Iconic Movie/TV Show #1: ‘Seinfeld’

Cast of 'Seinfeld'

‘Seinfeld’ cast at 1993 Emmys. (L-R: Michael Richards, Jerry Seinfeld, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Jason Alexander. (Photo Scott Flynn/AFP/Getty Images)


From the ridiculous to the even more ridiculous, “Seinfeld” was billed as “A show about nothing.” Focusing on the hilarious day-to-day foibles of four eccentric, hapless single friends living in New York City, “Seinfeld,” starring the inimitable Jerry Seinfeld, Jason Alexander, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Michael Richards as the four main characters Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer, captured the imagination of a whole generation of television watchers. Based upon postmodern themes, NBC’s comedy powerhouse remained on the network’s lineup for nine seasons.


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No Show For You

“Seinfeld” almost didn’t happen. Created by writer Larry David and stand-up comic Seinfeld, the pilot for the show was pitched to network executives with semi-enthusiastic results. Concerns centered around the Jewish-centric, New York vibe of the show, although some executives in attendance, particularly Warren Littlefield, believed strongly in the project. Comprised primarily of Jerry Seinfeld’s stand-up comedy routines and conversations between cast members about everyday minutia, the pilot was not received well by test audiences who were puzzled by the humor and the show’s flow. Littlefield and others fought for the pilot to air and it did, although it would be three years before the show would receive high ratings.


Plotlines and Tag Lines

Plotlines for the show often were derived from the real-life experiences of David, Seinfeld and other individuals associated with the show. Slowly, “Seinfeld” garnered a strong, cult-like following of diehard fans who could relate to the stories which were seemingly about nothing. The show’s popularity never skewed towards New York in the Nielsen ratings, but New Yorkers were definitely high up in Seinfeld’s fan base. Episodes like “The Smelly Car,” “Festivus,” “The Phone Message” and “The Ex-Girlfriend” resonated with city dwellers, particularly those who were single.
 
“Seinfeld” also became known for its one liners. Tag lines like, “No soup for you,” from the infamous “Soup Nazi” episode, and “Not that there’s anything wrong with that,” could be heard in offices and restaurants on any given day.


Empathy, Not

On the Seinfeld set a “No hugging, no learning” rule was the norm for the series characters. Intentionally shallow, Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer careen from one event to the next, showing little real caring for others and generating no pathos for themselves. Despite this counter-intuitive premise, the characters were highly likable as well as hysterically funny.
 
A supporting cast brilliantly helped maintain the show’s high standing with viewers and also seemed not to grow emotionally from season to season. These included Wayne Knight as Newman, Kramer’s portly friend and mailman, Jerry Stiller as George’s high-octane father, Frank Costanza, Estelle Harris as George’s semi-hysterical mother, Estelle Costanza and Heidi Swedberg as George’s doomed fiancée, Susan, who dies while licking the cheap wedding invitation envelopes George bought.


For Those Who Can’t Get Enough

“Seinfeld” can be seen on several cable TV stations currently, is streamed 24/7 on The Giddyup Network and is available in boxed sets on DVD.


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Corey Whelan is a freelance writer in New York. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.

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