Although Jerry Seinfeld has titled his Crackle series “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee,” it could just as easily be dubbed “My Coffee With Jerry.” Breezy but ultimately empty calories, it’s the kind of shortform concept that feels stretched even at 18 minutes, something the marquee names of the participants can’t obscure as a rather tiresome act of self-indulgence. Several cable shows have already capitalized on the inexpensive format of comics kibitzing, but the assumption two famously funny people thrown together will conjure magic reveals about the best one can hope for is a few random sparks.
In a sense, Seinfeld’s modest little exercise — which enters its second flight beginning Thursday — illustrates the difference between meticulously worked-over standup routines and what amounts to freestyle riffing. Sure, the comics might stumble onto something grand, insightful or merely clever, but it’s mostly trial and error.
In the first two episodes, Seinfeld picks up Sarah Silverman and David Letterman, driving around as he conducts a sort-of interview with the former — thus casting himself in the role of straight man — while playfully bantering with the latter. Seinfeld and Letterman clearly share more history, as well as the whole late-in-life dad thing, which provides a through line to their conversation that’s lacking from the Silverman session.
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Although he’s always been a truly gifted observational comic, in this setting Seinfeld really doesn’t present himself as much of a conversationalist. So his admirable search for new horizons — which prompted him to formally retire his old standup act — has led him into a creative cul-de-sac to which he’s not ideally suited.
At this point, the digital space has created a lab where big names can play without having to undergo the rigmarole of mounting a formal TV show, and the sponsorship opportunities (Acura is the presenting entity) make such programs viable. Still, this falls under the heading of just because you can do something doesn’t always mean you should.
“The non-event is the best part of life,” Seinfeld muses at one point.
By that somewhat dubious yardstick, life doesn’t get much better than this.