“So, I was walking down the street and this guy comes up to me and says, ‘hey, do you have a quarter for the bus?’” said an animated character who appears to be modeled on Jerry Seinfeld in the “Nothing, Forever” Twitch stream when we started watching Friday morning.
It didn’t exactly sound like a monologue from its inspiration – the beloved 1990s sitcom “Seinfeld” – but the comedy club set looked a bit familiar. An apartment set and animated shots of what appear to be New York City streets also called back to the sitcom.
During the “Seinfeld” run, title character Jerry and his friend George Costanza (based on comedian Larry David) pitch their own sitcom as “a show about nothing” to NBC. This phrase has also been used to describe the show, which follows Jerry and George, as well as their friends Elaine and Kramer, through the minutiae of their daily lives.
“I still don’t know what the idea is,” an exasperated Jerry tells George in the episode.
“It’s about nothing,” says George.
“Right,” says Jerry, seemingly unconvinced.
“Nothing, Forever” is also described as “a show about nothing,” although this one “happens forever” and follows characters Larry Feinberg, Fred Kastopolous, Yvonne Torres and Zoltan Kalker.
According to its description, the show “is always-on, runs 365 days of the year, and delivers new content every minute.” It goes on to say that “everything you see, hear, or experience (with the exception of the artwork and laugh track) is always brand new content, generated via machine learning and AI algorithms.”
A disclaimer warns that “much of our generative content is provided through OpenAI's GPT-3 and does not reflect views held by the creators,” of the program. Characters in the show have robotic sounding voices. At one point while we watched the stream, the Elaine and George-type characters discussed the intelligence of dolphins compared to an octopus.
Mismatch Media, “a media lab focused on creating experimental forms of television shows, video games, and more, through generative technologies, and other machine learning technologies,” launched the project.
According to Motherboard, the show has been streaming since Dec. 14 and the characters in “Nothing, Forever” live in a modern version of New York.
“The conversations are mostly set in an apartment’s living room and about love interests or making plans with each other, without ever seeing the characters leave the apartment,” said the outlet. “Yet, oftentimes, the dialogue falls apart and becomes illogical.”
While we watched the stream Friday, the Elaine-type character talked about wanting to go on a vacation and then asked herself “where do you plan on going?”
Motherboard also noted that “though the laugh track is accurately dispersed throughout the show’s scenes pacing-wise, it hasn’t quite identified the qualities of humorous speech and often comes after a random or mundane line.”
Skyler Hartle, the co-creator of “Nothing, Forever,” confirmed that the show is a “Seinfeld” parody. He told Motherboard “the actual impetus for this was it originally started its life as this weird, very, off-center kind of nonsensical, surreal art project.”
Along with his, co-creator, Brian Habersberger, Hartle used machine learning, generative algorithms, and cloud services to build the program, according to Motherboard. TechCrunch reported that Habersberger is a former physicist and Hartle is a senior product manager at Microsoft.
“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,” Hartle told Motherboard. “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.”
Hartle also said that “Nothing, Forever” also has the ability to change based off audience feedback sent through the Twitch stream chat.
“The show can effectively change and the narrative actually evolves based on the audience. One of the major factors that we’re thinking about is how do we get people involved in crafting the narrative so it becomes their own,” he said.
According to TechCrunch, “Nothing, Forever” had 98,000 followers on Twitch as of Friday and 6,000 members had joined a Discord server about the project.
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