Seinfeld: Lots of Comedy; Never Serious

Discussion in 'TV on DVD and Blu-ray' started by Cathy Suzan, Apr 19, 2004.

  1. Cathy Suzan

    Cathy Suzan Stunt Coordinator

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    This is an interesting, tidbit about one of my all time favorite comedies. SEINFELD was one sitcom that never strayed to serious subjects. It was comedy to the very end. It was mostly funny and once in a while marginally funny, but it never gave in to the "A VERY SPECIAL EPISODE OF" syndrome. Almost all other comedies have, such as FRIENDS, CHEERS, FRASIER, EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND, etc. Even my number 1 favorite MARY TYLER MOORE has had its share of sad background music. Dont get me wrong, sometimes seriousness is ok, but I must admit I stopped watching FRASIER when Niles had heart problems (a very special episode). Anybody have examples of other shows that fall into either category?
     
  2. Carlos Garcia

    Carlos Garcia Screenwriter

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    Edith gets raped. Richie crashes his motorcycle and goes into a coma causing Fonzie to cry. Parallel universe Mindy dies causing Mork to cry. Laverne almost gets raped. Joanie almost gets raped. Gloria has a miscarriage. Colonel Blake gets killed in a helicopter crash. Beverly LaSalle gets murdered...oh the list is so long we could never finish it. I personally watch a comedy to escape the real world, if I wanted a drama, I'd watch a drama. Norman Lear seemed to be a big culprit when it comes to comedies going dramatic, then Garry Marshall felt the need to chip in, and today it seems like it's a "necessity" in sitcoms. Thankfully Seinfeld avoided the trend, as did mostly all 50s and 60s (Pre-Norman Lear) sitcoms.
     
  3. Bill>Moore

    Bill>Moore Second Unit

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    I agree that I prefer my sitcoms to be funny rather than dramatic.

    "And now...a VERY special episode of ______"

    Sometimes I think they want us to believe that every ep is special with some social signifigance. Eight Simple Rules was pretty depressing for a while this year. Eventually I gave up on it. I can get real life stuff right here in...well, real life.
     
  4. Seth--L

    Seth--L Screenwriter

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    While no one ever died of breast cancer (just licking envelopes) or was raped, in many ways Seinfeld was more applicable to my life than any other sitcom. I could definitely identify with conversations on "shiksa appeal" (maybe that's because I'm Jewish). And I have so many relatives like Jerry and George's parents.
     
  5. MatthewLouwrens

    MatthewLouwrens Producer

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    To be fair, MASH is one show that by definition was going to be a mix of comedy and serious. That was the whole point of the show. Hell, with MASH, the very special episodes were the ones that were purely comedy.
     
  6. John Kilduff

    John Kilduff Screenwriter

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    Before this gets moved to TV And HDTV, let me toss in my 2 cents...

    I feel it all depends on the show. Sometimes serious subject matter doesn't work well with comedy (Most of my childhood favorites, from "Family Matters" to "Saved By The Bell" failed spectacularly at handling serious subject matter). Other times, they do go well together ("Night Court" and "Taxi" spring to mind, as well as the "Family Ties" episode "My Name Is Alex", the "Black World" sketch from the first season of "In Living Color", and the WKRP episode where they tackled the subject of the stampede at the Who concert).

    Even though I never liked "Seinfeld" (strange, considering I like "Curb Your Enthusiasm"), I think it was best that they kept to straight comedy. Based on the episodes I saw, I don't think Jerry Seinfeld, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jason Alexander and Michael Richards could pull off a non-"Seinfeld" serious role if their lives depended on it.

    Sincerely,

    John Kilduff...

    For what it's worth, I prefer Stanley Spadowski over Cosmo Kramer.
     
  7. MatthewLouwrens

    MatthewLouwrens Producer

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    This thread got me thinking. The first very special episode I remember ever watching was an episode of Different Strokes where the kids went hitchhiking and ended up being kidnapped. I even remember the episode started with the millionaire speaking to camera saying that this was about the perils of hitchhiking.
     
  8. David Lambert

    David Lambert Executive Producer

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    It was a plane crash.
     
  9. Jaime_Weinman

    Jaime_Weinman Supporting Actor

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    Seinfeld actually dealt with some pretty serious subjects (Neo-Nazis, for example); it just never treated them seriously.

    Sitcoms that never got serious... well, it depends on what you mean by "serious." There are many shows that never had a Very Special Episode. I can't think of many shows that deliberately avoided emotional moments, like Seinfeld did. One I can think of is Newhart (the Vermont one -- the earlier one had occasional emotional moments). After the first season, that show became very dry, kind of cynical, and Newhart's whole persona was built around his discomfort with open displays of emotionalism.
     
  10. Mike Broadman

    Mike Broadman Producer

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    Criticising All in the Family for having serious moments is completely missing the point. The show was purposefully and deliberately about social commentary. The divided nation as represented by Archie and Michael, their respective social and political views, is what it's all about. To have it just be about the "commie-pinko" rants it's most famous for wouldn't mean much. It had to include homosexuals, draft-dodgers, unemployment, rape, and all that stuff to make it watchable for more than a dozen episodes.
     
  11. MarkHastings

    MarkHastings Executive Producer

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    It's funny, I always used to think Roseanne was always hysterical, but since I've been recently watching the reruns, I forgot how serious it was.

