There’s nothing especially original about Jerry Seinfeld’s stand-up act; he’s one of those ”observational” comics, the kind of jokester who begins every other sentence, ”Didja ever notice the way…?” It’s the same sort of attitude that comedians as various as George Carlin, Robert Klein, and Jay Leno have been using for years. If his approach isn’t original, however, Seinfeld’s intelligence is. He has managed to find fresh humor in hackneyed topics, from going shopping to doing the laundry, and his timing is a marvel. His delivery of a joke is enough to make you laugh, quite aside from whatever its punch line may be.
So what’s this got to do with Seinfeld’s new situation comedy? Everything. Seinfeld, which aired once last year as The Seinfeld Chronicles, features one small innovation in the sitcom format — each week’s plot alternates with scenes from the comedian’s stand-up act. Thus, every half-hour begins with Seinfeld in a nightclub, telling jokes; then the show ssitches back to his New York apartment, where the week’s story begins. Then a few more nightclub jokes, then back to the apartment…Seinfeld is eager to give you more comedy value for your viewing investment.
Seinfeld isn’t laugh-out-loud funny, but it’s one of the most amiable shows on the air. The comedian plays himself as sweet but not sappy. His best friend is played by Jason Alexander, who has proved his versatility as a singer-dancer-charmer in the theater (Jerome Robbins’ Broadway, Accomplice). Seinfeld also has a friendly ex-girlfriend, portrayed by Julia Louis-Dreyfus, a former Saturday Night Live cast member who came into her own in a small part in the TV comedy Day By Day. Louis-Dreyfus has proven to be a wonderful sitcom actress, quick, deadpan, and sexy.
The weakest aspect of Seinfeld is a wacky next-door neighbor played by Michael Richards. Richards is doing little more than an impersonation of Christopher Lloyd’s Jim on Taxi, and he ought to cut it out.
Seinfeld is around for a four-week run only, and especially now, when other series are drifting into reruns, it’s well worth catching.