Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee review: Jerry Seinfeld's show, now on Netflix, is a bittersweet offering

Deven Kanal

Jan,26 2018 17:15:05 IST

Jerry Seinfeld likes to joke that his legendary TV series Seinfeld was essentially "a show about nothing". Even those who are familiar in passing with the show know that in fact, the exact opposite is true. Seinfeld was a show about everything. Every aspect of life. All the minutiae. Manners, expectations, society, dating, friendship: Nothing was left unexamined or deconstructed by the deeply analytical minds of Seinfeld (and co-creator Larry David).

Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee on the other hand, comes pretty close to being a show about nothing. Seinfeld, who debuted this web series on Crackle, left for the warm embrace of Netflix (and reportedly signed a $100 million dollar with the streaming behemoth). While Seinfeld has been rather hit-and-miss since he wrapped up his famous show (the disastrous The Marriage Ref and the sweet Bee Movie) come to mind, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee seems to be the the perfect blend of all that Seinfeld seems to love.

Still from Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee/Netflix

Still from Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee/Netflix

The premise of the show is pretty simple: Seinfeld invites one of his many famous Hollywood comedian friends (with notable exceptions such as Barack Obama, Christoph Waltz, Sarah Jessica Parker and Howard Stern) to step out with him for a cup of coffee.  Seinfeld, a car buff, takes the opportunity at the start of each webisode to introduce a different classic ride to his viewers, picking one which in some ways mirrors his choice of guest. This is by far the most lacklustre part of the show, although it is good for a laugh or two, especially when a guest is introduced to a particularly shabby and dilapidated car and Seinfeld has to explain his thought process.

The show is shot with typical Hollywood slickness (fast cuts, hand-held cameras, extremely hummable background music that you forget the instant the show is over) — the original version on Crackle had annoying product placements that Seinfeld attempted to play off tongue in cheek by incessantly pointing it out — and Seinfeld has an easy familiarity with his guests, many of whom are peers. The episodes with Jon Stewart, Bill Maher, Jim Carrey, Jay Leno, David Letterman, Louis CK, and Seinfeld cohorts Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Michael Richards  and Larry David are particularly delightful. Former president Barack Obama seems to be having an absolute blast.

Perhaps it's a function of his age (63) that Seinfeld seems to both admire and be a little bewildered by young upstarts such as Jon Oliver, Sarah Silverman, Patton Oswald, Jimmy Fallon and Trevor Noah. The conversation doesn't flow as well here, the silences are a tad more strained and he doesn't seem to be having as much fun. Ditto with the episode with Christoph Waltz, who seems awkward, out of place and on a completely different page than Seinfeld. However, it is with Hollywood legends such as Don Rickles, Robert Klein, Steve Martin, Garry Shandling, Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks that Seinfeld seems most comfortable, and even a little star struck.

The problem with this show is that it is, to borrow a cliche, a mile wide and an inch deep. You never really get into the nitty-gritties of comedy, discuss why something is funny, a comedian's function as a provocateur, truth-teller (especially in this age of Fake News), nor seem to ponder the absurdity of more and more people turning to comedy for the source of their news. Seinfeld seems more than happy to get together with his famous friends and shoot the s&$#. Perhaps he thought that would simply be enough. He was, at the most, half right. However, there's a fine line between leaving your audience wanting more and leaving them unsatisfied. Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee is a delicious little brew. If only it didn't leave such a bitter aftertaste.

Updated Date: Jan 26, 2018 17:15 PM