Commentary

Rival Sitcoms 'Seinfeld,' 'Friends' Getting NYC Exhibitions


As the years have gone by since they were both on NBC, “Seinfeld” and “Friends” seem to be linked increasingly in the minds of many as symbols of a mini-Golden Age of TV sitcoms.

They are both celebrating milestones this year: 30 years since the premiere of “Seinfeld” in July 1989 and 25 years since “Friends” premiered in September 1994.
“Seinfeld” had its finale in May 1998. “Friends” ended in May 2004. The two shows intersected for only four seasons, from September 1994 until the end of “Seinfeld.”

They were superficially similar, in that they both centered on a core group of youngish, single friends living in New York City -- six of them on “Friends” and four on “Seinfeld.” But for all intents and purposes, the similarities ended there.

In the warmth of the relationships that characterized the friends on “Friends,” that show was far different from “Seinfeld.” From its very beginning, “Seinfeld” eschewed such time-honored sitcom clichés as having various characters eventually date each other, get married and even have children. In “Seinfeld,” warmth had no place.

In fact, except for their New York locations (though that was faked since both shows were produced in L.A.), no one who knows the two shows well would ever confuse one for the other.

And yet, Jerry Seinfeld detested “Friends.” For years, he occasionally aired his grievances about “Friends” in interviews. He accused NBC of encouraging the creators of “Friends” to come up with a show in the same mold as “Seinfeld” because “Seinfeld” had emerged as a huge hit for the network.

In one memorable interview with Bob Costas in 2003, Seinfeld blatantly accused the creators of “Friends” of “stealing” from his show to create their own.

Later this year, the rivalry between “Seinfeld” and “Friends” continues, with two exhibitions being mounted in Manhattan to commemorate the anniversaries of their premieres.

While details on the “Seinfeld” exhibition -- titled “The Seinfeld Experience” -- are not yet fully available, the indications are that “The Seinfeld Experience” will not run concurrently with the “Friends” attraction, which is being billed as a “Friends 25 Pop-Up Experience.”

The “Friends” pop-up -- consisting of recreations of parts of the “Friends” sets plus a retail “Friends” store -- is scheduled to be open from Sept. 7 through Oct. 6 at 76 Mercer Street in Soho. Tickets go on sale today (Friday, Aug.2) at Friends25popup.com/. Tickets are $29.50 each.

Both exhibitions have the same producer: New York-based Superfly, a producer of events such as music festivals. Superfly has not yet announced the dates and location for “The Seinfeld Experience,” but it appears the “Seinfeld” attraction will open later in the fall and will likely remain open through February of next year -- far longer than the “Friends” experience.

The press releases announcing these “Seinfeld” and “Friends” attractions had one major difference. None of the “Friends” stars were quoted in the “Friends” release.

But Jerry Seinfeld himself wrote a prepared statement for the “Seinfeld Experience” announcement. “Because I am Seinfeld, for a long time I was the only person to actually have the Seinfeld experience,” Seinfeld quipped. “Now, these crazy Superfly people are going to make it so lots of people can interact with our silly ’90’s TV show,” he said. “All I can say is, in the general context of the world we live in, this now seems completely normal.” 

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