Rick Esenberg thinks the television series Seinfeld needs “saving” in light of the Michael Richards outburst. Ann Althouse also asked recently if Seinfeld is “ruined.”
Isn’t that really too much to expect? Is our judgement of Seinfeld as entertainment or art really tainted by Michael Richards’ racist rant? And if it is, wouldn’t the life of the actual Jerry Seinfeld (rather than the character he played) also have affected our view of the show? What about the other actors, or Larry and Laurie David’s activism?
Judging Seinfeld solely on the basis of the work itself, it was probably the best sitcom ever created for television. And now that we have the benefit of the DVDs complete with the interviews of the cast members, we really get to see how the creative process worked in creating the characters and the scripts. We’re also getting a real look at the actors that played the characters, and just as the characters were unlikable, I think we can see the actors are not the most likable people either. It doesn’t change the quality of the work anymore than discovering Paul Gauguin abandoned his wife and children to paint full time.
Interesting side note to all of this. On the Seinfeld DVDs there’s a brief discussion of Larry David’s comedy routine, and how David was known less as a popular comedian than as a comedian that the other comedians had to see. One night David apparently went off the deep end and began yelling at the audience and stormed off stage. Michael Richards was in the audience and thought, “Wow, what an act.”