Wednesday, December 10, 2008

"Nothing" goes on tour

"Seinfeld," the famed "show about nothing," found itself with something of a marketing dilemma.  After more than a decade has passed since its network run, the sitcom's distributor, Sony Pictures Television, sensed a need to court a new generation of viewers to keep its syndication ratings high.  Key to this strategy, as detailed in a November 21st New York Times Sunday Magazine column was a 60-foot bus touring college campuses and other venues, hoping to interest "those who were too young to have participated in the show’s first-run popularity."  So far, so good.  Then we get to this paragraph:
The bus’s interior has been modified into a kind of rolling Smithsonian for “Seinfeld” freaks, displaying props like the Bro/Manzier, “Fusilli Jerry,” the Assman license plate, the doll that looks like George’s mom and a replica of “the puffy shirt.”
And if those references mean nothing to you, well, that's the unintentional point, isn't it?  You've wandered into a closed club with enthusiasts talking only to each other.  Optimistically, the columnist then states:
And whether on campuses or at malls or sporting events, what’s easiest to imagine is the fervent believer dragging along potential converts. 
...who will probably roll their eyes at all the trivia that's meaningless to them and go back home to watch reruns of "Two and a Half Men."  But in the next sentence, the columnist seems to sense that something is amiss:
The bus...simply makes tangible the devotion that already exists, presenting the show about nothing as a labyrinthine text, a fully immersive narrative that’s not about nothing but about itself: totems, references, rituals. It’s a walk-in catechism.
And we all know how the religious doctrine can appear to an outsider, don't we?  Look, anybody who knows me, knows that there's no greater fan of the show.  But this is just (to stay with the religion analogies) preaching to the converted.

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