Certain TV comedies make you long to have been there when they were created. To have been in the room, seeing the real relationships that helped form the characters on the screen, hearing the asides and ideas that didn’t make it, listening to the laughter of people who made so many others laugh.
It doesn’t apply to everything – you might not particularly want to see footage of John Cleese and Connie Booth meticulously crafting Fawlty Towers line by line, for example. But Seinfeld? Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld riffing on the minutiae of modern middle-class life? Hell yeah.
The first episode of Seinfeld’s new web series, which premiered last night, is close to putting you in the room. Except the room is now John O’Groats Grille & Pub in west LA: Jerry picks Larry up in his rented 1952 azure VW Bug and they go for coffee. A little over ten minutes of their conversation – that’s the show.
For Seinfeld nuts, this is a small slice of nirvana. Mainly it’s just seeing them make each other laugh: Jerry is off before they’ve even got in the car, when he asks Larry if he’s excited and gets the perfect Curb Your Enthusiasm reply. “I wouldn’t say I’m excited. But I’m looking forward to it.” Later on, Jerry’s use of the word “debauched” makes Larry spit his tea onto the floor of the diner.
Topics under discussion include comedians’ inherent laziness (Larry: “I always wanted the show to get cancelled, so I didn’t have to work”), Larry’s controversial decision to drink herbal tea instead of coffee, and whether free-range chickens have really got it so good. (Jerry: “It’s not like Monument Valley, John Wayne… ‘Whaddaya say we head out onto the range?'”)
It’s lavishly filmed and, in truth, probably only semi-improvised. But that offhand, in-the-room magic is there. As Seinfeld says to his friend: “It’s a miracle we ever got any work done. Because nobody can waste time like you and me.”