Assistant Professor of Media and Society Leah Shafer was recently interviewed for a segment on HuffPost Live about the 25th anniversary of the premiere of NBC’s “Seinfeld.” Hosted by Josh Zepps, the segment looked at the legacy of the show. Other guests included James Poniewozik, TIME columnist, and Todd VanDerWerff, the culture editor for Vox. The full discussion can be seen online.
Zepps noted the show about nothing was particularly relevant to the ’90s point of view, when the “economy was booming…and everything was fine.”
Shafer points out “One of the things it really says about the’90s is, it reflects the kind of transition that television is making in the era from being a broadcast and cable sort of programming thing to going onto the internet,” as well as by “establishing some of the kinds of things that television shows do now.”
Among the ways it did so, she says, was “By having situations that led to the kind of catchphrases like ‘The maestro,’ or ‘Get out.’ These are pre-memes.”
Shafer and Zepps also reviewed some iconic clips of the show, credited with raising new topics for television.
Seinfeld “Set new standards for the kinds of things that you could talk about on television, and the way it does this effectively is that it framed them as really effective jokes,” says Shafer. “So it’s something that people can talk about, they can repeat and that way it creates a conversation that’s more than the classic water cooler conversation.”
In comparing Seinfeld’s edgy style to today’s television shows, Shafer says she believes the new paradigm is for shows that are “a little wild” or “innovating” to start on the internet and then move to television. “They’ll start on YouTube, or Vimeo… somewhere where people will share them and they’ll go viral,” she explains.
A member of the HWS faculty since 2008, Shafer received her A.B. and M.A. from Cornell University. She earned a Ph.D. from the department of theatre, film and dance at Cornell, with her dissertation “Brand Name Vision: Comedy and Props in the Films of John Hughes.”