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Seinfeld Script Search:

The Art of "Nothing"

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Frank Costanza's Lawyer







PostPosted: June 6, 2004 5:27 AM 

I'm not quite sure exactly which year Larry left. I know that the last 2-3 seasons were "Larry-less" as far as his share of writing and producing.
Anyways, what facinates me the most is how the overall tone of the show shifted after Larry David left. In my opinion, there is a different syle of "nothing" when Jerry produced. I can't quite describe it...Jerry's style seems more "sitcommy", while Larry seemed more dark. I believe the common perception that the characters are conceited and self-oriented came about in the latter episodes of the post-Larry era. When people believe this perception it bothers me. The majority of the show seemed to project (in my opinion) characters that did care about each other. I dont have time to elaborate.....which i could forever.....so im gonna post this and if i dont get a response ill feel happy I didnt waste my time. However...I think this is an interesting topic so you should reply. Farewell.

stu
Low-Talker

Posts: 12

Reply: 1



PostPosted: June 6, 2004 10:02 AM 

In the later seasons the style of Seinfeld was just refined, tightened. Perfected, even.

Jimmy


Posts: 5505

Reply: 2



PostPosted: June 6, 2004 2:48 PM 

The characters being self-oriented doesn't mean that they didn't care about each other, just that they were competitve as to whom deserved the most attention and recognition regarding their personal situations; whether it be a solution to their problem or praise for doing well. With obvious exceptions in many shows, this generally has been the case all throughout the series. It's more of a rough analysis of the four, than an exact personality profile of each individual. Just Jimmy's two cents.

I agree with you about the difference in the style of the shows. Jimmy's glad the show ended "on a high note," but it's still troubling to wonder what shows might have been in the next season that will never be. Imagine if The Contest was never filmed because of the show ending. Damn, that's not good to dwell on!

Marine Biologist
Bob Sakamano

Posts: no

Reply: 3



PostPosted: June 6, 2004 3:59 PM 

It's seasons 8 and 9 that are Larry-less, and I don't know that I notice a shift in style here. The only thing I really notice is an improvement and refinement in the comedy style around season 3 that carries through to all the subsequent seasons.

The interesting thing is, season 3 starts the period where David contributed less and less to the writing (at least in the capacity of being credited as a writer), and Seinfeld himself not at all. The show at that point was able to attract some of the best writing talent around, and that was a major factor in making them as successful as they were in the next 7 years. The other major factor was the terrific performances of Julia, Jason, and Michael. Seinfeld and David deserve great credit for originating the show but it bugs me when they are credited with being the heart and soul of all 9 seasons when they were only a small part of it, and David not at all for the last two seasons (he did write the Finale, though).

Frank Costanza's Lawyer
Low-Talker

Posts: 12

Reply: 4



PostPosted: June 6, 2004 5:33 PM 

Thanks for entertaining my curiosity guys. I seriously apreciate it. Although I personally am (unfortunately) not familiar with most of the talent behind the scenes, I still believe Seinfeld evolved in a certasin way. I think the abundant source of different writters probably caused it. I know Tom Cherones wrote alot of material (Like The Contest) and there were several other writers...but I think (personally) that the signature "nothing" style kind of detiriorated in the final years. The only word I can think of is "sitcommy". It just seemed more out there. The final normal episode that wasn't a finally (The Pierto Rican Day Parade) is extremely "sitcommy". The situations the characters get in to are VERY exagerated. Hmm...I cant describe what I'm trying to say. The actual character comedy is dead on. It just seems the plots of the episodes seemed like a higher level of "nothing" as compared to the early pioneer episodes...such as the one where they simply wait for a table at the chinese restaurant. Don't get me wrong though, the latter seasons contain some of the best episodes of the series...they just seem more traditional sitcom oriented. Because of that orientation I believe they dont have as much replayability aside from the brilliant character derived comedy. I just think that the 1st few seasons have material and situations that define "nothing". Situations like how to accomadate for the lady-friend who is coming over in the Pilot. These are actual situations that really satirize sociecty and are alot more relatable.
Also, my personal favorite thing about Seinfeld as a whole are the random injections of nothing conversations. The opening line of the pilot about the middle button making or breaking the shirt is an example. This part of the show was probably the most consistant throughout the series. It was this undertone of "nothing" that makes Seinfeld so brilliant.

If any of my rambling was coherent at all..please give me some feedback.

Jimmy


Posts: 5505

Reply: 5



PostPosted: June 6, 2004 5:37 PM 

Jimmy totally agrees with you about the discredit of the supporting cast members. It would've been a "bomb about nothing" if it weren't for their brilliance, imagination and creativity.

