| When the excruciating Bob Patterson premiered, rumor has it Jerry Seinfeld was heard to remark, "Two down, one to go...."
It certainly smells that way. Michael Richards' detective comedy last season was a stinker. Jason Alexander's vehicle, only slightly more palatable than Emeril Lagasse's, exposes the unexplored terrain of lame motivational speakers, and is one of those forced, blaring comedies that makes you lower the TV volume. It's not a good sign when a show this new is already awash in stunt casting---we've already seen John Tesh, Bo Derek, William Shatner and E! reporter Jules Asner. And now Jerry himself is appearing in promos for Patterson, joking about its bad ratings (so much for leaving the past behind).
Julia Louis-Dreyfus' mid-season jaunt, due in March, is already relying on a gimmick. It's called 23:12, which is not a Bible verse or a Rush album. This single-camera show will take place in "real time," with each episode focusing on twenty-three minutes and twelve seconds of her character's life as a lounge singer. It's a device we'll surely be tired of after living with Fox' 24 for a few months.
TV writers crafting their "Is There Life After Seinfeld" pieces will probably trot out the Beatles analogy---how the whole was more than the sum of the parts, etc. But remember, even Ringo had a decent solo career; in fact, he was the first ex-Beatle to have a hit. No, the problem isn't the talent of these three actors, or a "Seinfeld curse." It's the same old reigning problem in Hollywood: the lack of decent premises and writing.
Even Seinfeld's detractors had to admit it was well-crafted and unique. And that's why, with the possible exception of The Simpsons, no other sitcom inspired more wannabe writers. Yes, armed with the newfound knowledge that sitcom characters could be as maladjusted as they were, the real Costanzas of the world---the ones who thought they were hilarious because they occasionally got a chuckle out of Joe in Accounting---typed "Fade In" on the flickering screens of their 386s in their basement apartments. They finally had a show they could relate to, one that wasn't about wacky, yet lovable married folks, precocious, yet lovable kids, or quirky, yet lovable single people with successful careers. They steeled themselves with the mantra, "Hey -- I can write about nothing. I know nothing!"
Admit it. You know someone who wrote a Seinfeld script. Maybe you wrote one yourself. And maybe you even sent it to NBC, ignoring what everyone else knew: Seinfeld's scripts were written in-house. "I don't care," you cried defiantly, stars in your bleary eyes. "I'll use the script to get an agent." Or "NBC will see my talent and ask me to try something else, something they need writers for, like Veronica's Closet. Then I'll move to Hollywood...."
Well, to paraphrase Seinfeld himself, "Where...are...these people?"
Because "these people" could probably write better stuff than what's being served up to Richards the Detective, Louis-Dreyfus the Lounge Singer, and Alexander the Motivational Speaker.