No coffee for you! Seinfeld's back, with a few friends

The comedian's innovative new show is only available online

"You have finally done the show about nothing." So proclaims Larry David during the first episode of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, Jerry Seinfeld's return to the comedy treadmill after an absence spanning a little over a decade.

The show, which launched on Thursday, follows a basic format: each episode will see Seinfeld pick up a chum in a vintage car, then drive to a restaurant for a hot drink and perhaps a snack. Cameras follow them, fly-on-the-wall style. They talk. Hilarity ensues.

Next week, the show will co-star Ricky Gervais; later in the season, Alec Baldwin. If you're a fan of Seinfeld, or its awkward stepchild Curb Your Enthusiasm, you'll be charmed. If not, you may find things meander. For better, or worse, the 15-minute show seems to be unscripted.

There is, of course, a ring of familiarity about this. In fact, judging by the first episode (all others are top secret for now), Seinfeld might almost be accused of stealing the format of his "show about nothing".

How so? Well the car journey portion, filmed with Go-Pro dashboard cameras, is essentially a rip-off of Robert Llewellyn's series Carpool. The restaurant scenes recall Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan's semi-improvised gastronomic travel documentary The Trip. At times, the resemblance is positively eerie.

For all that, there's at least a whiff of innovation about Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. It's nothing to do with the format, or punch lines, but revolves around the way people are supposed to view it. Put simply: it's a TV show you can't see on TV; it can only be watched over the internet.

Seinfeld's decision to forgo television – in favour of, a Sony-owned site – comes at a watershed moment for television's relationship with the internet. For years pigeon-holed as an experimental medium, used mostly for discovering fresh talent, online TV projects are now attracting blue-chip Hollywood stars. Tom Hanks launched his new project – a dystopian science-fiction animation called Electric City that he created and voices – via Yahoo. And the veteran TV anchor Larry King announced he was coming out of retirement to launch a weekly chat-show on Hulu. Netflix is venturing into TV production, with shows such as Lillehammer and Arrested Development, while Will Ferrell these days seems to spend most of his time online in Funny or Die sketches.

The online trend is partly driven by money, since the web accounts for a growing portion of overall ad spending, and partly by changing viewer habits, since the growing ubiquity of smartphones and tablet computers helps draw eyeballs to digital programming from traditional media.

But the Hankses and Seinfelds of this world, who have enough money for this lifetime, appear to also be drawn to the internet for artistic reasons. It allows them to experiment creatively without having to worry about interfering network executives, clunky TV timeslots, spiralling budgets and the other Hollywood blights.

"When I work with established TV stars, they're often interested by the freedom the internet provides," says Justin Gayner, the founder of ChannelFlip, a British online TV network that has made shows with Harry Hill, David Mitchell, and Richard Hammond. "The bigger the star, the more confident they are to experiment online. If they have conquered the Everest of TV then the internet is a new mountain. And the spontaneity of it all seems to remind them of their roots in stand-up comedy."

Seinfeld, then, is returning to comedy so he can play around. Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee is primarily a show about wasting time. (As David observes, early in the debut episode, "nobody can waste time like you and me".) And what is the internet, if not the perfect medium for wasting time?

Arts and Entertainment
Nick Hewer is to leave The Apprentice after 10 years

TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice

Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
The Baker (James Corden) struggles with Lilla Crawford’s Little Red Riding Hood

film...all the better to bamboozle us
Arts and Entertainment
English: Romantic Landscape

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump


Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas