On July 5th, 1989, the show about nothing was born. Following four single friends – comic Jerry Seinfeld (Seinfeld), bungling George Costanza (Alexander), frustrated working gal Elaine Benes (Dreyfus) and eccentric neighbor Cosmo Kramer (Richards), Seinfeld immerses a groundbreaking focus on the absurdities of everyday life in New York City.
Critically acclaimed as the best sitcom in television history, Seinfeld is not only a realistic intake on society’s pointer-strike in a busy city, but a masterful exploration of minutiae – inspired by, (and featuring, in large chunks of the episode’s opening) star Jerry Seinfeld’s pointillist stand-up routine. Crammed and packed with lively taglines, punch lines, and bursts of “yada, yada, yada” nonsense, Seinfeld is a show that reinvented the art form of television – eschewing realism altogether with hyper-realism and religious devotions to bizarre roundups. Turning life into a whole different speculation, Seinfeld removes the emotional and intellectual homage that television was recognizable to have, and instead keeps only the debris, internalizing it into something memorable with identifiable details. Shrinkage. The Bubble Boy. The Pez Dispenser. The Sponge. The Puffy Shirt. Festivus. The Soup Nazi. “Serenity Now!” “They’re real, and they’re spectacular.” With nine seasons filled with the daily life of each character, the show would have concluded itself to be about nothing, but that “nothing” grew to the audience as practically everything.
Initially, Seinfeld was met with a lukewarm response, a baffled network and redeemed with low ratings and marked as “a show about nothing” – but as the series carried on with its in age of niche tastes and alternatives from each character, the show preserved a tremendous amount of praise that nobody could have foreseen at the time; welcoming an establishment of praise and crowd-pleasing entertainment for the nation – and yet, thirty years later, it still remains just that.
Seinfeld has been known for the show that revolutionized the network of sitcoms, and we can agree with this. From the very first season, creators Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David (who based the character George Costanza largely on himself) layed out the template of the show’s unique style, and counterpoint of effectiveness that was to outline the hugless, lesson-free humor that would later make it an oft-imitated classic. With three cameras and a laugh track, the show’s observation of the ridiculousness around the characters is made to work extremely well – the outlandish and directly strange encounters that the four single friends go through, perplexing as the series’ trademarks of wit and satiric humor proceeds to sharpen and refine each season.
The show is more or less a sitcom than it is a social satire, an inside look at everyday life through slightly skewed eyes that see the humor in life’s little problems. Combined with the show’s observational and hilarious format, Seinfeld is in fact all about him, to be sure, and he shines. Making the audience consider the common distractions that differ throughout life – the comical effect that he notices throughout relationships, golf, chiropractors and cantaloupe – his character also pokes fun at its difficulties and splits the seriousness in half to discover the fragment of absurdities.
But, the main reason why the show succeeds, and is still a sitcom-classic thirty years down the line, is because the comedian also allows his co-stars, who acquire many of the punchlines, to be left front and center to receive the laughs; and those long-hour belly laughs that immerse from the audience is because of the solid comedy characterizations that they present. Jason Alexander, as Seinfeld’s dear friend and confidant, continuously makes us cackle with his ideal way of rationalizing situations – sometimes playing off Seinfeld, and sometimes foiling himself as his occasional impulsiveness often leads him into trouble. Add in Michael Richards, as the slightly neurotic and high-strung neighbor who acts more like a caring mother at times, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus as his assertive and quite superficial friend (who has the tendency to shove people when displaying extreme emotion), and the result is a cast of characters that both resemble real life and compassionately satirize it.
But apart from the questions that make us fans question why Kramer is spastic? Why George Costanza is so charmingly insecure? And why Elaine is such a lovable nut? We also have to take into account the other characters that make Seinfeld the phenomenon that it is. If there’s one person that the show’s fans love to hate, it’s Jerry’s comical, bizarre, unfortunate, and distrustful worst nemesis, Newman (Wayne Knight). Created to be Seinfeld’s rival, Newman adds an excellent curiosity within the dimension of the show, and a circular pattern of rivalry that adds another twist of element to each season’s plot.
