Monday, December 14, 2009

F.R.I.E.N.D.S vs. Seinfeld

Hello folks!!! This post was one which I had not thought about. The idea came to be because of a recent argument I had with someone about which of these being a better sitcom. Everyone has their individual choice and opinion about these shows. I am just trying to pen my thoughts here.

I am a HUGE Seinfeld fan and have seen each episode at least 4 times. I do have the collector’s edition of the DVDs for Seinfeld and never get bored while I see the repeats on the telecast. And I have to say this; I am not much of an F.R.I.E.N.D.S. fan. Not that F.R.I.E.N.D.S is not funny; it is just that it is too much of a dumb and slapstick comedy to interest me. It definitely has its moments with the prom video episode etc. But yet, it fails to evoke the chuckle which Seinfeld does.

I have observed that most of us Indians are bigger fans of F.R.I.E.N.D.S than Seinfeld. I think the biggest reason for this is that F.R.I.E.N.D.S was telecast way before Seinfeld in India and so people started following it with a passion. Not many people realize that the basic premise of F.R.I.E.N.D.S was taken from Seinfeld. Seinfeld was the one of the first sitcom which had its main characters completely unrelated to each other. Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer were just friends with no blood ties. Most of the sitcoms before that had a family as a central theme and the stories were built around it.

Now let us talk about the sitcoms as a source of entertainment. Both of these provided wholesome laughter and fun. However, when we compare these two sitcoms with each other, I think that Seinfeld wins hands down. The episodes were funny and intelligent. Agreed that there were some slapstick moments but in the larger scheme of things, Seinfeld was more of an intelligent comedy as compared to F.R.I.E.N.D.S. Seinfeld was one of the earliest TV series which was described as ‘post modern’.

Seinfeld has some brilliantly executed episodes which leave an indelible impression. I mean what can get better than ‘The Chinese Restaurant’, ‘The Soup Nazi’, ‘The Contest’, ‘The Marine Biologist’, ‘The Bubble Boy’ etc. These episodes are pure classics. I would be scratching my heads to name some episodes of F.R.I.E.N.D.S which can match the aforementioned Seinfeld Episodes. Seinfeld has more variety in humor as compared to F.R.I.E.N.D.S. Also, what is really appealing about Seinfeld was the matter-of-fact style of storytelling. It was described as a ‘show about nothing’ and that is what it is. The story evolves within the episodes and characters play around it. When I see F.R.I.E.N.D.S, I feel that many of the situations are forced upon the characters and the story caters to them. However, in Seinfeld, it is the other way round where the story determines the character flow. This leads me to the conclusion that Seinfeld is more situational based than F.R.I.E.N.D.S. Also, F.R.I.E.N.D.S is based on mushy relationships and this sometimes gets in the way of being a pure comedy. Most of the Seinfeld episodes are based on real life experiences and this gives a feeling that ‘anyone of us can land up in a similar situation’.

Even character comparison has Seinfeld top F.R.I.E.N.D.S big time. The characters in Seinfeld, unlike in F.R.I.E.N.D.S where they were loud and gaudy, are everyday normal people like us. I think the weakest link in Seinfeld characters was Jerry Seinfeld himself. And he was not bad at all. This in itself says a lot about the other characters. Elaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) might not have been as hot as Rachel; but she was definitely a better actress than any of the ones from F.R.I.E.N.D.S. Also, the characters in Seinfeld have a certain aura which is missing from the guys in F.R.I.E.N.D.S. No doubt that the guys in F.R.I.E.N.D.S have acted brilliantly, however, it is just their characterization which pales in comparison to the actors from Seinfeld. I feel that most of the times the actors in F.R.I.E.N.D.S come across as goofy and lost. I mean Joey from F.R.I.E.N.D.S was as dumb as one can get and sometimes it really gets too stereotypical. The alter ego for Joey in Seinfeld would be Kramer (Michael Richards) and I can definitely vouch that Kramer is anything but dumb. Eccentric - Yes but no ways can Kramer be called a bozo with no brains. And let’s not forget: Seinfeld gave us the best character in the history of US sitcom – GEORGE COSTANZA. George is as big a loser as one can find. He is miserable and envious of others. He couldn’t care less when his fiancĂ©e dies because of his negligence. He is someone you would love to hate. In spite of all his negative traits, he is thick with Jerry and manages to date girls and get different jobs. The way his character has been presented is plain brilliant. And it has been ably enacted by Jason Alexander. I can bet my money that no character in F.R.I.E.N.D.S can measure up to the mark set by George.

Another thing which differentiates F.R.I.E.N.D.S and Seinfeld is the remarkable recurring minor characters in Seinfeld. Newman character (brilliantly portrayed by Wayne Knight) makes one laugh as soon as he comes on the screen. Jerry’s parents (Morty and Helen Seinfeld), George’s parents (Frank and Estelle Costanza), J Peterman, David Puddy etc all have played their parts flawlessly. Dearth of good recurring characters in F.R.I.E.N.D.S sometimes went against it because the show lost novelty in the later seasons on its run. People got a little tired of seeing the same 6 guys on the screen with a few sprinkled others around.

Seinfeld managed to catch the imagination of the masses in a way which F.R.I.E.N.D.S could and will never. Some of the phrases used in Seinfeld have become a part of the folklore. Terms like ‘Yada Yada Yada’, ‘Man Hands’, ‘Shrinkage’, ‘Double Dip’ etc have become a part of everyday conversation. I cannot remember any such phrases from F.R.I.E.N.D.S which caught everyone’s imagination.

Although F.R.I.E.N.D.S has carved a niche for itself in the sitcom world, Seinfeld will always remain a better comedy and a critical favorite. The awards won by the Seinfeld crew for their acting as well the show itself is pertinent to the fact that it is one of the best sitcoms ever to grace the US television. Entertainment Weekly and other magazine have unanimously voted Seinfeld as one of the top 3 shows in the last quarter of a century. I highly doubt that F.R.I.E.N.D.S will ever be as well accepted and recognized as Seinfeld has been!

This post has become more of homage to Seinfeld than the comparison between the two shows. But then, what the hell, Seinfeld is one show which definitely deserves all the praise it can get. I am sure that there are people out there who will disagree with this post of mine primarily because of their love for F.R.I.E.N.D.S. But as I said, this is my personal opinion, which is further vindicated by the awards and critical acclaim garnered by Seinfeld which can never be matched by F.R.I.E.N.D.S. And so I say---- SEINFELD ROCKS!!!!!

Until Later,