Seinfeld and Gilligan’s Island

Seinfeld and Gilligan’s Island

I’m reluctant to admit this publicly, but I never really liked Seinfeldd. It’s not that I’m embarrassed about having such peculiar tastes. On the contrary, I enjoy being the iconoclast. But whenever someone says that something that really happened is “just like that time on Seinfeld when…”, I say coyly, “I must have missed that episode.” In the past, when I still had the temerity to admit that I don’t watch the show, I was just asking for trouble. People act like I’m the one who has a problem because I don’t enjoy watching a bunch of thirty-(and then forty)-somethings behaving like clueless perpetual adolescents.

Tales of urban angst just don’t appeal to me. Frankly, I just don’t give a rat’s patootie whether or not a bunch of Caucasian grownups are able to get their soup and still make it to the movies on time. (You may contend that Jews are not exactly considered white in America, which is certainly an arguable position, but I would put them in the Recently White category, along with the Irish and the Italians. See, for example, Ignatiev’s provocative How the Irish Became White.)

I have nothing against people who choose to live in big cities. But unless you’re filthy-stinking rich, urban living just doesn’t make sense for educated, upwardly mobile grownups. I can understand why it would be exciting to live in the big city at an age when a person is young, fearless and practically penniless. But sooner or later, it’s time to put away childish things.

(Full Disclosure: I am an unrepentant suburbanite. I am happiest living in a house on the ground with as many trees and plants around as the modern city planning will allow. When I see a show on tv about grownups who make enough money to get the hell out of the concrete jungle, I almost wince at their lack of good sense. I can practically smell the stink of Jerry’s apartment and hear the cockroaches scuttling around his kitchen.)

But the real reason I don’t enjoy Seinfeld is, curiously enough, the same reason I never enjoyed watching Gilligan’s Island: Just as Gilligan and company will never get off their island, the characters on Seinfeld are a bunch of stupid losers who will never rise above their mundane quotidian quest for…I can’t even guess about what would make these people happy because the whole point of the show is about their perpetual frustration. I simply can’t root for these people, which is essential for me when I watch a sitcom.

I can handle a movie or a novel peopled with a bunch of pathetic, unlovable louts. But when it comes to watching a sitcom week after week, I have to care about the characters. Of course, this is totally subjective. Ted Baxter, Louie De Palma and The Harpers, despicable as they may be, are all vulnerable and thus lovable to me. Go figure.

by Richard W. Bray

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