning, no hugging€ policy. Simply put, you weren€™t going to be preached to, and the characters weren€™t going to learn from their mistakes. The show wasn€™t concerned with the likeability of its characters, either, which perhaps made it difficult for people to tune in and get attached if they missed the boat first-time around. But Seinfeld€™s central four aren€™t your run-of-the-mill archetypes, and they do have more in common with the everyman than audiences might care to admit. Nobody is really like Joey or Phoebe. People are more like George Costanza (Jason Alexander), with hundreds of foibles. Audiences (in their masses) were readier than television executives could have ever imagined when the show hit the big time in €™91. Who would have thought? Most of what€™s been written here so far was gained through unintended research without seeing much of the show. Seinfeld was voted the greatest television show of all-time by highly-respected magazine TV Guide in 2002. To put that in perspective, The Sopranos came in at fifth. My experience of the show before writing this article was limited to a mere few episodes, none of which pushed me to seek out any more. I dismissed it, and went back to Curb Your Enthusiasm. But Seinfeld is undeniably attractive in its premise, especially for a Curb Your Enthusiasm fan. Which Larry David fan wouldn€™t get giddy over the prospect of a show further venting on the everyday oddities of real life? A show examining those deep-seated social aggravations, with episodes built around the mundane, like being trapped in a parking lot, or waiting for a table at a restaurant, and conversations between friends that go nowhere in a narrative sense but mean simply everything at the time. Not to forget those deft, interlinking stories which Larry David consciously employed again on Curb Your Enthusiasm. It struck me that I must have missed something. It would be unfair to judge a show comprised of 180 episodes on just the few I€™d caught on the off-chance. So I€™ve decided to go back to the very beginning, to watch Seinfeld the way it originally aired, episode by episode. The hope is that I€™ll discover a television masterpiece and regret the years I spent without it. Sources tell me that Seinfeld came into its element in season three, after two seasons of finding its feet, but it's in my opinion that the journey should start with the pilot, as to judge the transition from average, tone-confused sitcom to American gem. The show is a beloved institution, and deserves proper attention, especially from a Larry David devotee. The next nine articles (each one for a different season) will chronicle that journey as I delve into the self-described €œshow about nothing". To honour the title of the show's pilot, I€™ll tag these €œThe Seinfeld Chronicles€ €“ let€™s hope all the effort pays off. I€™ve got a sneaking suspicion it will. Next time: Seinfeld's 1st season

All-round pop culture obsessive.