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‘Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee’ Is a Maddening TV Show

Streaming recommendations and a round-up of last week’s food-related entertainment news

Ricky Gervais and Jerry Seinfeld

This post originally appeared on July 19, 2019, in “Eat, Drink, Watch” — the weekly newsletter for people who want to order takeout and watch TV. Browse the archives and subscribe now.

Welcome back to Eat, Drink, Watch. I’ve got some notes about a new arrival on Netflix, plus a round-up of the week’s food related entertainment news. Without any further ado, here’s everything you need to know about the new season of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.

Comedians in Cars is stuck in neutral

Jerry Seinfeld and Jamie Foxx

After streaming all 12 new episodes of Jerry Seinfeld’s Netflix series Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, I’m convinced that this is the most maddening TV show of the year.

During its best moments, Comedians in Cars offers a highly entertaining peek inside the minds of the world’s most famous funny people. And during its worst moments, the show feels like Hollywood’s most flagrant vanity project. While I enjoyed several of the conversations in this new season, which lands on Netflix today, there were an equal number of moments that made me wonder, “Why did they leave this part in?” And, “Is Jerry Seinfeld really that out of touch with reality?”

The high points of this and any season of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee are the episodes where Seinfeld makes a connection with entertainers he admires. These scenes are endearing because they show Seinfeld as a benevolent elder statesman of comedy, who wants to celebrate his peers and give credit where credit is due. It’s fascinating to watch Jerry talk to Jamie Foxx about the actor/comedian losing his mojo after finding his first taste of fame. His lunch with Bridget Everett serves as the perfect introduction to this charming alt-cabaret star. The Martin Short episode features a fun retelling of how a Canadian Godspell production launched his career as well as those of Gilda Radner, Eugene Levy, and Paul Shaffer. Over fries at Canter’s, Seth Rogen confides in Jerry about how shocking it was to learn about Bill Cosby’s history of sexual misconduct at a ceremony where the Cosby Show star was collecting a lifetime achievement award. And Jerry’s lunch with Melissa Villaseñor includes a hilarious montage of the SNL star’s favorite, highly-specific celebrity impressions.

If you are a fan of comedy lore or entertainment history, there is a lot to enjoy in these segments. But the rest of the episodes — and especially the ones starring Ricky Gervais and Matthew Broderick — feel like aimless excursions within the cozy, but bland bubble of celebrity stardom. The low point for me was seeing Broderick and Seinfeld roll up to Le Pain Quotidien in a bright green Lamborghini, joke with each other about how neither of them have any cash to pay for the bill, and then sit and eat pieces of pain au chocolat as Jerry tells his friend about his favorite W.C. Fields comedy bit. Similarly boring is a scene where Gervais and Seinfeld get stuck in traffic in a Bentley convertible, and they talk about how they’ve run out of things to talk about. During these dull moments, it occurred to me that Comedians in Cars might actually be Jerry Seinfeld’s one true “show about nothing.”

Aside from being intermittently listless, the new Comedians in Cars episodes also suffer from many of the deeper issues that plagued the previous season. Seinfeld still condescends to service workers, and exhibits a cruel tendency to mock strangers in his immediate orbit. In this season, you see Seinfeld and Broderick make fun of a Patagonia store employee for telling them that they can’t actually film in his store. In the Sebastian Maniscalco episode, Jerry turns to a worker at storied Italian delicatessen Faicco’s and says, “Look at that face — it looks like they made the sandwich out of his head.” During his hangout session with Eddie Murphy, Seinfeld and the Beverly Hills Cop star make jokes about both little people, and LA’s homeless population. And in the two-part Ricky Gervais episode, Seinfeld and the creator of The Office get into a debate over whether it’s okay to say “the Chinese aren’t funny and they all look the same.”

These aren’t clever bits of social commentary, or insightful discussions about the nature of comedy. They’re just lazy brain droppings from celebrities who know they’re being offensive but clearly don’t care.

Just like last season, there are way too many Lavazza espresso product placement shots in every single episode. And while this continues to be a very weird detail of the show, the strangest moment actually comes in the middle of the Bridget Everett episode when Jerry launches into a vicious rant about an unnamed comic who slighted him in the press many moons ago. The tirade begins in the middle of a conversation about John Belushi’s last days, when Everett mentions that she’s still close with one of the late actor’s best friends, whose name is bleeped out. “He sucked,” Seinfeld tells Everett. “He wasn’t funny. And that’s why he didn’t get anywhere, period. He sucked. Because in comedy, nobody gives a fuck if you’re cool [or] if you’re lame. If you’re funny, you win. If you’re not funny, you don’t. And he’s not funny — that’s why he had to do that stupid fucking voice, because you have no fucking act.”

I have no idea who Jerry is talking about here, but I think it’s a total cop-out that the Comedians in Cars team bleeped out the name of Jerry’s enemy. It’s the most fascinating moment of the show, and yet, the drama is undercut by the fact that Jerry doesn’t want to reveal the name of his foe, perhaps because he doesn’t want to deal with any blowback for dragging the guy. As the comedian feels so comfortable cruelly mocking perfect strangers, he should at least do the audience a favor and be willing to punch out instead of strictly down. Just tell us who it is, Jerry!

All 12 episodes — including the totally unnecessary Gervais two-parter — are now available to stream on Netflix. If this sounds up your alley, my recommendation is to queue up the Jamie Foxx, Melissa Villaseñor, Martin Short, Seth Rogen, and Bridget Everett episodes first, and proceed with caution from there.

In other entertainment news...

Have a nice weekend everyone, and if you either live in the NYC metro area or are planning to pass through next weekend, you might want to consider snagging a $60 ticket to the Eater Young Guns Summit, where Emmy-nominee Amy Sedaris will be in attendance along with a bunch of other extremely talented people.