It’s the end of an era. When “Seinfeld” went off the air in 1998 (!!) there was no bigger star in television who wielded more influence than Jerry Seinfeld. Senior creative executives from every major studio were falling all over themselves to get the next Seinfeld project.
But… Jerry decided to take his $100 million (give or take a few million) and went off to enjoy his life. He did the occasional stand-up event at Caesar’s Palace; the occasional guest spot on a TV series or talk show to give his friends a spike in their ratings; voiced a cartoon bee, etc.
Up until last week, everyone just assumed that Jerry Seinfeld was still as big as he ever was.
Then something strange happened this week: Jerry Seinfeld became irrelevant.
After spending millions of dollars for promotional time during the Vancouver Olympics for Jerry Seinfeld’s “The Marriage Ref”, NBC was expecting a really big number.
They even cut the Closing Ceremonies short (to most of the country’s shock and anger) just to show the premiere of “The Marriage Ref”. And, to be fair, they got a strong number (though, I suspect, with that lead in, NBC could have put on a rerun of “Silver Spoons” and it also would have gotten a big number).
With that in mind, last night “The Marriage Ref” settled into its Thursday night 10pm time slot and promptly lost half of its audience. Don’t get me wrong, these aren’t terrible numbers like Melrose Place or The Beautiful Life on The CW or Severed Fingers on MBS, but not the numbers you want and expect if you have JERRY SEINFELD as your selling point. You can get those kinds of numbers with Guy Fieri.
And if the ratings continue to fall, it’s will be increasingly hard for Jerry to recruit big name celebrities to be on the panel (and once you get down to the Phyllis Diller, Jamie Farr level – your show may be in trouble).
There was a time when Jerry Seinfeld could do anything he wanted. But now, like, say, Lucille Ball in 1986, fewer studios will be returning his calls and signing over a blank check.
But, let me just say this… he absolutely killed on David Letterman the other night. He’s still one of the great stand ups in history and proved that with one of the tightest six minutes you’ll ever see. He’s just no longer the most important person in the room.
That spot is reserved for Ben Silverman.
[JEFF ZUCKER UPDATE: He still has a job – though no one seems to know why.
Jill Kennedy – OnMedea