The best comedy flows from real-life experiences, and nobody on television is tapping that vein better these days than "Seinfeld," the NBC series that tonight at 9 and 9:30 gives viewers a double feature of back-to-back episodes on WMAR (Channel 2).
Star Jerry Seinfeld built his stand-up comedy reputation on the "didja' ever notice . . ." school of observational humor, and tonight's first episode tackles a commonplace urban stress: the hunt for a good parking place.
Along the way, it also proves another formula for a successful comedy series: By reaching back to "The Honeymooners" and "I Love Lucy," the show demonstrates the need for a strong ensemble cast of almost-believable characters.
Indeed, tonight Jerry is pretty much secondary to the main action.
In the 9 p.m. episode, which is a first run (the second is a repeat), friends George and Elaine (Jason Alexander and Julia Louis-Dreyfuss) have borrowed Jerry's car to go to a flea market. Upon returning to his Manhattan neighborhood, they begin to cruise the streets for a parking space.
"Go to a garage," urges Elaine.
"Nobody in my family ever pays for parking. . . . It's like going to a prostitute," responds George.
When the perfect space miraculously opens and George begins to back in, another car comes up from behind and noses halfway into the space. As the drivers begin to argue, the cars just sit there in V-formation, jutting into the street.
And that's it -- the simple, basic setup for a half-hour that builds joke upon joke and involves every regular in the series, as well as a handful of funny passers-by.
A sub-theme involves Jerry with his friend Kramer (Michael Richards, who fulfills the obligatory wacky-neighbor role of every good sitcom) in a running argument over the revealing of confidences.
You cannot help but get the humor, for most of us have been in similar situations only slightly less exaggerated.
The show also mirrors another good recent outing, when the gang went to a big shopping mall. Did you see it? They couldn't find Kramer's car in the cavernous parking garage and wandered for hours, soon needing a bathroom more than the car.
Urban angst/suburban angst. Friendship angst/relationship angst. Work angst/home angst. "Seinfeld" captures it all equally well as the comic frames each episode with short cuts from his stand-up act.
NBC, obviously wishing to showcase the series as the important spring ratings sweeps get under way, says the show is one of the fastest rising on the air, with a 30 percent climb in the ratings last month.