HellowearethecastofTVsSeinfeldandwehopeyouenjoyourqualityproductwhichnowincludesevenmorecommercialsforyourviewingpleasure.
HellowearethecastofTVsSeinfeldandwehopeyouenjoyourqualityproduct whichnowincludesevenmorecommercialsforyourviewingpleasure. Featureflash / Shutterstock.com

A video which supposedly proves that TBS speeds up its Seinfeld reruns by 7.5 percent in order to squeeze in two extra minutes of commercials has been online for a few months, but over the weekend it recirculated through Reddit, gathering a lot more attention. YouTube user "ltclassics" explains that the episode in the upper right hand corner is a recent TBS syndicated Seinfeld rerun. The episode on the lower right hand corner was supposedly a decade-old digitally recorded Seinfeld rerun.

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So. Let's talk about efficiency. In the last two decades, American productivity has improved at striking levels, with very little benefit for the American worker. Some of this has to do with automation, and a lot of it has to do with the spread of personal computers. As the workplace is measured, re-measured, and examined to the point of indecency—look at the conditions Amazon warehouse employees have to work under—efficiency is slowly chipping away at our lives.

Even if this Seinfeld thing turns out to be a hoax—I am hedging my bets here, because I do not own a stopwatch or rent cable television—it's such a great symbol for America in the 21st century. You can picture some stuffed suit in middle-management watching the same Seinfeld episode sped up to various percentages—3.5, 10, 12.5—to see how the jokes land. They probably focus-tested specific jokes in midwestern malls in order to find the razor's edge of comedy, the exact line before Jerry Seinfeld turns into Alvin and the Chipmunks and the timing of all the jokes is ruined. Quantifiably it's the same show, but in reality it's stretched to just before the breaking point, analyzed and efficiency-tested in order to cram more salable real estate into a lot that refuses to change size. The life is being sucked out of it, one decimal point at a time.

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