On May 14, 1998 the sitcom Seinfeld aired its final episode. The series finale was the fourth most watched regular series finale in U.S. TV history. Only M*A*S*H, Cheers and The Fugitive were able to draw more viewers. After nine seasons, totaling 180 episodes, Seinfeld had become one of the most successful sitcoms of all time. Not only that, but the show had a real impact on our culture. Catchphrases like “yada, yada, yada,” “No soup for you,” “Festivus,” “double-dipping,” and “re-gifter” were all introduced to mainstream America by Seinfeld. With all that success and cultural impact, it’s easy to forget that it wasn’t always so popular.
The show premiered as The Seinfeld Chronicles July 5, 1989 and it did well enough for NBC to order thirteen episodes to air in 1990. The word chronicles was dropped from the name and Seinfeld, as we know it today, was off and running. But, it had its doubters.
Seinfeld’s own writers referred to it as a “show about nothing,” which they wrote a storyline about in the series. A show about nothing is a hard concept to sell. In reality, it was a show about the everyday challenges of life in New York City and, of course, relationships. Brandon Tartikoff, the head of NBC at the time, didn’t believe the show would work and test audiences, who weren’t impressed with the show, supported his opinion. The network moved Seinfeld to a few different timeslots, which made it difficult to find an audience. Ultimately, the show did just well enough to stay on the air for the first three seasons.
Here’s what Jerry Seinfeld had to say about it: “For a number of years that we made those shows, people were not catching onto it… and didn’t think much of it…. We were just not connecting with an audience…. For half of the show it was just like we were doing this thing for ourselves. It didn’t seem to be working, but it was fun to do and there were a few people that liked it.” Here's a link to Jerry's full interview.
Everything changed in season 4, when NBC moved Seinfeld to the 9:30pm, Thursday night timeslot airing after the highest rated sitcom, Cheers. With that lead-in, ratings grew dramatically. Then, Ted Danson decided to quit Cheers, effectively ending the series. Seinfeld moved into the coveted 9:00pm timeslot and the show became a hit.
Sometimes it takes a while to find your audience. You never know when the stars will align, the window of opportunity will open and you’ll get your chance to shine. You never know when you’ll find yourself in the right place, at the right time, in front of the right people. So, do work that you are proud of, every single time. If you do good work long enough, the right people will notice.
More importantly… do it for yourself.
I can help you find your audience. Contact me today at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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