Josh Wolk
November 09, 2007 AT 05:00 AM EST

Jerry Seinfeld’s epic promotional push for Bee Movie — talk shows, ads, those pesky ”TV Juniors” on NBC — earned him a $38 million opening. But it came at a cost: His unrelenting hype managed to tire many of his fans in a way that even nine years of Seinfeld reruns never have.

We expect a certain indifference from Seinfeld. A true stand-up master, he radiates assurance when he performs, and on his classic sitcom, his character was hilariously unflappable to the point of sociopathy. So it felt unseemly to watch him zip from 30 Rock to Late Show With David Letterman to Today, hitting the same bees-are-funny talking points — and filling the moments in between with his Hewlett-Packard ads. This publicity onslaught may be a modern-day necessity, but the Jerry we thought we knew would be more blasé shrugging, ”Come or don’t come. I’ll just be over here wondering what the deal is with common household objects.”

This isn’t to say he lacked confidence; unfortunately, it manifested itself as arrogance. There was his disproportionately savage Late Show attack on Missy Chase Lapine, whose previously released undercover-veggies cookbook has been compared to his wife Jessica’s subsequent bestseller, Deceptively Delicious. Lapine was a ”wacko” and ”hysterical,” he said, even though she’d never accused Jessica of plagiarism. It was funny when Seinfeld ruthlessly dissected people on his sitcom; from the real Jerry, however, the diatribe came off as mean-spirited. The aftertaste was so bitter that it even tainted his Nov. 1 takedown of Larry King, who wondered (albeit cluelessly) if Seinfeld had been canceled. The comedian’s peevish retort — ”Do you know who I am?” — would ordinarily have seemed like lighthearted ribbing, but shaded by the Letterman incident, it had the unprecedented effect of making the viewer feel bad for Larry King.

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