Why you may’t like ‘Associates’ should you like ‘Seinfeld’


Whereas at a fundamental stage, each reveals are about close-knit teams of associates, one couldn’t be extra completely different from the opposite

Whereas at a fundamental stage, each reveals are about close-knit teams of associates, one couldn’t be extra completely different from the opposite

It started with a WhatsApp dialog with a good friend the opposite day. We have been speaking about favorite TV reveals, and the good friend stated she preferred Associates, whereas I, desisting from saying what I normally do when the present is talked about, merely stated Seinfeld was my favorite. (I’ve many favourites. I considered Seinfeld as a result of each reveals have been common at about the identical time, and continually pitted in opposition to one another.

When she responded, “OMG, I loveSeinfeld, too,” throwing warning to the winds, I remarked that it was an impossibility. She stated, “Why not? Each reveals are about close-knit teams of associates, aren’t they?”

Whereas at a really fundamental stage that may very well be a similarity, you may’t in any actual sense like each Seinfeld and Associates, I posited (though I hardly ever posit, presuppose or predicate), presenting what I believed have been robust items of proof for why the twain would by no means meet. She responded with some evocative emojis. The dialogue got here to a civilised finish.

Fortunately egocentric

Why did I discover what my good friend stated so improper? In spite of everything, that each reveals are a few group of associates who spend all their time with one another is a reasonably correct summation, isn’t it? As a result of, whereas being an ‘correct’ definition, it’s a woefully insufficient one.

Whereas each reveals are certainly paeans to previous friendships and camaraderie — introduced on extra by exclusion than inclusion — Associates valorises, glamorises, idealises and romanticises togetherness, whereas Seinfeld unapologetically celebrates what such a model of togetherness actually is: utter selfishness.

Rachel, Ross, Monica, Chandler, Phoebe and Joey (arguably probably the most recognisable fictional names in TV historical past), within the vein of the Seven Dwarfs, may simply as simply have been named Frivolous, Nerdy, Tight-ass, Snarky, Flaky and Thick, respectively, for that was how identifiably their makers branded them. But it surely wouldn’t require shut examination to determine that regardless of their supposedly various ‘USPs’, they have been all simply the identical individual: loyal, dependable, giving, and selfless when the scenario calls for. And handsome. They noticed themselves that means, too, with no irony in any way. A diligent combine of those noble qualities, the present tells us, is the glue that holds them collectively. Plus their beauty, after all. They might every be with anybody they needed; they selected to be with one another.

Jerry, Kramer, Elaine, and expensive abominable George, however, are collectively — and stick collectively — as a result of they’re conscious of one another’s and their very own deep-rooted self-centredness. In the event that they have been to be named after their chief traits, they might be Subtly Egocentric, Eccentrically Egocentric, Timidly Egocentric and Unabashedly Egocentric. They don’t fake to be anything, and the writers don’t see them as something however. The glue that holds this bunch collectively is comfort. Jerry, for a ‘persnickety’ man, is a reasonably tolerant one who permits his associates to traipse out and in of his condominium at will. And that turns into the assembly level for a bunch of misfits who’ve merely gravitated in the direction of one another. Their togetherness hasn’t required a lot effort, nor has there been a lot selecting concerned. However a very powerful issue of their inextricability is that nobody else can tolerate them above a day.

If Associates is an American model of a Sooraj Barjatya movie disguised in ’90s New York apparel pretending to be a comedy, Seinfeld is noir within the garb of a sitcom, with nary a personality possessing a single redeeming characteristic.

Associates ends with the clique (principally) unsingle, fortunately domesticated, turning again with one final tearful have a look at their favorite hangout, Central Perk. Their particular, unique, six-member-only bond — and their beauty — have ensured them a contented ending. In that final scene, we all know they may go their separate methods… however will at all times keep in contact. And — because the title music goes — will probably be there for one another via childbirths, sicknesses, graduations of offspring and, heaven forbid, divorces, too. Until the tip of time. And if we’re fortunate, they may reunite (for astronomical charges) in Associates: The Film or Associates 2.0 and permit the fawning public to indulge in nostalgia.

Friends appeals to the Indian idea — young and old — of family and friendship.

Associates appeals to the Indian thought — younger and previous — of household and friendship.

Refreshingly unsentimental

Seinfeld ends with the 4 associates in jail, put there by all of the individuals they’ve excluded, victimised and walked over, lastly incarcerated for the worst crime of all, one they’ve been getting away with for 9 seasons: their irredeemable selfishness. We will see they don’t have any future. They’ll serve their phrases, and chances are high they’ll reunite at a seniors’ facility in Florida, Del Boca Vista maybe, nonetheless single, to spend their twilight years in joint, nameless, egocentric distress. As a result of nobody else can or can have them.

