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White privilege was the wind beneath the wings of shows like 'Seinfeld' and 'Friends'

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05.09.2021

A version of this essay originally appeared in Black Kos.

A confession right up front: I have never watched an episode of Seinfeld. Never, ever. I’ve never watched an episode of Friends, either. I do have friendly acquaintances who speak of both shows in very laudatory terms, and look at me askance when I confess my sin of never feeling the urge to watch them. Both shows are said to be among the most popular sitcoms in history, with Seinfeld in the running for the title of the greatest show ever.

CNN’s History of the Sitcom premiered in July, and purports to take us back to the good ol’ days of situation comedies that had us glued to our TV sets on those special nights. According to WarnerMedia’s press release, the eight-part docuseries “reunites audiences with the television friends, families, and co-workers they grew up with while introducing cutting-edge comedies that are sure to be your next binge-watch,” while “breaking down how sitcoms have helped generations of Americans navigate an ever-shifting cultural landscape.”

I had not really planned on watching the show, but one July Sunday I was too lazy to change the channel. And so the latest episode became background noise, droning on as I got stuff done. Suddenly I heard something that had my ears perking up. “Seinfeld was a show about nothing,” said someone. Whoa! What was that?

I’d heard that phrase before but somehow the smugness of the delivery grabbed my attention. The story goes that some white men went to NBC and pitched a show that had no plotline other than white men talking to each other, and they were successful! They got it produced! The results for the first season, in 1989, reflected the creative talent of the main actors of the show—the show bombed and bombed hugely. The reviews were downright brutal, the ratings paltry, but NBC execs (all white men, of course) thought that what was then The Seinfeld Chronicles deserved more time to prove itself, and so they ordered more episodes. The execs were going to........

© Daily Kos


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