What I’ve Learned from ‘Seinfeld’ Writers So Far

670px-2,675,0,410-CharactersI’m in Los Angeles this week doing my first round of interviews for my Seinfeld book, meeting mainly with guys who wrote for the show. (I say “guys” because in this case, it really is all dudes.) I’m not going to tell you all the really juicy stuff — I’ll save that for the book — but here are a few fun tidbits in honor of the folks who suggested some great questions to me via various social media:

* Getting a full script together was arduous. Writers had to pitch a storyline for each character and get each approved before starting to even outline. Even the most prolific writers had a hard time; some who were hired for a full year wrote just one or two before being let go at the end of a season.

* The last two seasons got a lot more meta — think “Bizarro Jerry” or that backwards episode — not just because the writers were running out of new ideas. It was also because many of the writers were new-ish hires who’d watched the show through its rise and were bringing that sort-of outside observer approach to the characters. For instance, inventing those “bizarro” versions of the characters who would hate Jerry, George, and Kramer, or wondering why Elaine had no female friends — and then giving her a storyline to explore that.

* The final season was exhausting.

* The finale possibly didn’t come off as well to viewers as it seemed in the writing, possibly because of bad programming decisions: The parade of former characters (via the main characters’ trial) was supposed to be a huge part of the fun, but it lost its impact when it ran after a long, nostalgic clip package.

* Though many network and studio executives wanted to hire former Seinfeld writers because they wanted another Seinfeld-sized hit, they still didn’t want to hear Seinfeld-style storylines or characters from them. They reverted right back to the “that’s too crazy” and “this character is too unlikeable” lines.

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