Test Your Endurance With This Never-Ending AI-Generated ‘Seinfeld’ ShowReading Time: 4 minutes
The robots are coming for us all, but maybe you can get some laughs out of it in the meantime.
You can binge all nine seasons of Seinfeld as many times as you want, but you’ll never see another new episode again. That is, until you tune into Nothing, Forever a never-ending AI-generated spoof of the hit sitcom that just might melt your brain.
I’m not kidding. Over on Twitch, you can now watch a Seinfeld parody powered by AI that runs 24/7. Like Seinfeld, it stars four friends—Larry Feinberg (Jerry), Fred Kastopolous (George), Yvonne Torres (Elaine), and Zoltan Kalker (Kramer)—who are always hanging out and chatting, but this one is almost dada-esque in its possibly unintentional efforts to be a show about nothing. The show uses OpenAI’s GPT-3 model, Davinci, to write its scripts, and, according to TechCrunch, Microsoft Azure Cognitive Services speech API to power the characters’ voices. All the blocky visuals that make up the pixelated world of Nothing Forever are created using the game engine Unity.
Your first impression might be that, well, the show is impressive. It’s entirely generated by AI and never stops, with different scenes, scripts, and (mostly) accurate cuts to characters who are speaking. But after a while, you’ll start to notice some quirks and repetitions. A lot of scenes start the same way: ‘Hey, did you hear the news?’ or ‘Did you hear about the new restaurant opening down the street?’ Oh man, do they love to talk about restaurants.
That’s another quirk. The characters always talk about going out, but they never do. There are only four locations: Larry’s apartment, Yvonne’s apartment, Fred’s apartment, and Larry’s comedy club, the latter of which is the only time we see Larry ‘go out.’ His jokes range from canned and corny (we are talking ‘Why did the chicken cross the road?’ level) to downright bizarre:
So, I was at the store, and the man in front of me was trying to pick out a gift for his wife. He was struggling, so I said ‘just pick something that says you love her.’ He says, ‘You’re right. Roses probably say that.’ I say, ‘No, get her a shovel.’ He looks at me, a bit puzzled. I say, ‘That way, she can dig her own grave when you make a mistake.’
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Sometimes, characters say they’ll leave, then don’t. Larry says he’s going to leave, and Fred says hurry back! But Larry sits on the couch, motionless. Scenes often end abruptly, too, with characters sitting around in silence until cutting to the next AI-generated scene. Sometimes Larry sets up a joke but never delivers the punchline. Most of the time, scenes are interrupted as the characters move around the set in strange, stuttering ways. Sometimes Larry addresses everything he says to the fridge instead of his friends.
It’s a strange experience, and watching for too long might melt your brain. It seems to have melted the collective brains of those in the Twitch chat, since they lose their shit anytime anything happens (even though nothing ever actually happens). When a character discusses a new restaurant that just opened in the city, the chat spams NEW RESTAURANT over and over. It’s not unlike a Rocky Horror Picture show experience (minus the communal vibes of actually being in the same room as the rest of the audience), and is arguably more entertaining than the show itself. There’s even a Discord for Nothing, Forever fans to chat about the show, and the ‘lore’ developed so far.
Most chilling are the times when the characters seem…self aware. Larry’s standup once included a musing about how he couldn’t tell whether his stories were just stories, or whether they really happened. Then, in between discussions about restaurants they’ll never actually try, there are deep talks like:
Nothing, Forever might pique your interest for a bit, then send you scurrying away after hearing the 15th story about ‘the news.’ But for others, it might prove hypnotizing. I don’t want to look away, because every now and then, amid vapid discussions about restaurants they’ll never actually go to, or terrible jokes told on stage, there’s a nugget of pure gold—maybe something actually funny, maybe something deep, or maybe, something a bit disturbing, something that reminds us that AI is coming for us all.
Also unsettling: While the execution so far has been quite entertaining, the creators of the show think its the spark of a new kind of entertainment. In an interview with Vice, co-creator Skyler Hartle said:
As generative media gets better, we have this notion that at any point, you’re gonna be able to turn on the future equivalent of Netflix and watch a show perpetually, nonstop as much as you want. You don’t just have seven seasons of a show, you have seven hundred, or infinite seasons of a show that has fresh content whenever you want it. And so that became one of our grounding pillars … Our grounding principle was, can we create a show that can generate entertaining content forever? Because that’s truly where we see the future emerging towards. Our goal with the next iterations or next shows that we release is to actually trade a show that is like Netflix-level quality.
That’s a stretch (also: gross). I don’t think many of us want our TV shows to be like Nothing, Forever. The show works because it’s novel, not because it’s actually good. If there were more programs like it available to watch at any time, even if the overall quality was better, the appeal would instantly vanish—there are already plenty of nearly unwatchable shows and movies filling up the hard drives of your local streaming service.
Right now, Nothing Forever is only catching on because of the discourse. The combination of ridiculous things said by the AI and the reactions from the chat make it a uniquely internet-based form of entertainment. Bring that over to Netflix or HBO Max, and, suddenly, you’ve lost me—and probably everyone else.
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