I mentioned offhand that How I Met Your Mother “borrowed” its plot last week from a Seinfeld episode that aired 18 years ago (Alan Sepinwall pointed this out long before I did), and a commenter understandably wrote:
That Seinfeld episode was 18 years ago?!?
I need a drink.
Here’s something else to think about, if any of us can stand it: the pilot of Seinfeld first aired (as a summer burn-off) on July 5, 1989 — meaning that this year is the 20th anniversary of Seinfeld. (It’s also the 20th anniversary of The Simpsons because the Christmas episode aired in 1989, but oddly enough, even though that show is still on, I still think of it as being older than Seinfeld — probably because it is; the characters actually began in 1987.) To put this into perspective, Seinfeld this year will be as old as the moon landing and the cancellation of the Smothers Brothers when Seinfeld began. The first appearance of Seinfeld was the 20th anniversary of Scooby-Doo and The Brady Bunch. Seinfeld once parodied The Godfather, and it is now older than The Godfather was when Seinfeld started. It is older than most of the shows I considered “old” when I first started watching it.
I don’t really have a thesis or conclusion for this post, except perhaps to note the way syndication scrambles up the age of shows: because Seinfeld has only just started to be eased out of syndication in favour of newer shows, it still doesn’t feel “old,” whereas most shows that began in 1989 (or 1990, when it had its four-episode mini-season, or 1991, when it finally got a regular spot on NBC) feel very much of there time. It will happen, though; Cheers used to be very much a part of the culture because it was constantly in syndication, but now that it’s not in syndication very much, it has taken on the feel of an old classic TV show, rather than a recent show that just doesn’t happen to be producing new episodes any more.