How ‘Seinfeld’ changed after Larry David left
(Credit: Netflix)

Series

How ‘Seinfeld’ changed after Larry David left

Even the TV shows that become known as all-time greats of the small screen can fall victim to the law of diminishing returns eventually, and for Seinfeld many point to the departure of Larry David as the moment things began to incrementally creep downhill.

That was to be expected in some way when he’d co-created the series with Jerry Seinfeld and served as its showrunner for the first seven seasons, with David’s exit coinciding with a brand new writing staff and a subtle shift in direction that wasn’t lost on the core cast members.

At its peak, Seinfeld was a comedic and cultural force that only saw ratings increase the longer it wore on, with the first season’s average of just over 19 million viewers being dwarfed by a median number of 35 million who tuned in during its ninth and final run of episodes. However, David’s absence was keenly felt despite audiences checking out the gang’s latest misadventures in greater numbers than ever before.

With the creative burden now falling on leading man and title character Seinfeld, adopting a broader comedic perspective and occasionally making detours into unexpected territory, whether it was the fantasy of ‘The Bizarro Jerry’ or the talk show stylings of ‘The Merv Griffin Show’.

For his part, Jason Alexander had some thoughts on what instigated the shift in Seinfeld‘s tone for its last two seasons, and the new blood to arrive following David’s departure was at the heart of it. “When he left, that sort of darker element that had been established, instead of being written by a staff of guys in their 30s and 40s who had a little bit of that, the staff became a lot younger,” he said in an interview with Charlie Rose.

“The writing staff were in their 20s and they weren’t particularly dark people,” Alexander continued. “Instead of living it and expressing it, they were writing a semblance of it, so I think the reality of the experience was one step removed.” However, he did also implicate his co-star and new showrunner.

Alexander admitted that “Jerry really spread his wings” when he became the man in charge, drawing his influences from his own TV inspirations. “One of Jerry’s favourite shows was the old Abbott and Costello show,” he recalled. “And I think we started to go that way. For the most part, I think we started to look less and less at the small minutiae, and our intrinsic storylines got broader in their scope.”

The change in direction for Seinfeld didn’t do much to dent its overall popularity and status as an era-defining sitcom, but there’s a clear divide between the first seven seasons and the final two, with Alexander just one of many to point out the way the series evolved for better or worse.