'Seinfeld' First Episodes: THR's 1990 Review
On May 31, 1990, NBC made a bet that viewers would embrace Seinfeld, George, Elaine and Kramer. At least one critic, however, wasn't thrilled with the initial offering. The Hollywood Reporter's original review is below:
Forget your belly. Any laughs that come from NBC’s Seinfeld, the new half-hour comedy starring stand-up funnyman Jerry Seinfeld, come from the mind that occasionally smirks at itself when a punchline or two hits close to home. Unfortunately, it doesn’t happen often.
The show begins with Seinfeld doing what he does so well — performing onstage in front of an audience who take to toasting his humor with steins of beer. It’s obvious they’re having a good time. And why not? Seinfeld has an easy sort of humor derived from observing everyday activities and make them sound funny.
But wait. Suddenly, we’re no longer in a comedy club watching Seinfeld perform. Now we’re in his apartment as he stars as himself in a sitcom. Jason Alexander plays his best friend, George, currently going through withdrawal after the loss of another girlfriend. Michael Richards is an idiotic neighbor who wants to start a bake-your-own pizza parlor. Julia Louis-Dreyfus is Jerry’s ex-girlfriend for whom a flame still burns. And guest star Kevin Dunn plays Joel, a friend who’s hanging on to Seinfeld the way a wire-haired terrier grips the mailman’s pant leg.
Ah-oh. Hold on. We're back in the club again for more observation. No. Now wait. We're back in the sitcom. Too often. Too briefly. Go figure.
It’s obvious that Seinfeld and co-creator Larry David are attempting to be creative. Perhaps the effect would have been better if Garry Shandling hadn’t done it more effectively years ago. What remains is a group of terrifically talented people (with Alexander and Louis-Dreyfus stand-outs) who mix but never really mesh.
Seinfeld, which had a trial one-shot last year as The Seinfeld Chronicles, is slated to run for three more weeks on NBC. That should be enough. — Richard Hack