If you know me at all, you know that I consider Seinfeld to be one of the most essential and influential sitcoms of all time. Plus, I think it’s totally hilarious, and even though I’ve seen every episode at least four times, I still have my DVR record it.
My initial response was to suggest that I consider It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia to be much more the heir apparent of Seinfeld…however, @heysuburban did (accurately) comment that How I Met Your Mother espouses the “episodes about nothing” motif originated by Seinfeld.
Ultimately, it goes back to the question of “what defines Seinfeld?” In my 2005 essay, “Latex Salesmen and Magic Loogies”, I postulated that the three defining characteristics of the show were “pop culture references, idiosyncratic analysis of the mundane details of everyday life, and misanthropic behavior.” If we agree with this list (and you had best agree, since I’m super smart), then HIMYM really only inherits the first and second items in the list…but not the third. Sure, Barney is kind of a giant d-bag towards women, but overall, he’s NOT a Seinfeld level d-bag.
Those guys live in Philadelphia.
To be fair, Sunny doesn’t really hit for the other areas, though. It’s not very pop-culture oriented (although that seems to be really a factor of ALL modern sitcoms today, as opposed to during Seinfeld‘s run) and it definitely does not have the minutiae investigation. But when it comes to the vicariously enjoyable behavior of characters who are, deep down, terrible human beings, nobody does it like Sunny – with the possible exception of Curb Your Enthusiasm, but that’s not really fair, is it?
Speaking of Curb, one phenomenon I have observed is that, surprisingly, being a Seinfeld fan does not always guarantee that someone enjoys Curb. What I have seen is that the deciding factor is WHY the person loved Seinfeld. Folks who predominately enjoyed Seinfeld for the “Seinlanguage” aspects (“regifter”, “close-talker”, etc) tend to violently dislike Curb (these people also generally consider Kramer or Jerry their favorite characters). However, Seinfeld fans who loved the anti-social behavior of the characters (and who exhibit a preference for George or Elaine) find Curb to be a perfectly natural progression of their favorite characters. I also find that these people enjoy shows like Sunny or The Office, whereas the first grouping tend to find those shows tedious or offensive/insulting.
What are your thoughts on the topic? What show (if any) carries the mantle of the Jerry, Elaine, George, and Kramer?