There’s nothing more alarming while living a human life, then the resounding rejection of your previously shared communal teaching touchstones.


The television show Seinfeld, I have learned, has no memeing for present day college students — and that realization was slow, yet slamming, in its immediacy.

When you teach, you find common memes and shared experiences to help enliven what can sometimes be ancient ideas or tired topics for young college students. 

You always want to find ways to connect with students on their level of experience and knowing and — until a couple of years ago or so — that always meant a Seinfeld reference was instantly understood and a context was created that the entire class could relate to on a common level.

When something as shattering as Seinfeld — the groundbreaking sitcom aired on NBC from July 5, 1989, to May 14, 1998 — is rendered meaningless in the young minds of college students because they have never watched the show, it takes you a moment to realize you have aged and, in some not unsmall way, you have been left behind in the experience of your memories that are no longer the lowest common denominator for shared entertainment value and that is, and ever shall be, a shock to the system of understanding and relating to the world.

The second you have to explain a Seinfeld reference to a class of 30, unblinking, staring, eyes — is the day you comprehend what it feels like to be stuck in a time machine just like your parents and grandparents before you — and you feel disappointed, and a little bit inane, as you helplessly search for a suitable “The Office” reference instead.

22 Comments

  1. One of my coworkers makes a Seinfeld reference at least once a week. I can’t believe anyone over 18 would not know a Seinfeld reference! Le sigh. It’s still on TV! I make references to old tv shows that were run in syndication during my childhood all the time. Do people just not watch reruns anymore?

  2. I think with the advent of On Deman and Hulu and iTunes, Gordon, there isn’t a need to watch “something old” when there is so much new junque to process and discover. It’s sad, really. I wonder if the college kids today have any experience with M*A*S*H or All in the Family or even The Courtship of Eddie’s Father.

  3. Well, we teach on the East Coast, Anne, so you’d think if there were loyal Seinfeld watchers of any age, they’d be here with us — yet they are not. I think it’s a generational thing. If your parents love Seinfeld you, as a young person with your own taste and wants, would more likely than not share the taste of your ‘rents.

  4. Guilty as charged but for different reasons though…
    I never used to watch TV except sports…so even when my peers used to refer a contemporary show – I stayed silent.
    But yes, talk about any books/ movies/ music from past/ present/ future… I am game..

  5. I think this has something to do with my upbringing.Till a certain age we were not used to watch anything other than cartoon network and Discovery etc…
    Even my parents were not into Television much (they are still not), so I was always encouraged to read/ listen/ play outside – I don’t remember any of my parents watching any TV show religiously – except News and sports channel.
    After thinking hard, I guess movies are more intense as it conveys the message within a stipulated time frame…I feel a “sitcom” is usually a drag…

  6. Hi David,
    I think that has something to do with our residential school’s policy…
    and yes, there was a general belief that TV ruins the ability to concentrate/ focus….overall makes you dumb…. 🙂
    funny, i know!

  7. Hi David,
    I think small screen started in India in late 70s/ early 80s in India, Cable TV came around late 80s/ early 90s and now it’s satellite and DTH.
    Currently, television covers more than 70 million homes with a viewing population of 400 million through more than 100 channels.
    I watch TV a lot when I travel… 🙂

  8. That is amazing, Katha! Are most of the cable channels Indian, or are some of the bigger cable companies like HBO and Showtime also available? Is there a lot of live TV in India — other than the news — or is most everything pre-recorded?

  9. If I am not mistaken, Star TV network (of Rupert Murdoch), MTV, BBC, CNN, National Geographic came in early 90s, HBO and History Channels came in mid 90s.
    Now I can even watch CSI-NY/Miami etc. live, if I want to.
    India has lots of live regional channels in different languages – those are state specific.