Seinfeld at 25: or, You Don't Have to Like Characters as Long as You Find Them Interesting

"Seinfeld," that classic Show about Nothing, debuted 25 years ago this week on NBC, and somehow changed everything. It did through formal audacity (the show changed its pace, speed and emphases many times throughout its run, always staying a step ahead of its audience) but also by showcasing four lead characters and many supporting characters who were not only fundamentally unsympathetic, but demonstrated very little potential for growth, much less redemption. I wrote a piece about the series for New York Magazine, which you can read at full length by clicking here. I wrote:

"For all its baseline technical excellence (every line and transition timed with whip-crack precision), Seinfeld was never content merely to amuse. It seemed to loathe the idea that audiences might get too comfortable with it. David admonished the writing staff that there would be “no hugging, no learning” in the scripts, and there wasn’t. Ever. Seinfeld went out of its way to provoke, baffle, and offend. It was often blasted as showoff-y, cold, even hateful. (When George’s fiancée died from licking toxic envelopes, he seemed to get over it in seconds.) Seinfeld was, to quote a phrase from the Grinch’s theme song, as cuddly as a cactus and as charming as an eel."

I discussed the piece on MSNBC's "Hardball," guest-hosted by Steve Kornacki, last week, with John O'Hurley, who played J. Peterman on the show and is hilarious in life as well. Video is below.

I also appeared on New Hampshire Public Radio's "Word of Mouth." To listen, click here

Matt Zoller Seitz

Matt Zoller Seitz is the Editor at Large of RogerEbert.com, TV critic for New York Magazine and Vulture.com, and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in criticism.

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