Seinfeld has come to Netflix. It might not find a Friends-sized audience All nine seasons of the classic sitcom Seinfeld debut on Netflix this week. But some aspects of the show might not work for modern audiences.

5 challenges 'Seinfeld' faces in connecting with viewers on Netflix

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When the sitcom "Friends" and "The Office" were on Netflix, they were among the streamer's most popular shows. Netflix has now debuted all nine seasons of another sitcom, "Seinfeld," but NPR TV critic Eric Deggans says there are a few reasons why the '90s classic might not connect as strongly with today's streaming subscribers.

ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: By its fourth season, "Seinfeld" had developed such a reputation for spinning stories out of ordinary life, they made fun of it in an episode. It features best friend George Costanza urging his comedian pal Jerry Seinfeld to pitch NBC a new sitcom about nothing.


JERRY SEINFELD: (As Jerry Seinfeld) So everybody I know is a character on the show.

JASON ALEXANDER: (As George Costanza) Right.

SEINFELD: (As Jerry Seinfeld) So you're saying I go into NBC and tell them I got this idea for a show about nothing?

ALEXANDER: (As George Costanza) We go into NBC.

SEINFELD: (As Jerry Seinfeld) Since when are you a writer?

ALEXANDER: (As George Costanza) What writer? We're talking about a sitcom.

DEGGANS: As it turns out, "Seinfeld" was about a lot, mostly the absurdities of modern life and how even people who consider themselves friends could be petty and selfish to each other. "Seinfeld" is also worth a lot. Netflix paid a reported $500 million for rights to the show, just as rival media companies were yanking popular sitcoms like "The Office" and "Friends" off their service. I'm sure Netflix's algorithms will lead lots of subscribers to the show, but there are a few reasons why "Seinfeld" might not work as well for streaming audiences. Let's look at that list.


DEGGANS: First, the characters in "Seinfeld" pretty much know they're awful people. Seinfeld and his co-creator Larry David famously insisted there was no hugging and no learning on the show, which featured Jason Alexander as George, Michael Richards as Seinfeld's hipster doofus neighbor Kramer and Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Seinfeld's ex, Elaine. Here, she's trying to convince an old man whose wife has just died to let her have his apartment.


JULIA LOUIS-DREYFUS: (As Elaine Benes) So I understand you're moving to Phoenix.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As character) Yeah, my brother lives there. I think Manya (ph) would have liked Phoenix.

LOUIS-DREYFUS: (As Elaine Benes) But what about that big apartment on West End Avenue?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As character) Although they say it's a dry heat.

LOUIS-DREYFUS: (As Elaine Benes) Dry, wet. What's happening with your apartment?

DEGGANS: "Friends" is about your buddies who become your family. "The Office" is about all the weird people you deal with at work. I just wonder if the "Seinfeld" crew's obvious awfulness will seem as relatable to younger streaming audiences. And there's also the inclusion issue. "Seinfeld" is set in one of the most diverse cities in America, but characters of color exist on the periphery, like in this scene from one of their most famous episodes, "The Chinese Restaurant." George's girlfriend tries to call him while he's waiting for a table - before cell phones, of course - and the restaurant's host somehow mispronounces his name.


JAMES HONG: (As Bruce) I just got a call. I yell, hot rice, hot rice, just like that. Nobody came up. I hang up.

ALEXANDER: (As George Costanza) Was it for Costanza or...?

HONG: (As Bruce) Yes, yes, that's it. I tell her, you're not here. She said curse words. I hang up.

DEGGANS: Shows like "Friends" also had diversity issues, but in "Seinfeld," it seems even more striking. And if you know about the controversy where Michael Richards shouted the N-word at Black hecklers while he was performing in a comedy club, it might even be tougher to watch.

Finally, "Seinfeld" took a while to get going. Its pilot didn't even have the Elaine character. I'd suggest new viewers consider starting with the second season, so you don't wind up sifting through too many clunker episodes.

"Seinfeld" is a TV classic, credited with everything from making unlikable characters cool to inspiring a deluge of sitcoms about young people and big cities. But it's also a 32-year-old comedy which sometimes shows its age. It'll be interesting to see if the show about nothing finds a way to mean something in the streaming era.


DEGGANS: I'm Eric Deggans.

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