Jerry Seinfeld's new series is called Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, and the promos promise exactly that. The comic toodles around in his vintage wheels, drinking java with his pals Alec Baldwin, Michael Richards and Larry David, and discussing (among other things) the effrontery of ordering herbal tea when invited out for coffee.
But the next act from the man behind the most popular sitcom on television won't be on television. It's a webseries.
"I don't know if he's looking for a big hit, but it feels like he's going for something cool and fun for himself," says David Wild, the author of Seinfeld: The Totally Unauthorized Tribute (Not That There's Anything Wrong With That). "I expect to love it myself."
He notes that with Seinfeld's monster hit show still in syndication, the comic certainly doesn't need to work.
"Jerry Seinfeld is in this position that's sort like one of the Beatles after the Beatles broke up. It's sort of, how do you follow that act? You have a guy with this incredible, fertile comic imagination and a love of comedy, and it's almost impossible to follow Seinfeld."
Since his TV show ended in 1998, Seinfeld has voiced an animated bee in Bee Movie, palled around with a cartoon Superman in a series of American Express commercials, had cameos on 30 Rock and Curb Your Enthusiasm and produced a short-lived reality show called The Marriage Ref. This new Web show may be Seinfeld's bid to appeal to a younger audience used to watching content on the Internet and mobile devices.
These days, an increasing number of big-name stars are appearing in Web-only videos. Dick Glover, CEO of the website Funny or Die, says that allows them to "take some chances that maybe they can't take on a movie or network TV, so you see more and more people very comfortable doing it."
Glover says Web videos are not only much less expensive to produce than traditional television, there are also fewer deals to negotiate, and no focus groups, network execs or ratings worries to contend with. In other words, much less angst.
"You're not spending millions and millions of dollars and everything has to be a hit," Glover says. "It's an Internet video. If it works, it's fantastic and millions of people notice and that's great. If it doesn't, OK, it was a little Internet video."
Seinfeld isn't talking to the media about his new show, which premieres on Crackle.com on Thursday. But the premise sounds a bit like his TV show, which focused on the minutiae of life: waiting in line at the movies, going to dinner at a Chinese restaurant, dealing with the petty injustices of the post office, yada yada yada.
In the promo for the new webseries, Seinfeld's old partner Larry David affirms that connection: "It's comedy in cars with coffee. What does that mean? ... You have finally done a show about nothing!"
Not that there's anything wrong with that.
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