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All our Yesterdays

By Martin Kelner on May 27, 2002 - 2:34:00 PM

All Our Yesterdays
Article dated: Monday 27 May 2002

It is a show about nothing, but only in the sense that Jane Austen wrote novels about nothing. Just as the novelist fixed her gaze firmly on English country life in the early 19th Century, and depicted the obsessions of that tiny corner of society with irony, so Seinfeld remains rooted in the enclosed world of four rich single people living in the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Same obsession with manners, same ironic take on the gender divide.

Only Jerry has better gags. "Why should manslaughter be the least form of homicide?" rants George, "It's the slaughter of a man." "Perhaps they could call it, 'I Can't Believe It's Not Murder'" replies Jerry. When George tries to convert to the Latvian Orthodox religion to pick up a girl, the priest asks him what attracted him to the religion. "The hats, I think," replies George.

But Seinfeld is no gag machine. In the best episodes, several plot strands dovetail together in an act of legerdemain that takes the breath away. The only reason the genius of Jerry Seinfeld is not recognised here as it is in America is that the BBC, who hold secondary rights to the greatest sit-com ever, have kicked it around their schedule like an old tin can. For shame.

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