“Seinfeld” vs. “Friends” | Speech & Debate

Both are classics in their own right, but you know one is your favorite. So, which is better: “Seinfeld” or “Friends”?

Both are classics in their own right, but you know one is your favorite. So, which is better: “Seinfeld” or “Friends”?

When I heard this month’s debate would be “Seinfeld” delivering a complete beat down of “Friends,” I thought, “Too easy for whoever picks ‘Seinfeld.’ ”

That person could simply write about the superior characters, a show that thrived for years without relying on the same two tired plots lines over and over, dialogue and catch phrases that have stood the test of time and—yada, yada, yada—debate over; “Seinfeld” wins.

Serenity now.

We could savor victory, as refreshing as a Junior Mint, but to do so after such a minimal recitation of the reasons “Seinfeld” reigns would do a disservice to all the low talkers, close talkers, anti-dentites and fans of puffy shirts among us here and in Bizarro World.

“Seinfeld” gave us Bubble Boy, Golden Boy, Newman(!), Art Vandelay and the Soup Nazi. Because of “Seinfeld,” we celebrate Festivus—not that there’s anything wrong with that—and we watch our snack table to make sure no one double-dips.

Speaking of food, entire episodes were built around it: lobster bisque, marble rye, chocolate babka, calzones, Kenny Rogers’ roasted chickens, muffins (the tops only) and big salads. Half the scenes were taped in a diner or near Jerry’s kitchen with its neatly arranged cereal boxes. Homemade sausages, anyone?

On the other hand, “Friends” built entire seasons around two main storylines: who was dating whom and who wanted to be dating whom. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Here’s the series in a nutshell: A lot of great hair, a lot of sexual innuendo and a whole lot of whining.

Still, we acknowledge “Friends” has its loyal fan base, but in 2013, TV Guide ranked “Seinfeld” as the greatest television show of all time. “Friends” came in at No. 21. According to a “60 Minutes”/Vanity Fair poll, “Seinfeld” was the funniest show on television; “Friends” was fourth.

More than 76 million people watched the “Seinfeld” finale, the fourth highest-ranked series finale in TV history. “Friends”? A very respectable but far lesser 52.5 million viewers.

E! named “Seinfeld” the “No. 1 reason the ’90s ruled,” and we know why: It was real, and it was spectacular.

So, go ahead, give the gift that keeps giving 20 years since it went off the air. In fact, re-gift it. Watch a few of the classic episodes that were about much more than nothing.

—Rich Desrosiers

“Seinfeld” is a classic. It belongs in the TV Show Hall of Fame, which doesn’t exist, but if you give someone in Northeast Ohio time, it will be created. “Seinfeld” is the standard for which all TV comedies are measured.

But “Seinfeld” lacked one thing: Love.

It lacked Ross and Rachel. Chandler and Monica. Joey and, um, what’s all their names? Think of an unknown, bit-part actress and she probably played Joey’s girlfriend in “Friends.”

“Seinfeld” didn’t have love. Sure, there were the overtures and the quickly nixed relationship between Jerry and Elaine. “Seinfeld” didn’t teach us about love. For crying out loud, before George could marry Susan the show killed her off because she licked cheap wedding invitation envelopes that had toxic glue.

“Seinfeld” was, admittedly, a show about nothing.

“Friends” had a plot. A point. There was a thread that ran through the eyelets of each episode. The great thing about “Friends” is when any of us wants to relive our 20s, the seasons are all right there on Netflix. Who doesn’t remember how difficult it was to move into an apartment (“Pivot!”)? And we all have that one friend who chases one failed marriage with another. Reliving our 20s? Remember the episodes where “Friends” takes us back to the high school prom and “big” Monica is revealed?

I don’t ever remember “Seinfeld” airing two consecutive episodes in an hourlong special after the Super Bowl. “Friends” did, and Phoebe sang songs about death and poked fun at Monica and Rachel for fighting over who gets to date Jean-Claude Van Damme. They even had Julia Roberts in this episode.

Of course “Friends” also taught us how to calm down. “Seinfeld” had “serenity now.” Ross gave us “unagi,” a concept the Japanese refer to as a “state of total awareness,” which prepares you for any danger that may befall you.

—Todd Porter

We’re siding with Rich this month.

This was the toughest Speech & Debate yet. Both shows have such a following, even after all these years. We asked our staff to break the tie. While some immediately said “Seinfeld,” others were hesitant, stating they were a fan of both. But “Seinfeld” won out. Luckily for everyone, both shows are available through streaming services. You can find “Seinfeld” on Hulu and “Friends” on Netflix. Jerry Seinfeld fans also might enjoy “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee,” a show on Netflix hosted by Jerry Seinfeld in which he takes comedic guests on adventures to get coffee.

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