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TeeVee Mailbag XII: Caught on Tape!

We've been scratching our heads here at the ol' TeeVee mailbag lately. And that's after switching to that new medicated shampoo.

We're scratching our heads out of confusion, out of befuddlement, out of downright puzzlement. It's like we went to bed one night confident in a few universally accepted truths. Two plus two equals four. Beer before liquor, never sicker. Penelope Ann Miller is a horrible actress. Simple facts beyond dispute.

And then... then, we woke up the next morning, and our entire world had gone topsy-turvy. Two plus two equalled five. People drank ice cold brews, washed them down with a fifth of gin, and suffered no visible medical consequences. Penelope Ann Miller continued to find work. And frankly, it had us all just a might bit spooked.

Naturally, you people are the culprits.

"What?" you're probably sputtering right now, so choked with indignant rage that you've spilled your overpriced Starbucks latte all over your workstation. "What? How can I be responsible for the crazy, mixed-up world that torments you so? I don't even know you schleps. I'm just surfing past your crappy little Web site on my way to my way to read Slate). Now, there's some incisive online writing, Buck-o! So you see, I'm no kind of culprit at all."

To which we say, a likely story. And you might've had us fooled until you started going on and on about Slate. Nobody reads Slate.

And as for why you're the source of all our latest brain jumble, we refer you to this month's mail. We expect you people to zig, and there you are, zagging. We brace to be hit from the left, and you wind up sucker-punching us from the right. We open the door, expecting to see Mr. Roper, and you're standing there in a Mr. Furley mask. You sly, cunning dogs!

Recently, TeeVee problem child Greg Knauss penned a little ditty about the forthcoming end of Seinfeld and how the show's impending sunset filled him with unspeakable glee. In fact, if the end of Seinfeld were a funeral, then Knauss pissed on the grave, made a clumsy pass at the widow and ate all the food at the wake.

That would be the same Seinfeld that's watched by every man, woman and child in America. The Seinfeld armed with an arsenal of Emmys, Golden Globes and People's Choice Awards. The show so terrifically popular that it's being feted with gushy cover stories in Time, pushing such minor trifles as an all-out war with Iraq to the back pages of the magazine.

That Seinfeld.

Or as Mark Bendiksen wrote to tell us:

I completely agree with you. I've never been able to stomach the show or its characters, and so along with you I gladly say "good riddance".

Nevertheless, I hope you realize that by writing such a negative essay about a show beloved by many, you are sure to guarantee a full emailbox of angry, hateful responses.

"Good God," we screamed in unison. "Mark Bendiksen is right! We're going to be on the receiving end of an El Niño of Hate. And all because of that sniveling bastard Knauss!"

Emergency measures were quickly taken. We double-deadbolted the doors at TeeVee headquarters. We stocked up on canned foodstuffs. We hired a therapist to provide 24-hour counseling to shell-shocked Vidiots. And, in the narrowest of votes, we decided to bury Knauss up to his neck in the desert, pour honey on his blistering skull and release the flesh-eating ants -- all in a last-ditch effort to placate our angry readership.

Then came a reader describing himself only as "A Loyal Fan In Georgia." And our worst fears were realized.

To quote the writer about the characters in Seinfeld, you must be "stupid, stupid, stupid" not to get the brilliance of the show. Yes, it's just a TV show and the obsessives out there should get lives, but Seinfeld is far from a "bad show". Maybe it has seen better episodes at some point in its life, but then it surprises you with hilarious moments that make you remember what you loved in the first place. The characters are what they are and, love them or hate them, there has never been anyone like them in the TV universe of recent memory.

Seinfeld is different, edgy, original, unpredictable and yes, funny. Just look at all the imitators out there and tell me it hasn't made its mark. The writing and acting are superb and your mean-spirited carping is just a lot of venomous sour grapes. Go watch your nerdy X-Files or beloved Law and Order or whatever it is you watch. I'll take Seinfeld any day. NOT THAT THERE'S ANYTHING WRONG WITH THAT!

With a witty closing sentence like that, what could we do but suffer through another round of recrimination and self-doubt. Loyal Fan In Georgia was right... we are stupid... our mean-spirited carping is just a lot of venomous sour grapes... The X-Files is nerdy.

But then, just when we were ready to give up this whole sham of a Web site and move to Big Sur to get our heads together, something funny happened. We received a veritable slew of e-mails... and while many taunted Knauss for his taste in clothing, his stringy hair and his lack of sexual prowess, they also had nothing but praise for his bold stand against the unrelenting tide of Seinfeld-mania. Someone calling herself Kristin wrote in to say:

Thank you thank you thank you! I am so glad to finally see someone else admit they don't like that insufferably smug little show. If you give the choice between watching a show about nothing and nothing, I'll pick nothing everytime.

That motion was seconded by a reader named Dee, who opined:

Please tell Greg he's not alone in hating "Seinfeld"...surely if there's telly hell, it should end up there...along with Fox's "Worlds Funniest" crap.

Which is kind of a mean thing to say about James Brown, when you think about it.

But Steve Cooley summed it up best of all.

I just discovered your website and must tell you that this is the funniest shit I've read in years. You guys are saying all the things I've been thinking for the last two decades. Ever since the Cosby Show's bizarre popularity I have been lamenting the demise of television writing. I will definitely be coming back again and again.

Of course you will, Steve. Because that's our slogan here at TeeVee: Come for the funny shit, stay for the pie.

Well, quite frankly, all this love and admiration and not-entirely-unwelcome touching gave us pause. Could it be, we wondered, that Knauss had been right all along? Had he somehow managed to tap into the growing discontent among TV viewers toward Seinfeld? Was Knauss' finger really that firmly pressed to the pulse of America?

Perhaps. But just to be safe, we went and had him killed anyhow. You can send flowers to his widow care of TeeVee.

All that was mind-boggling enough -- Jerry Seinfeld, America's TV sweetheart, reduced to your personal whipping boy. Then we got the following missive from Superb7999 about your favorite subject and ours.

What right do you have to crititize a great actress like Tori Spelling. She is very beautiful. The stuff you right about her is just plain stupidy! I hate you people who pick on every little thing about a celb. that you are just plain jelious . She is a very awesome woman. Gosh you people SUCK!

And even though this message came to us via e-mail, we still believe Superb7999 wrote it in crayon.

Nevertheless, you can imagine our confusion. We take a few playful swipes at a horse-faced hack like Tori Spelling and you people squeal in agony. We have a few unkind words about a woman whose greatest contribution to our cultural stew is a TV movie called "Mother, May I Sleep With Danger?" and we find ourselves ass-deep in angry e-mail. And then we turn around and ridicule the likes of Jerry Seinfeld -- talented comic, sitcom visionary, all-around man of accomplishment -- and you folks sit there, nodding approvingly.

So we gotta ask... what the hell is wrong with you people?

No. Seriously. What the hell is the deal? We've reviewed the data and run the tests and stared at the ink blots. And there's no way we can comprehend of a universe where a scathing attack on Seinfeld is met with shouts of glee while jeers directed at a cavalcade of hacks like Tori Spelling or Tim Curry or Rosie O'Donnell are considered crimes against humanity.

We are, to quote the badly-accented Kevin Costner in the badly-edited movie "JFK," through the looking glass. Black is white. Night is day.

So really, anyone out there who can explain what the hell the deal is with you people, we'd greatly appreciate it. The winning entry will be named executor of Knauss' will. So act now.

Additional contributions to this article by: Philip Michaels.


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