I was watching something on TV recently (can’t remember what) (can never remember what) when a promo came on for a show called “Momma’s Boy” dealing with several (possibly) junior high school-educated girls in their 20s competing to date a guy who (something tells me) has a job that pays a (presumably well-deserved unliveable) salary but, in a (seriously subversive) twist, the guy’s (hateful, verbose, clinging and borderline perverted) mother gets to approve of her son’s choice of dates and — suddenly something (belatedly) dawned on me: Network television was out of the comedy business. I guess I missed it, but somewhere they just threw up their hands and said… We quit.
Well, whatever. Since that promo, I’ve been feeling my very first wave of nostalgia for “Seinfeld.” I mean, even though in the 10-plus years after the show ended I’ve compiled about 55 plot lines for new episodes, I’ve never been overly nostalgic about it. But since not only the show is gone but its entire genre is too, nostalgia dropped in and I have to say, it’s amazingly pleasant. Even Surprising. I’ll tell you about it. In a moment.
In the days and weeks after the “Momma’s Boy” promo, whenever I’d bump into someone who worked for the network comedy departments (what’s in those office suites now?), I’d wind up asking, "Honestly, now that you’re (at best) working in the suburbs of the TV business, what did the networks back then really think of ‘Seinfeld’?" The most commonly used word was “aberration.” As in "The show was seen as an aberration." The second most commonly used word was “hated.” As in, "Everyone at the networks hated it. Even people at NBC hated it. Oh, they liked it as TV viewers (and wage earners), but as executives, they hated it. "
I suspected as much for a long time, so this was no big surprise. “Seinfeld” induced writers to pitch comedies that strived to be funny and that went against everything the network comedy people stood for. The networks wanted heart over brains because they were confident their viewers had hearts.
As opposed to “Seinfeld” writers. Since the end of the show, I’ve been met with shock whenever I’ve written or pitched a script that even hinted at human emotion. So, so, so, so not fair.
Nostalgia is kind of like an emotion, no?
Let me tell you the shape of “Seinfeld” nostalgia. You know how most people feel their deepest nostalgia for college? I used to. But “Seinfeld” has taken over, and that makes sense. “Seinfeld” was college, only much better: hanging out on a campus (studio lot) with funny, smart friends all day, feeling superior to everyone else in society and having a new crop of freshmen girls (actresses) coming to your frat house (office) every week. It was a dream.
And speaking of dreams, these days, instead of having nightmares about having missed every class before a final exam, I now have dreams that I’m 20 episodes into a “Seinfeld” season and haven’t written one script.
Then I wake up, think about all that’s been touched off in me by “Momma’s Boy,” and fall back asleep in peace.
Then I wake up and see online that “The Biggest Loser” gained back 122 pounds and I live whole my life in peace.