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Seinfeld Hits The Web, Still Talking About Nothing

Jul 18, 2012
Originally published on July 18, 2012 7:30 pm

Jerry Seinfeld's new series is called Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, and the promos promise exactly that. The comic toodles around in his vintage wheels, drinking java with his pals Alec Baldwin, Michael Richards and Larry David, and discussing (among other things) the effrontery of ordering herbal tea when invited out for coffee.

But the next act from the man behind the most popular sitcom on television won't be on television. It's a webseries.

"I don't know if he's looking for a big hit, but it feels like he's going for something cool and fun for himself," says David Wild, the author of Seinfeld: The Totally Unauthorized Tribute (Not That There's Anything Wrong With That). "I expect to love it myself."

He notes that with Seinfeld's monster hit show still in syndication, the comic certainly doesn't need to work.

"Jerry Seinfeld is in this position that's sort like one of the Beatles after the Beatles broke up. It's sort of, how do you follow that act? You have a guy with this incredible, fertile comic imagination and a love of comedy, and it's almost impossible to follow Seinfeld."

Since his TV show ended in 1998, Seinfeld has voiced an animated bee in Bee Movie, palled around with a cartoon Superman in a series of American Express commercials, had cameos on 30 Rock and Curb Your Enthusiasm and produced a short-lived reality show called The Marriage Ref. This new Web show may be Seinfeld's bid to appeal to a younger audience used to watching content on the Internet and mobile devices.

These days, an increasing number of big-name stars are appearing in Web-only videos. Dick Glover, CEO of the website Funny or Die, says that allows them to "take some chances that maybe they can't take on a movie or network TV, so you see more and more people very comfortable doing it."

Glover says Web videos are not only much less expensive to produce than traditional television, there are also fewer deals to negotiate, and no focus groups, network execs or ratings worries to contend with. In other words, much less angst.

"You're not spending millions and millions of dollars and everything has to be a hit," Glover says. "It's an Internet video. If it works, it's fantastic and millions of people notice and that's great. If it doesn't, OK, it was a little Internet video."

Seinfeld isn't talking to the media about his new show, which premieres on Crackle.com on Thursday. But the premise sounds a bit like his TV show, which focused on the minutiae of life: waiting in line at the movies, going to dinner at a Chinese restaurant, dealing with the petty injustices of the post office, yada yada yada.

In the promo for the new webseries, Seinfeld's old partner Larry David affirms that connection: "It's comedy in cars with coffee. What does that mean? ... You have finally done a show about nothing!"

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

Jerry Seinfeld once had the most popular sitcom on television. As NPR's Mandalit del Barco reports, his new series will appear only on the Web.

MANDALIT DEL BARCO, BYLINE: Jerry Seinfeld's new series is called "Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee." The promos promise exactly that.

(SOUNDBITE OF WEB SHOW, "COMEDIANS IN CARS GETTING COFFEE")

BARCO: The comic toodles around in his vintage wheels and drinks java with his pals Alec Baldwin, Michael Richards, Larry David.

(SOUNDBITE OF WEB SHOW, "COMEDIANS IN CARS GETTING COFFEE")

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (as character) I'll have coffee.

JERRY SEINFELD: (as character) I would love coffee - an Americana.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (as character) Just black coffee.

(as character) I would love some coffee.

SEINFELD: (as character) I think I'll have a cappuccino.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (as character) I'll have an herbal tea.

DAVID WILD: I don't know if he's looking for a big hit. It feels more like he's going for something cool and fun for himself. I expect to love it myself.

BARCO: Writer David Wild is the quintessential Jerry Seinfeld aficionado and author of "Seinfeld: The Totally Unauthorized Tribute (Not That There's Anything Wrong with That)." He notes that the hit TV show still in syndication. The comic certainly doesn't need to work.

WILD: Jerry Seinfeld is in this position that's sort of like one of The Beatles after The Beatles broke up. It's sort of, how do you follow that act? You have a guy with this incredible, fertile comic imagination and a love of comedy, and then it's almost impossible to follow "Seinfeld."

BARCO: Since his TV show ended in 1998, here's what Seinfeld has been up to: He was an animated bee.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "BEE MOVIE")

SEINFELD: (as voice of Barry B. Benson) Buzz, buzz, buzz, buzz, buzz, buzz. I know what I'll do. I'll pollinate these flowers. Buzz, buzz, buzz.

BARCO: And in a series of American Express commercials, he pals around with a cartoon Superman. Here, the man of steel locks the keys in the car.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV COMMERCIAL)

SEINFELD: (as character) What are we going to do now?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (as character) Relax. I can rip the door off, melt the lock, peel the roof thing.

SEINFELD: (as character) I just finished restoring this car.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (as character) I can go back in time.

SEINFELD: (as character) No going back in time. How many times do I have to tell you how many people you annoy with the back-in-time thing?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (as character) I can just fly the whole thing back to a locksmith.

SEINFELD: (as character) No flying. There's no flying. That was our agreement.

BARCO: Seinfeld has had cameos on "30 Rock" and "Curb Your Enthusiasm." He also produced a short-lived reality panel show called "The Marriage Ref." This new Web show may be his chance to appeal to a younger audience used to watching content on the Internet and mobile devices. These days, an increasing number of big-name stars are appearing on Web-only videos where they can...

DICK GLOVER: Take some chances that maybe they can't take on a movie or a network television show, something like that. So you see more and more people very comfortable doing it.

BARCO: Dick Glover is the CEO of the website Funny or Die. He says Web videos are not only much, much less expensive to produce than traditional television, there are also fewer deals to negotiate and no focus groups, network executives or ratings to contend with - much less angst.

GLOVER: Essentially, whatever you want to do. Let's go have at it. You're not spending millions and millions of dollars, and everything has to be a hit. It's, you know, it's an Internet video. If it works, it's fantastic, and millions of people notice. And if it doesn't, OK, it was a little Internet video. What the heck?

BARCO: Jerry Seinfeld isn't talking to the media about his new show, which premieres on crackle.com tomorrow night, but the premise sounds a bit like his TV show, which focused on the minutia of life, such as waiting in line at the movies, going to dinner at a Chinese restaurant, dealing with the petty injustices of life - yadda, yadda, yadda.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "SEINFELD")

JASON ALEXANDER: (as George Costanza) Yeah. I think we really got something here.

SEINFELD: (as himself) What do we got?

ALEXANDER: (as George Costanza) An idea.

SEINFELD: (as himself) What idea?

ALEXANDER: (as George Costanza) An idea for the show.

SEINFELD: (as himself) I still don't know what the idea is.

ALEXANDER: (as George Costanza) It's about nothing.

SEINFELD: (as himself) Right.

ALEXANDER: (as George Costanza) Everybody's doing something. We'll do nothing.

(LAUGHTER)

BARCO: That was Jerry and his best friend George Costanza dreaming up a new show to pitch to the network. The promo of Seinfeld's new Web series, which teams him up with his old partner Larry David, seems remarkably similar, not that there's anything wrong with that.

(SOUNDBITE OF WEB SHOW, "COMEDIANS IN CARS GETTING COFFEE")

LARRY DAVID: (as character) What is it that exactly?

SEINFELD: (as character) I don't know.

DAVID: (as character) It's comedy in cars with coffee.

SEINFELD: (as character) Right.

DAVID: (as character) What the hell does that mean?

SEINFELD: (as character) I don't know.

DAVID: (as character) You have finally done a show about nothing.

BARCO: Mandalit del Barco, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.