    I remember the reason the show was so popular was because it dealt with real life issues, but I can't stand watching the 'serious' episodes where Roseanne loses her job, or Dan loses the bike shop, or Roseanne and Dan argue and practically kill each other, etc.

    Family Ties was another show that used to delve into the serious episodes too.

    As far as Seinfeld being constantly funny, I've always thought of that show as a "Live Action Cartoon" more so than a sitcom.But you can do those serious things and still make it about the comedy. As Jaime pointed out, Seinfeld dealt with serious topics all the time, but they never played on the emotion. Keeping the audience laughing (even though there was a serious issue going on) was what we are talking about. Never did you fall into a somber mode when watching the show.
     
  12. Cathy Suzan

    Cathy Suzan Stunt Coordinator

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    Oh sure SEINFELD had its share of serious topics such as neo-nazis,street gangs racism, and even death, but non was ever dealt with in a serious or sadly emotional manner. I know FRIENDS never really dealt with serious topics as neo-nazis, but there have been plenty of sad moments (cue the sad music). Example: Sad Ross in love with Rachel while she dates other people; Sad Rachel in love with Ross while he dates other people; Sad Joey in love with Rachel etc. I think the same goes with FRASIER, CHEERS and others.
     
  13. Daniel W

    Daniel W Agent

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    I've had this discussion before with friends of mine and have concluded that there simply aren't very many sitcoms that avoid the occasional very special episode. I've always thought that Seinfeld was all alone in that regard, but the earlier mention of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" reminds me of "The Larry Sanders' Show", which I think falls into the same category of "no hugs". So does "It's Gary Shandling's Show" for that matter. Maybe Gary Shandling should be the poster child for anti-very special episodes. I think Newsradio might have fallen into that category if not for the untimely death of Phil Hartman.

    On the flip side, the king and queen of very special episodes has to be "The Fresh Prince" and "Blossom". Of course, unlike "All in the Family", in the case of those two shows, the word special could easily be interchanged with cheesy. [​IMG]

    -Dan
     
  14. MarkHastings

    MarkHastings Executive Producer

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    Cheers: When Diane leaves and Sam ends the show with "Have a good life". [​IMG]

    I'm not 100% positive, but I believe Married with Children never had an "emotional" show. ???

    This conversation reminds me of the recent Simpsons episode where Milhouse's mom moves to Capital City and it starts to end on a sad note, but Isabel Sanford comes on and explains (I forget the exact term she used) how shows will usually add a final/goofy thing so the show doesn't end on a down beat. [​IMG] (cue the Jeffersons theme)
     
  15. Jaime_Weinman

    Jaime_Weinman Supporting Actor

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    There's a difference, I think, between a serious episode and a Very Special Episode. A Very Special Episode is usually an episode that's made to call attention to some kind of social problem or issue -- it's made for the purpose of preaching or at least teaching. Examples: WKRP's "In Concert" (one of the best-loved VSEs) deals with the "festival seating" practice that led to the Who concert disaster; Diff'rent Strokes' "The Bicycle Man" is about child molestation; All in the Family's "Edith's 50th Birthday" is about rape, "Maude's Abortion" is about, well, abortion.

    All in the Family is an interesting case because while they sonmetimes got serious, they didn't really do "Very Special Episodes" for the first five years or so. They tended to deal with serious issues in a comedic way. (A possible exception was the episode where Gloria was almost sexually assaulted and was talked out of reporting it, but even that was quite restrained.) After the head writers left to do "Three's Company," the new writers Norman Lear hired started moving toward the Very Special Episode style, and that's when we got episodes like the attempted rape of Edith and Archie's addiction to pills and Archie and the draft-dodger -- episodes about issues, rather than episodes that incorporated issues.
     
  16. MatthewLouwrens

    MatthewLouwrens Producer

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    Hell, according to some reports people stopped watching because they treated one particularly high profile death in such a flippant manner.
     
  17. MarkHastings

    MarkHastings Executive Producer

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    I know I had an issue with it too, but that was also around the same exact time that my girfriend (at the time) had just lost her father. I remember watching the show with her and she said to me "That's not funny." [​IMG]

    Yeah, they definitely tried to make it funny, but it was just too awkward.
     
  18. Carlos Garcia

    Carlos Garcia Screenwriter

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    The character of Susan should've never been made a regular. So she was killed off by non other than Larry David, whose black humor contributed to alot of the show's comedy. If you watch Curb Your Enthusiasm, you can see what Larry's mind is all about. Lots of funeral scenes, and talks of diseases and death, and all done in a funny way.
     
  19. Holadem

    Holadem Lead Actor

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    Well, the premise of the show itself IS "very special", it was clearly a "message show" from the very begining, as it dealt with the "cultural consciousness" (AKA don't forget where ya hail from) of successfull black people.

    --
    H - lotsa "" eh?
     
  20. Cathy Suzan

    Cathy Suzan Stunt Coordinator

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    The Envelopes episode was a tad bit to awkward and not very funny indeed, but I must admit, i didn't stop watching the show, since I knew that it was just a TV comedy. MARY TYLER MOORE had a show where a character died (remember Chuckles?), it was one of the funniest episodes I have ever seen, and it was not at all serious.
     

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