As far as the writing-style shift, It seemed that there was a bit more "nothingness" in the earlier shows. For example, casual discussions of Aquaman, explorers, salsa, ...and other oddball, filler material unrelated to the stories that gave it a real-life feel. Although this tradition continued, it just seemed to noticeably thin out and the shows got a bit more focused on the circumstances surrounding the characters (or "sitcommy" as the thread starter said). The show didn't lose anything... but rather evolved somewhat. The loss of any nonsensical or "dark" comedy was simply replaced with other great stuff! All the episodes are masterful!

Marine Biologist
Bob Sakamano

Posts: no

Reply: 6



PostPosted: June 6, 2004 6:11 PM 

There was an article in Jan 19 issue of New Yorker about Larry David that talks a bit about the origins of the show and the relationships of Jerry and the two Larry's (Larry David and Larry Charles) with the NBC powers. Here's a small excerpt that might be illuminating about the "nothingness" aspect of the show.
-----------------------------------------

Larry David met Jerry Seinfeld around 1976. David had been doing standup for two years; Seinfeld was just starting out. “Our brains had a comedic connection,” Seinfeld says. “Larry was a guy open to discussing virtually any human dilemma, as long as it was something that not a lot of other people were interested in. I was exactly the same way. We weren’t interested in what was on the front page of the newspaper.” They became comedy friends, working on standup material together while walking through Central Park or sitting in a coffee shop, one helping the other if he was stuck with a bit.

Seven years younger than David, Seinfeld was boyish and charismatic, and by the late eighties he was touring steadily and making frequent appearances on the “Tonight Show” and “Late Night with David Letterman.” He reportedly earned up to twenty-five thousand dollars a weekend at comedy clubs. As the unflappable master of observational standup, Seinfeld had created a persona that was almost completely impersonal yet thoroughly engaging. Larry David pushed audiences away; Jerry Seinfeld seduced them.

In the fall of 1988, Seinfeld received the ultimate acknowledgment for a comic: NBC called, wanting to develop a show with him. “It didn’t seem like any fun to do it by myself,” he says. “So I told Larry about it.”

One night in late November, Seinfeld and David were going to share a cab back to the West Side from Catch a Rising Star but decided to stop and pick up some groceries first. “It was a Korean deli, and we were waiting to pay, and we started making fun of the products they kept by the register,” Seinfeld says. “You know, those fig bars in cellophane, without a label, that look like somebody made them in their basement?”

David turned to Seinfeld and said, “This is what the show should be—this is the kind of dialogue that we should do on the show.”

“The stuff that we would talk about was never on TV,” Seinfeld says. “The essence of the show, originally, was my desire to transplant the tone and subjects of my conversations with Larry to television. At first, the idea was to have two comedians walking around in New York, making fun of things, and in between you’d have standup bits.”

David and Seinfeld pitched the rough concept to NBC. The meeting, which was eventually immortalized in the “Seinfeld” episode that has Jerry and George pitching “a show about nothing” to NBC, was notably tense. Not only were David and Seinfeld pitching fig-bar conversations; they wanted to do a one-camera, documentary-style show. The NBC executives were not impressed; they told David and Seinfeld that they wanted a straight, three-camera sitcom.

The executives were particularly unimpressed with Larry David. He remembers Seinfeld’s looking askance at him while he protested the network’s aesthetic. “I said, ‘This is not the show.’ People looked at me like I was a little nuts—a lot of ‘Who is this guy?’ kind of looks.”

Still, the NBC executives saw something. “I guess they figured it was worth a pilot,” David said. “Well, they liked him enough that they figured it was worth a pilot. I think they would’ve gotten rid of me in a split second if they could’ve. They would have gotten rid of me without even thinking about it.”

As “Seinfeld”’s show-runner—the head writer and the person in charge of every detail of the series and the scripts—Larry David kept clashing with the forces of conventionality. “At the beginning, Jerry’s managers were always very concerned that Jerry come off well,” Larry Charles, the former supervising producer of “Seinfeld” and now an executive producer of “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” told me. We were sitting in Charles’s book-lined office, next to Larry David’s. “I drew a caricature of him on a board on a wall, with the caption ‘Must always smell like a rose.’”

Frank Costanza's Lawyer
Low-Talker

Posts: 12

Reply: 7



PostPosted: June 6, 2004 6:32 PM 

wow....that article was really cool. It would have been so cool if they did do a one-camera documentary style show. I think I already posted this thought somewhere but I think it would be really fun to make the Seinfeld DVD with optional audio-tracks that eliminate the laugh track. It would be a completely different experience. Dark moments such as Susan's death would be a mastery of black comedy without the "comforting laugh track." Thanks for posting the article that was very insightful.

