It's no secret that I love Seinfeld. It was a huge influence on me in high school when I harbored dreams of doing stand-up comedy, and it is -- still -- the greatest sitcom ever. No contest. In addition to bringing the funny, it literally changed the way we talk. The reason it doesn't seem so revolutionary today is that it influenced so many shows that came after it -- they all started to feel a little like Seinfeld. (A separate branch of sitcoms also owe direct lineage to The Larry Sanders Show, which Yvonne and I have been digging into lately via Netflix, but more on that another day.)
It amazes me that I've been watching Seinfeld pretty much continuously for 20 years (!) -- and it's amazing (to some of us, anyway) that I still find it funny no matter how many times I've seen a certain episode. And I've thought a lot lately -- just how many times have I seen some of those classics?
I took a few minutes at the office to try to ballpark it.
There were 180 episodes. At just one showing a night, 5 nights a week, a single channel can show the entire series in 36 weeks, or 9 months. So in 15 years of syndication, a single episode will air on a single channel 20 times.
Figure that you only tune in at the same Bat-time, same Bat-channel for 40% of those broadcasts ....you might expect, then, to see a single episode (e.g. "The Puffy Shirt") eight of those 20 times.
Of course, on my cable, I get an episode on TBS at 7:00, another at 7:30, and one on Fox at 11:30 and another at 12:30 -- and Fox affiliates have been showing an hour of Seinfeld as far back as I can remember -- but, again, let's assume for right now that I'm only watching during one timeslot and for 40% of the airings, or two nights a week.
Now let's talk about TBS. They've been airing Seinfeld since 1998 (!) when they started doing back to back episodes. Figure two episodes a night, five nights a week for 50 weeks a year....multiplied by 12 years.....and you're looking at 6,000 airings. I can safely say there were four years in there where either I didn't have a TV, I worked nights, or I needed a break. So we knock it down to 4,000 airings. And if I only caught 10% of those broadcasts, that's still 400 broadcasts....more than enough to see every single episode two more times.
Realistically, though, the multiple airings typically operate on different loops -- bad late era (e.g. "The Frogger") at 7:00, classic era (e.g. "The Chinese Restaurant") at 7:30 -- and I'm only gonna watch the ones I really like, which eliminates about 60 of the 180 episodes. So, if I sit down for 400 broadcasts of 120 episodes, we're talking about having seen a single one of those 120 (e.g. "The Junior Mint") not two, but three times.
So, using completely arbitrary, yet, I feel, conservative, estimates, we can safely assume that any episode worth watching has been seen ELEVEN TIMES.
And yet my mom thought we watched too much Seinfeld.