Catching moments on television these days that stick with us can be rare. In my case in particular, I have two hurdles: 1) “The Wire,” “Arrested Development” and “In Treatment” all cease to exist these days, and shows like “Mad Men” or “Breaking Bad,” while good, mostly never offer up a single defining moment that leaves viewers both inspired and inquisitive, ready to yell from the mountain tops how wonderful they feel said show is (though, to be fair, the moment when Peggy leaves SCDP on the most recent “Mad Men” season, as I’ve said a billion times, was fantastic). And 2) I don’t have a regular television cable package, remember, so it’s highly likely that I’ll have something spoiled for me before I even get around to seeing said episodes of said shows (for instance, I recently wrapped up the fourth season of “Breaking Bad,” though because I knew the two main plot points of the final episode beforehand, the viewing experience was detrimentally compromised).
Enter “Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee,” the Jerry Seinfeld-led Web series we talked about on this blog a couple months ago when it debuted on the Internet. I remember rambling about how excited I was that Ricky Gervais was set to appear this season, and how impressed I was with how interesting the pilot with Larry David actually proved to be. It worked, I thought. For some reason, watching the guy who starred in one of the most successful sitcoms of all time pal around with his old buddies in old cars, having conversation about nothing, really, and occasionally even being a little funny, was intriguing enough to stick with. Plus, remember: These things were only 15 minutes long, anyway. A career in pop stardom lasts shorter than that these days (what’s up, Carly Rae!).
It was good. Even pretty good. But it wasn’t great. And then Thursday’s season finale happened, and … wow.
I mean … wow.
Teasers for the series showed clips of an episode featuring a morning with Michael Richards, the guy who played Jerry’s bombastic neighbor Kramer on the aforementioned widely acclaimed sitcom baring Seinfeld’s name. If, for some reason, you were hiding in an Afghanistan cave for the duration of the 1990s, and you don’t know what “Seinfeld” was, Richards was also the comedian who went on a racial tirade that was one of the first “Gotcha!” moments of the current Internet generation that literally ruined a person’s career. To think that it was almost seven years ago that all of this went down makes me feel … my God, I don’t even want to complete that sentence.
Anyway, “Of course they are going to do that,” I thought. Why wouldn’t they? He’ll come on, maybe they’ll address the situation in some pseudo-forced way, Jerry will do his best to make Michael look good, and then Kramer will do something whacky that makes his former co-star laugh. Or, then, I thought, maybe they won’t even deal with it — it’s been a little while now, and maybe they thought it might be best to simply let sleeping dogs lie. I mean, after all, it was SEVENyears ago, now, remember.
What came available online yesterday, however, was the first “great” television moment I’ve ever come by that has been exclusive to the web. More so, it instantly moved its way into the list of “great” moments that, I, personally, have held near and dear to my TV heart over the years, featuring everything from Bubbles’ speech in season five of “The Wire,” to Alex’s dad showing up at Paul’s door for the single greatest episode of television I’ve ever seen during the first season of “In Treatment.”
Instead of feeling like this would be a showcase for how not-bad of a person Michael Richards is, though, the episode at hand begins like all the others — Jerry picks out a car he feels best matches his guest (a Rolls Royce for Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks the week before should sum up the meaning behind this weekly gimmick), and calls his friend to see what he’s up to. From there, the 17 minutes go from the absurd (Richards suggests stopping at Sugar Ray Leonard’s house at one point, only to later admit he doesn’t know Leonard at all, and the house at which they stopped was that of Jay Mohr, of all people), to the clever (just take a look at which car Jerry picks for the two to use), to the emotional strings that one never sees coming, even if they can tell where it’s all going to go (Jerry looks genuinely surprised when Richards starts to speak about his TMZ moment at The Laugh Factory), to the ambiguous (it’s the first episode all season that the final few minutes are accompanied by silence, featuring a montage of completely organic moments as the two walk around California).
In short, this was the heart that “Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee” needed in order for it to be taken as more than yet another vehicle for Jerry Seinfeld to parade around the world, driving fancy cars and hanging out with his friends. It was entirely unpredictable while being almost unspeakably foreseen. A contradiction, yes, but also an indication of precisely how well-crafted these tiny webisodes were. You can’t watch this season finale for the first time without, at the utmost least, feeling your eyes become a little more heavy than they were before you started watching the show. Tone perfect is a phrase that comes up short of describing exactly how brilliant these final 17 minutes were.
We now have three questions:
1. Will he do it again someday? (for instance, as it occurred to me for the very first time last night, this season didn’t showcase any women, and one would think a ride around town with Julia Louis-Dreyfus, for instance, would be worth the time it may take for your computer to boot up).
2. Will this season make it to DVD? (because it should, if only for the second life a product can take on once it falls on the shelves of DVD collections in stores).
And 3. Does the popularity of this push it onto a real, live, traditional television network? (part of this show’s lure is its relatively easy access online, along with the fact that these are all short. Extremely short, actually, and trying to push it into a half-hour might just take away the quality).
Unfortunately, the answers to these questions aren’t coming easy, nor are they coming quick. Either way, this was an experiment that far exceeded expectations, even by Seinfeld’s standards — you don’t have to look far to find how many critics and taste-makers have lauded the episodes that appeared this season with wide acclaim and encouraging reviews.
Yes, as Larry David said in the first episode, Jerry has finally made a real “show about nothing” with this venture. But, what he failed to point out, however, was exactly how brilliant this take on nothing proved to be. Here’s hoping for another season. Here’s hoping more episodes like this are on the way …