Frank Costanza's Lawyer
Low-Talker

Posts: 12

Reply: 8



PostPosted: June 6, 2004 6:37 PM 

Just to ge my tone straight, it would have been cool to see the original vision of the show (1 camera-documentary style) cause I'm a HUGE fan of mockumentary type shows. If you havn't seen "The Office" on BBC...you should. However... I'm MORE than satisfied with the results of Seinfeld, the king of sitcoms.

Jimmy


Posts: 5505

Reply: 9



PostPosted: June 6, 2004 9:15 PM 

Seinfeld, as most sitcoms are, was filmed in front of a live, studio audience then laugh tracks were added in post production (if you listen carefully you can hear little coughs and giggles that are out of sync with the mass laughter). Even with digital technology, filtering out all of the live audience, which unavoidably bleeds into the performer's soundstage mics, would be extremely tedious work (if at all possible) for 180 episodes.

Marine Biologist
Bob Sakamano

Posts: no

Reply: 10



PostPosted: June 6, 2004 11:19 PM 

I don't believe that Seinfeld was filmed in front of a live audience. The "virtual tour" of the set of Jerry's apartment panned around to a lot of plywood and a few directors' chairs ... didn't look like a studio audience setting to me.

I've said before that it would elevate the Seinfeld DVD's to a whole new level if they would put the laugh tracks on as an optional track. I believe it's technically easy to do. I don't believe they would ever consider doing it, the mass market being what it is.

shmibson
Master of my Domain

Posts: 98

Reply: 11



PostPosted: June 7, 2004 12:14 AM 

Yeah, every now and then the laughs get annoying.

And I agree with whoever said the storylines got more farfetched in the later seasons. It was still hilariously funny, but it wasn't as "nothing" as the shows start.

jimmy


Posts: 5505

Reply: 12



PostPosted: June 7, 2004 3:55 AM 

Separating the laugh track IS easy, it is on it's own post production channel... just pull down the laugh track fader on the soundboard. The problem is with the studio audience (which the show did indeed have) because the stage microphones would've certainly picked up the real audience while the cameras were rolling. Unless they used a clear isolation wall which is highly doubtful.

Television studios have gigantic movable stages which have all the sets jammed up against one another and ready to go. Only one set is facing the audience at a time while the others (already set up with chairs and wired with mics, lights, etc) would face some sort of wall or whatever else is backstage. (simply pull Jerry's apartment back after all those shots are finished...pull Monk's set forward to do all of the diner shots, then the same with Newman's apartment, etc...then the editors get to sort out the mess and figure out in what order the scenes should occur. Jerry's apartment set could've been rolled anywhere before the virtual tour was shot. I've never seen the Seinfeld sets, but most sit-coms have used this three-camera, studio audience, live format for decades. The organization and precision of the stage crews are absolutely amazing. Do you know if the Seinfeld sets are still standing or where they're at? Seeing that would be a total rush.

No, they wouldn't consider the no-laugh option on the DVD. We would like it, but it's not important enough to the average consumer.

Marine Biologist
Bob Sakamano

Posts: no

Reply: 13



PostPosted: June 7, 2004 1:26 PM 

The Monk's Cafe set is definitely still around -- it's on public display at the American Museum of the Moving Image in New York, along with other Seinfeld artifacts, apparently part of a year-long loan from Warner Bros (why WB owns this I don't know -- maybe they owned the studio facilities):
http://www.ammi.org/exhibitions/seinfeld/

I would assume the set of Jerry's apartment is still mothballed somewhere in LA.

The Sony Pictures website has a little Quicktime VR of both Monk's and the apartment:
http://www.sonypictures.com/tv/shows/seinfeld/index_cms.html

I came across a reference to a stand-up comic named Pat Hazell who had some bit parts on a couple of the episodes and whose credits include "doing warm-up for the Seinfeld studio audience", so Jimmy is right about that, although I also heard it was pretty small.

Jimmy


Posts: 5505

Reply: 14



PostPosted: June 7, 2004 11:44 PM 

Thanks for the links. Jimmy's glad they've preserved the sets. It's safe to say that they'll be around for quite a long time.

Jimmy


Posts: 5505

Reply: 15



PostPosted: June 8, 2004 1:59 PM 

Jimmy just looked at the virtual tours. it appears that the sets were not movable but rather set up on the ground (Jerry's wood floor is flush with studio floor). If you pan opposite Jerry's apartment, you can see the audience area, and also the steps (it's very dark), behind the grey railings and under the white awning. It appears that the sets were lined up side by side because the awning goes very far in both directions from the apartment set. The audience would simply get up and move down to the next set (maybe 80-100 seats per set?). I don't see any isolation walls that would've separated the crowd noises from the mics though.

Never saw this before! Very cool!



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