TBS celebrates the 30th anniversary of the first episode of “Seinfeld” with a marathon of 30 classic episodes, running from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Viewers can stream every episode of “Seinfeld” on Hulu.
First airing as “The Seinfeld Chronicles” on July 5, 1989, the show’s pilot was not a hit. Launched as a throwaway summer series, it would not find a regular audience until a second season that didn’t arrive until the winter of 1991.
Although “Seinfeld” aired its final episode in 1998, before the arrival of “The Sopranos” and the age of anti-hero-driven stories, it anticipated some of the amorality of “peak TV” characters. The writers dared audiences to recoil from Jerry and his pals, but fans kept coming back for more.
Minor transactions like overdue library books and mugging an old lady for a loaf of marble rye would give way to callous indifference when the gang offered a casual shrug after the sudden poisoning death of George’s fiancee, Susan (Heidi Swedberg).
Rather than asking viewers to embrace indifference, “Seinfeld” seemed to be saying, “Hey, this is just television ...” That was certainly the case when the characters were cast in an NBC show within a show that depicted them in a fake, exaggerated light. Viewers were so invested in the “real” gang that they could laugh at the TV phonies.
“Seinfeld” creators assumed its audience knew that Susan didn’t really die from licking all of those poisoned envelopes, and that anything, even that, could be mined for dark humor.
A generation has passed since “Seinfeld.” We now live in an era when people obsess endlessly about the death of “Game of Thrones” characters and petition the producers to change the trajectory of its final season.
Is that a more “sophisticated” relationship to scripted fare than the glib cynicism “Seinfeld” shared with its audience? Touted as a show about “nothing,” “Seinfeld” really asked viewers to think and talk about their relationship to television. And the conversation has been going on ever since.
- Not to sound like Jerry Seinfeld, but did you ever notice how the 1939 musical “The Wizard of Oz” (7 p.m., TCM, TV-G) stops being a musical at about the end of the second act? After the Cowardly Lion warbles “If I Were King of the Forest,” the songs simply end. Think of the numbers we might have heard about flying monkeys tearing stuffing from the Scarecrow? Or Dorothy’s liquidation of all that wonderful wickedness? “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain” just cries out for music!
Released 80 years ago this year, “Wizard” is featured in the documentary “1939: Hollywood’s Greatest Year” (9 p.m., TCM, TV-G).
- A gingerbread competition takes a back seat to love in the 2017 romance “The Sweetest Christmas” (7 p.m., Hallmark, TV-G). Hallmark will inflict hundreds of Christmas movies on viewers this month. Before taking a short break and gearing up again in October!
- A planet-eater looms on “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” (7 p.m., ABC, TV-14).
- Danny takes on a suspected arsonist with ties to the cartel on “Blue Bloods” (9 p.m., CBS, r, TV-14).
- A gangster emerges from the past on “Jett” (9 p.m., Cinemax, TV-MA).
Luke looks into Darth Vader’s secrets in the 1983 adventure “Star Wars: Return of the Jedi” (7 p.m., TNT, TV-PG).
Death in the deep on “Hawaii Five-0” (7 p.m., CBS, r, TV-14) ... Competitors face off on “American Ninja Warrior” (7 p.m., NBC, r, TV-PG) ... Embedded cameras capture “First Responders Live” (7 p.m., Fox, r, TV-14) ... Dean Cain hosts “Masters of Illusion” (7 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., CW, r, TV-PG).
Card sharks bite on “Magnum P.I.” (8 p.m., CBS, r, TV-PG) ... Eliminations on “MasterChef” (8 p.m., Fox, r, TV-14) ... An interview with Robert Blake on “20/20” (8 p.m., ABC, r) ... A variety of acts on “The Big Stage” (8 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., r, CW, TV-PG) ... “Dateline” (9 p.m., NBC, TV-PG).