Analysis of a Current TV Comedy Show Essay Sample
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Analysis of a Current TV Comedy Show Essay Sample
It is definitely Seinfeld’s unmatched take on life’s most mundane moments that makes it a tremendously successful comedy. Seinfeld is a TV comedy often ironically referred to as “the show about nothing,” which actually details the lives of four single people living in New York City. It is the cleverly written plots, snappy dialogue and crafty, genuine characters that make Seinfeld distinct from other similar TV situation comedies.
The first specific element that makes Seinfeld such a successful comedy is that of characterisation. The show’s central character is Jerry (played by Jerry Seinfeld), a stand-up comedian who spends his time floating from gig to gig and whose personal life is filled with never-quite-right girlfriends. Most of the action takes place in the living room and kitchen of Jerry’s Manhattan apartment. The aspects of Jerry’s nature that make him a unique character on the show are his constant focus on the trivial things about every day life and his superficial attitude toward relationships. It is Seinfeld the actor who makes this character particularly funny. Jerry is overacted, with endless big gestures and forced expression. However, it is often these things that, instead of detracting from the character, make the character authentic. It could be argued that it is the shallow nature of the character that makes that overacting and forced expression necessary to make the character himself believable.
Joining Jerry in the show is his childhood best friend, George Constanza, (Jason Alexander) who is a character easily deemed the stereotypical loser. The direct juxtaposition of Jerry’s success and George’s failure leads to the big laughs. George is exactly the kind of person the audience can relate to; even if they are not like him, they are sure to know someone like him. George finds it impossible to hold or keep jobs and romances, even though he spends all of his time cooking up schemes to achieve both. Examples of some of these schemes would be the times he tried to cheat on an IQ test and wore a wedding band in desperate (and unsuccessful) attempts to impress women. It
is George’s authenticity as the short, bald, unsuccessful character that makes him almost endearing to audiences.
Jerry’s neighbour Kramer, (played by Michael Richards) is most definitely one of American TV’s most memorable characters. He is essentially quirky, over-the-top, inventive and in many cases, mysterious. Kramer is most memorable for the way he consistently steals the scene as he enters a room, though he has few lines and few plots are focused on his character. Kramer also has no visible means of financial support (except for Jerry’s refrigerator) and a bizarre ability to latch onto opportunities he seems completely inappropriate for. Michael Richards’ competent acting and comic skills make Kramer believable and genuinely wacky. In addition to this, it is the expert delivery of Kramer’s few lines that contribute to the show’s comic effectiveness as a whole.
It is Jerry’s ex, Elaine Benes, (played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus) who provides so much more than merely the token female perspective to the show’s principle four characters. Not only does she contribute her own parade of bad dates and workplace sagas, Elaine is a character known for her outrageous dancing and her ability to say it like it is. Although Elaine is often used for a female outlook on the plot lines, many of the episodes revolve principally around the details of her life. Louis-Dreyfus’ superb comic skills in the delivery of snappy one-liners and well-timed observations make Elaine a successful character.
In addition to the four principle characters, it is the long list of quirky relatives, friends, dates and colleagues that contribute to the distinct characterisation in Seinfeld. Examples of these colourful characters include George’s insane father (played by Jerry Stiller), the Soup Nazi, Jerry’s arch-rival Newman, lawyer Jackie Chiles and Elaine’s boss and catalogue mogul J. Peterman. These characters add to the reality and provide many examples of people an audience can relate to. It can be seen, therefore, that characterisation is at the core of Seinfeld’s effectiveness as a comedy. The contrasts between the characters as well as the actors’ skill at playing off each other makes the show genuinely funny. In addition to this, it is the authentic characters that audiences can easily relate to that make this show effective.
Another significant element of the show that makes it a comedy is the identifiable and realistic plots. Seinfeld could be described as a commentary on modern society when you are single and living in the ‘big city’. Though the show is renowned for it’s depiction of a ‘show about nothing,’ it is most definitely about something. Plot lines focus on every day life, relationships, family life, city living, issues in the workplace and many of the other small details of life. Seinfeld attempts to portray these every day things as mundane, however, for the four characters, they always end in bizarre and completely outrageous ways. For this show, it is in the every day situations that the humour comes from. It is for this reason Seinfeld is described as a situation comedy, that is, a comedy where the humour derives directly from the situations the characters are placed in. Audiences find these situations true to life, and when combined with the characterisation, these realistic and identifiable plots make Seinfeld an effective comedy.
The most appropriate evidence of these identifiable plots can be seen in an examination of the settings used most commonly in the show. The characters move quickly from Jerry’s apartment to the coffee shop and on to a local Chinese restaurant. The show also consists of short scenes in George or Elaine’s workplaces, the parking lot of a local shopping complex or Jerry’s car mechanic’s workshop. These are examples of not only identifiable, routine places, but also indicative of the familiar plots that develop around these situations.
Though Seinfeld rarely expresses political bias or commentary on current political figures, the show often critiques or remarks on other celebrities. Seinfeld is also known for its blunt, every-man attitudes towards many, at times, controversial social issues. Without trying to preach ideas or attitudes towards issues, Seinfeld takes these issues and makes the commentary humourous. An example of this would be the episode where Jerry tries to explain to Elaine how a “black and white” cookie is an example of two cultures living harmoniously and how humanity could learn a lot from that cookie. By taking social issues at the forefront of an audience’s consciousness and using simple analogies (more often than not involving food in this show) is a technique used to make the comedy relevant to the audience in an enjoyable manner.
Another important element of this TV program is that of the snippets of stand up comedy played at the beginning and end of each episode. The issues discussed in these sections often introduce or conclude the issues presented in the episode and provide a different kind of comedy for the audience to enjoy. Performed and written by Jerry Seinfeld, the stand up comedy adds to the show’s effectiveness as a whole.
It is therefore evident that it is Seinfeld’s unmatched take on life’s most mundane moments that makes it a tremendously successful comedy. It is the cleverly written, reality-based plots, snappy dialogue and crafty, genuine characters that make Seinfeld distinct from other similar TV situation comedies.
For a distinctly quirky take on life in the big city and episodes filled with snappy one-liners and outrageous characters, Seinfeld is a show that is guaranteed to satisfy your need for genuine humour.