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The Great American Spec Script

Yeah, yeah, Seinfeld's ending.

It's everywhere Every page of TV Guide is devoted to it. People are planning parties around it. Even ABC's cloying Dharma and Greg, is "honoring" a rival network's show with a special episode in which the titular characters have sex in public because everyone, including the cops, will be watching the Seinfeld.

Well, whether you're a fan of Seinfeld or not, there is definitely at least one reason to celebrate the demise of the show:

We won't have to read our friends' and relatives' scripts anymore.

You're a literate English-speaker. Therefore more likely than not you know someone who has written a Seinfeld spec script. Maybe you even wrote one yourself. And maybe you even sent it to NBC, ignoring what everyone else knew: the show's scripts were written in-house. "I don't care," you'd cry defiantly, with stars in your bleary eyes. "I'll use the script to get an agent." Or "NBC will see my talent and ask me to try something else, something that they need writers for, like Veronica's Closet. Then I'll move to Hollywood..."

Never, with the possible exception of The Simpsons, has a TV sitcom inspired so many wannabes to burn the after-work oil and turn that old computer into a comedy-writing machine. People seemed to take the catch phrase "it's a show about nothing" as a dare; "Hey, I can write about nothing... I know nothing!"

But that famous motto was taken out of context. "Nothing" didn't mean that any one picayune observation or everyday event could be expanded into an entertaining half hour. The best Seinfeld episodes weren't really about "nothing." They were about many different things going on at once, all tying into each other, and leading to the worst possible outcome. "A Show About Nothing" merely meant the show wasn't about the sorts of things you traditionally saw on TV.

For example, you wouldn't have seen an entire episode devoted to the dire plight of some niece of Jerry's having two dates for the prom, or being offered drugs at a party, both topics that have been done to death on almost any other sitcom you could name. That doesn't mean that nothing ever happened on Seinfeld -- witness the death of George's fiancee. But at the end of that episode, there was no public service announcement from NBC. Picture Michael Richards standing on the set, looking straight into the camera, saying: "Hi, I'm Michael Richards, TV's Kramer. If you'd like to learn more about glue poisoning, here are a few books you can find at your local library."

This show-supposedly-about-nothing inspired every misfit who thought he was funny because he occasionally cracked up a few folks at the water cooler to write a script, something they wouldn't, or couldn't, have done for shows about quirky-yet-lovable married folks, precocious-yet-lovable kids, or wacky-yet-lovable people with successful careers. Finally having a show they could relate to, the real Costanzas of the world bellied up to their word processors and answered Seinfeld's distant, misinterpreted plea.

I know whereof I write. I had the displeasure of reading two such attempts. One was back in '92, written by the uncle of a friend. The other was in '95, by one of my roommates. And here's the kicker: both of these scripts had the same premise! Two scripts, written years apart, by people who never met, both presenting the following hilarious premise: the gang goes to the supermarket.

Never mind that you don't find too many full-fledged supermarkets in Manhattan. The humor was in the individual quirks of the characters, manifesting themselves in the everyday environment, see? Jerry was tidy and dismissive, George was unambitious and explosive, Elaine was whiny and vengeful, and Kramer was nuts, and, see, it all took place...in a supermarket!

Now, with Seinfeld out of the game, what show will provide the outlet for these aspiring jokesters? Where will the misspent midnight energy go? Is there a sitcom in the works for the fall that will inspire this kind of outpouring? Am I about to be bombarded by scripts in which Jerry, George, Kramer and Elaine's names have been hastily crossed out and replaced with Ross, Chandler, Joey and Monica? Or will these day-jobbed scribes be forced to go back to crafting their Great American Novels (read: veiled autobiograpies) already in progress? The world will have to wait and see.


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