The ending is a refreshingly unsentimental antithesis to all long-running TV reveals which say goodbye with self-conscious, self-referencing final appears to be like on the now iconic set the place all of it occurred as if to say, ‘look, how nice we have been, that is the place we made historical past’ earlier than tearfully closing the door for the final time. To say the 2 reveals are comparable as a result of they’re comedies about cliques is like saying No Time to Die and Austin Powers: Worldwide Man of Thriller are each movies about British secret brokers who aren’t conventionally handsome. To have the ability to like each Associates and Seinfeld is to confess you haven’t watched both something however superficially.

That Associates has takers by the million in India, and is continually trending right here, is not any shock. That the takers belong as a lot to my era as their offspring is not any shock both. It appeals to the Indian thought — younger and previous — of household/ friendship. It options handsome people who find themselves ‘cool’ and ‘trendy’ as urged by their selection of apparel and lingo, however who’re ‘heat’ and ‘conventional’ on the subject of values like loyalty and reliability. Regardless of their leaping into mattress with one another, they’re squeaky clear. Regardless of the periodic look of Rachel’s nipples via her tight tees, they’re conservative. Associates is how Indians see themselves. A mix of contemporary and conventional (and handsome). Whereas Seinfeld is who we actually are, with out the wit or self-awareness — anarchic, inelegant, and pathologically self-obsessed.

Keep in mind the Seinfeld episode the place George’s fiancée Susan dies? She ingests a lethal toxin whereas licking the dodgy glue on the envelopes of their marriage ceremony invitations; skinflint George has purchased the most affordable stationery.

Jerry, Elaine and Kramer rush to the hospital to be by their good friend’s facet. They’re sympathetic. For a minute. Quickly, they mumble an excuse and fade away, leaving an abject George to maintain issues. And Seinfeld followers will inform you that George, too, would have executed precisely the identical in reverse. Are you able to think about such a scenario in Associates? Would the tragic demise of a principal character’s fiancé be dealt with with such utter irreverence?

In one other Seinfeld episode, whereas standing in line at a theatre, Elaine learns that her boyfriend has met with an accident and is in hospital combating for his life. Does she rush off to be by his facet? Not precisely. She completes the duty at hand (getting herself a field of Jujyfruit) after which ambles throughout.

That’s so us. Come what could, Indians will look out for Quantity One: themselves. Whether or not flood, famine, pandemic, or alien invasion, we should carry out that puja, attend that marriage ceremony, or waddle off fatly on that trip. Why? As a result of it was on our agenda, dammit.

But it’s Associates we love. In our heads, we’re the Sassy Sextet: caring, witty, loyal and handsome. Not just like the egocentric and considerably scruffy Seinfeld lot.

Comedy’s enemy

When Associates got here out, I watched it like all people else. And I preferred it. However I didn’t undertake it for all times like all of India has been doing. (Or like I did with Seinfeld.) I didn’t know why then. I do now. Sentiment. I discover sentiment to be comedy’s worst enemy. Or, for that matter, of all artwork.

What would Chaplin be with out his sentiment, you would possibly ask. Good level. However there’s a principal distinction between Chaplin sentimentality and the Associates selection . It’s who the sentiment is reserved for. Chaplin was a champion of the downtrodden. He was them, a tramp. His sentimentality appeared prefer it was for himself, however he was talking for a whole social class. In Associates, they’re sentimental about themselves. And given their appears to be like, well being, cash and privilege, this isn’t simply off-putting, it’s offensive.

We will see why the present is so common in India. It appeals to privileged, self-obsessed, English-speaking city Indians who go to good colleges funded by Daddy & Mummy, marry equally entitled people, and go off in cool garments to sip wine on overseas vacays. Simply have a look at the images on social media. Go to a café or seashore resort. See the fuss the privileged make about themselves. I’m but to go to a marriage in latest occasions the place the couple doesn’t suppose they’re starring in a romcom biopic, and we’re all cheering extras referred to as in to replenish the background of their big-budget spectacle.

Whereas Chaplin’s artwork is forgiven for being maudlin as a result of it comforted the disturbed, Associates commits the unforgivable sin of comforting the entitled. However Seinfeld, like the perfect satire, does it finest. It embraces the truth that everyone seems to be shallow. Once we like Seinfeld, we settle for that we, too, are profoundly shallow. And once we try this, effectively, we now have to dislike Associates.

A good friend’s good friend requested me lately, smiling knowingly, “So, on this group of yours, you’re extra Chandler than Joey, proper?”

“Mistaken,” I stated. “I’m Gunther.”

“C’mon,” he stated.

“Really, I’m Newman,” I


“Who’s that?” he requested.

I relaxation my case.

The author is a novelist, columnist and screenwriter.


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