Despite my belief that the writing was on a level that far exceeded most T.V. sitcoms -- and a majority of big screen comedy's, for that matter -- the number of people who just didn't warm-up to Seinfeld never perplexed me to a large degree. Awhile back, a friend explained that she couldn't get into the show because she just couldn't work up any empathy for any of the characters. That I understand, as I couldn't either; however, that's never been a requirement for me when it came to bonding with television characters.
Granted, I would not want to spend any time in real life around Jerry, George Costanza, Kramer, or Elaine -- at least by the mid point of the series, and definitely not by the final season. In the beginning they were just merely a little neurotic and slightly emotionally arrested. By the end of the run, they were totally vacuous, self absorbed, and occasionally, downright nasty. At the end of season seven, when George's fiancee Susan dies as a result of the toxins she ingests from licking dozens of cheap wedding invitation envelopes, the lack of emotion shown by the cast as the doctor delivers the news made even me cringe.
As Shallow as these characters began, had they "drained too much out of the pool" as Elaine once commented about Jerry's character? Perhaps, so. The series finale, which I found somewhat disappointing when it first aired, brought 9 seasons worth of the characters that were unfortunate enough to be come in contact with Jerry, George, Kramer, and Elaine's bizarre, insular universe. In the end, after being convicted of breaking a Good Samaritan law, they sit in the jail cell still carrying on their trivial banter. After digesting the episode a second time, I found it an apt closure to psychoanalyze -- and assassinate -- the cast in such an inventive fashion.
Initially, it was the realism of the dialog and everyday situations that was particularly endearing. But by the final seasons, that realism blended with almost surreal story lines. For instance, when Kramer installed Frank Costanza's old screen door on his apartment entrance to capture a slice of small town America, complete with hanging plants and lawn furniture -- it was brilliantly quirky. As the characters grew more void of redeeming qualities and humanity, the plot lines grew more divorced from the real world. Jerry and his companions seemed to be living entirely in their own universe, governed by their own bizarre laws and standards, while at the same time retaining a generous amount of relatability.
Being able to connect with a show's characters from a human stand point had long been one of the cardinal rules of television dramas and comedies. The character's could be nasty or obnoxious, but had to have some likable qualities. Carla Tortelli of "Cheers", and Dan Fielding of "Night Court" are perfect examples of objectionable characters who pushed the audience to the brink of disgust one moment, then shifted gears with one of those "warm and fuzzy" sitcom moments that exposed their human side. No, Seinfeld had none of those warm and tender moments -- nada! Being the part time curmudeon I am, it's another of the reasons I loved the series so much.
After year's of being brought to the brink of nausea by such saccharine T.V. scenes, I found Seinfeld's lack of pathos refreshing. What you were left with was seriously funny, edgy -- dark at times -- comedy. Certainly, we could all connect with the characters, though; the observational humor was marvelously astute. Terms like "close talker", "low talker", "bad breaker upper", for just a sampling, are references with which we could all identify. These phrases became a part of the Seinfeld aficionado's lexicon.
Obviously taste in humor accounts for another large percentage of those who were not take with Seinfeld -- the gags could be crude, sophomoric, and tasteless, to say the least. That's never bothered me if such humor is well crafted, though. So I'll keep on watching the reruns, over an over, probably until I'm a very old man. And I won't miss those those warm, fuzzy feelings one bit.