Frank Costanza (Jerry Stiller) also perplexes the show as the brisk, and sometimes abrasive, father to George – which adds a dimension to his son’s character that was completely necessary to include as it allows us to see how he became to acquire the same neurotic, paranoid, and irascible manner as his father. Uncle Leo (Len Lesser) is known to be Jerry’s uncle, and his slight nut case and unconventional matter about him seems to chip into the show, just as much as his signature greeting causes Jerry to circumvent when he hears the phrase, “Jerry! Hello!”. The Soup Nazi, one of the show’s most strict, uncouth, and surprisingly lovable characters that is known for holding fantastic soup recipes and approaching his customers with outlandish treatment – is downright quirky once his intrepid behavior starts to tune in with his bold and brash appearance towards other characters.
George Steinbrenner (Larry David) acted as George’s boss while employed for the Yankees, and his role was just as funny as the rest of the Seinfeld characters – bringing a large amount of chatter, bad decision making and compulsively firing anyone that he could. Portrayed in a physical sense while David provided the voice-over whenever Steinbrenner spoke, the wealth of quirks that his character brought to the show was massive, and his love for eggplant calzones was just the same. And last but not least, Jackie Chiles (Phil Morris), a character that began as Kramer’s lawyer on the show, but instead evolved to become a defense attorney for all four characters at the show’s finale. Known to be a well dressed, fast-talking litigator who describes things with a series of adjectives, “It’s lewd, lascivious, salacious, outrageous!”, it’s doubtful that we’ll ever get his characters eccentric behavior and quotable remarks out of our heads again.
In addition, Seinfeld‘s supporting cast are just as equally sparkling as the show’s main characters, obtaining a great dynamic to the seasons run and the story line that goes along with it. Each character brings a collection of peculiarity and entertainment to the show, and adds a new level of dimension for the main character they support – and the sitcom wouldn’t be remembered thirty years down the line if it wasn’t for their different and hilarious intakes on the four single friends that comprise a role in each of their lives.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been three decades since Seinfeld debuted on our television screens, spreading a new era of comedy and new wave of television to millions of fans across the world. Fabricated in die-hard fervor and enthusiasm from characters that would soon become household names, the show just complements how a sitcom with subversive humor and seemingly non sequitur story lines can mark a welcome contrast to the eyes of programmes airing at the time, and to this day.
Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld have created a show that is a combination of real-life reality and TV reality that blur the line between the two, and while it stops short to reminiscence in the impressions of relationships and friendships, only at its serious moments does it start to poke fun at television, and the essence of reality as well. Exemplified during the finale of the show, it might have been hard for fans to reason with the show’s ending, but one of the best parts of Seinfeld is that it is so different – and it’s nice to know that it’s not carrying the same homage and strive of ambition that other sitcoms are known to aim for, which as viewers first discover, is a loving touch as it immerses them to stick around for more.
Seinfeld awakened a whole new world of recognition and financial security that no other show had acquired at the time, and that’s what made it so special after so many years. Contributing to the world primarily through the reality of the nineties, Seinfeld was perhaps one of the greatest gifts of television that contributed value to those carving time to schedule the innovative series within their weekly basis, and a series that will be remembered for years to come. Formatted with an ambition to strive a chock full of humor and satire, the show represents the sign of a solid, innovative and worthwhile television programming, and what’s best than to see a show fueled with reality check-ins where characters learn and grow like its artificial.
And even with a show that attaches itself as “a show about nothing”, there’s nothing stopping it from laying in on the weightlessness that life can have on a society. With the amount of satire that it spreads, the message that it is trying to decipher is that: in real life, our friends change. Those who don’t can endeavor the intense pleasure of ridiculousness. Just like Seinfeld.