Seinfeld is on most people's lists of the best situation comedies of all time. Yet the actors who played George, Elaine, and Kramer have bombed in every TV venture they have tried ever since. Television insiders call the phenomenon the Seinfeld curse.
The latest attempt to lift the curse is Listen Up, starring Jason Alexander, aka George Costanza. He plays Tony Kornheiser, the real-life sportswriter and host of ESPN's Pardon the Interruption. In the sitcom version of Mr. Kornheiser's life, the sports show is called "Listen Up," and his sidekick, Michael Wilbon in real life, is played by Cosby Show alum Malcolm-Jamal Warner.
Mr. Alexander's rendition of Mr. Kornheiser makes him seem a lot like Seinfeld's George-except with a family, a career, and some prospects.
He is, of course, a sports nut. In a recent episode, Tony's son is winning a golf tournament when he breathes in a bee. Tony has to decide whether to take him to the emergency room or let him play the final hole. Sports wins.
But after his experience in the emergency room, the young jock with poor grades decides to volunteer at the hospital. He finds that he enjoys helping people, gaining more fulfillment cleaning bedpans than playing golf.
"He's finally putting sports into perspective," says Tony's co-host. "That's what I'm worried about," says Tony, who worries even more when his son decides not to go to college, forgoing his athletic scholarship for a career as a hospital orderly.
The episode is funny, and it raises some positive issues as Tony comes to appreciate what his son does in the hospital and as the son agrees to work on his grades and keep college a possibility. Christians would recognize the applications of the doctrine of vocation.
Seinfeld was brilliant, but sometimes raunchy. Listen Up, at least so far, is G-rated. Though it is not as funny as Seinfeld, it is the worthiest attempt so far at breaking the curse.