‘Seinfeld’ was great for its time, but we need to move ahead
March 21, 2018
I’m pretty sure nostalgia is ruining television right now. People’s inability to let sleeping shows lie has caused reboots of shows such as “Murphy Brown,” “Magnum P.I.,” “Will & Grace,” “Charmed” and “Dynasty” to infest the screens of network television today. Reboots of game shows are plaguing our screens too. Who even asked for “American Idol,” “Battle of the Network Stars,” or “The $100,000 Pyramid” to come back on air?
For someone who is part of a growing number of people who rarely watch regular network TV shows on an actual TV, I can only assume these reboots of classic television programs are meant to lure people back into watching TV in real time. Not for me. I prefer the original thank you very much.
Call me old fashioned, but I think that classic shows should stay classic and very much in the past. I love watching these old shows with their outdated clothes, hair styles and catch phrases as reruns on regular TV or by bingeing whole seasons of my favorite sitcoms on streaming apps. Some of my favorite classic shows that I re-watch fondly and am not looking to see a reboot of are “Cheers,” “Seinfeld,” the original “Will & Grace” and “Fraiser.”
Most recently I have been indulging in episodes of the 1990s NBC sitcom “Seinfeld.” Now that I’ve steadily worked my way through a few seasons of a show that was on air from 1989 to 1998, I have a few observations. For one, I do not think that every episode of “Seinfeld” would fare so well if it were on TV in today’s world.
Many of the show’s episodes suffer from conflicts over political correctness that would not sit well with viewers of the show today. Prime examples of this are the racist overtones of the episode featuring a Native American statue from a cigar store or the episode when Jerry asks out a woman with a Chinese-sounding last name over the phone because he’s always wanted to date an Asian woman. The woman turns out to be white when they finally meet in person, and Jerry loses interest because she’s not actually Chinese. Do not get me started on the major issues of sexism that run rampant in many episodes of this famous show.
Additionally, I do not think Seinfeld would be an ideal candidate for a modern day reboot because of the conveniences of modern technology. “Seinfeld” is infamous for being the show about ostensibly nothing. “Seinfeld” follows the lives of Jerry Seinfeld, Elaine Benes, Cosmo Kraemer and George Costanza as well as the quartet’s innumerable boyfriends and girlfriends that make small appearances in every episode.
The major theme of the entire show is communication between the core four characters. The four spend so much time talking with each other in every episode that at one point George’s finance Susan makes a point of saying that she thinks it’s weird that they all hang out and talk so much. She ultimately does not want to take part in that.
The panic and the work involved in getting a message delivered to another person – a very big problem – becomes the whole point of many episodes. These kinds of missed connections/missed communication situations just do not exist today.
When the four friends are lost in a parking garage or when they are all trying to see a movie together but no one knows when anyone else is arriving or what movie to see, or having to wait to use a pay phone, are not problems in 2018. A quick text from a smartphone would solve all these issues that the show spends entire episodes showing the viewer how the four characters cope in simply trying to get in contact with each other. The genius of the show, which is shown by how it is written, depends on these instances where communication is essential but unattainable because it was the early 1990s.
“Seinfeld” works as a television show so well because it can only exist in a time where tight, high rise denim, no cellphones, hardly any internet and big, wild hair were in fashion. We are currently in a golden age of TV where so many new and exciting shows are being watched on TV and online. Nostalgia for old shows of the past should not factor into what is being shown to the modern audiences of today. Let’s keep forging ahead with new content and creating a new set of classic TV shows.
Lauren Simenson is a student at UW-River Falls.