From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Created by: Larry David & Jerry Seinfeld
Starring: Jerry Seinfeld, Jason Alexander, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Michael Richards
Country of origin: United States
Number of seasons: 9
Number of episodes: 180 (including two part episodes and clip shows)
Executive producer(s): Fred Barron (Season 1), Larry David (Seasons 2 - 7), Ben A. Scott, Howard West, George Shapiro, Andrew Scheinman, Jerry Seinfeld (Seasons 8-9)
Location: New York City
Running time: 21 Minutes (syndication), 22 Minutes (original)
Broadcast Original channel: NBC
Original run: July 5, 1989 – May 14, 1998
Seinfeld is an Emmy Award winning American situation comedy that originally aired on NBC from July 5, 1989 to May 14, 1998, lasting nine seasons. Many of its catch phrases have entered into the popular culture lexicon. The show led the Arthur Nielsen Media Research Ratings in its sixth and ninth seasons and finished among the top two (along with NBC's ER) every year from 1994 to 1998. In 2002, TV Guide named Seinfeld as the greatest American television program of all time. A 2006 sitcom industry poll conducted by the United Kingdom's Channel 4 voted Seinfeld as the third best sitcom ever, ranking behind Frasier and Fawlty Towers.
The eponymous series was created by Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld, with the latter starring as a fictionalized version of himself. Set predominantly in an apartment block on New York City's Upper West Side (but shot mostly in Los Angeles, California), the show features a host of Jerry's friends and acquaintances, which include George Costanza, Elaine Benes and Cosmo Kramer. Seinfeld was produced by Castle Rock Entertainment and distributed by Columbia Pictures Television and Columbia TriStar Television (now Sony Pictures Television). It was largely co-written by David and Seinfeld with inputs from numerous script writers, including Larry Charles, Peter Mehlman, Gregg Kavet, Andy Robin, Carol Leifer, David Mandel, Jeff Schaffer, Steve Koren, Jennifer Crittenden, Tom Gammill, Max Pross, Charlie Rubin, Alec Berg, and Spike Feresten.
Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David pitched Seinfeld as a ''show about nothing,'' similar to the self parodying ''show within a show'' of Season 4 episodes ''The Pilot, Part 1'' and ''Part 2''. Seinfeld stood out from the typical family or coworker driven TV sitcoms of its time. None of the principal Seinfeld characters were related by blood or worked together. The episodes of most sitcoms revolve around a central theme or contrived comic situations, whereas most episodes of Seinfeld focused on the minutiae of daily life, such as waiting in line at the movies, going out for dinner, buying a suit, and coping with the petty injustices of life. Some viewers hold the belief that the world view presented in Seinfeld is somewhat consistent with the philosophy of nihilism, the view that life is pointless.
Originally, the show began with Jerry Seinfeld delivering his stand up comedy routine, which was set in a comedy night club. The theme of his act is loosely based on the plot of each episode. Originally, his stand-up act would bookend an episode, for a while even functioning as cutscenes during the show. By Season 4, the cutscenes in the middle of the episodes became less common and by Season 6, the clips that ended the shows also became less common. By Season 8, the stand-up act was cut out entirely as the plots expanded and required more time. The show's main characters, and many secondary characters, were modeled after Seinfeld's and David's real life acquaintances. Other recurring characters were based on well-known, real life counterparts, such as the Soup Nazi (based on Soup Kitchen International manager Al Yeganeh), Jacopo Peterman of the J. Peterman catalogue (nominally based on John Peterman), and George Steinbrenner, the owner of the New York Yankees baseball team.
In most Seinfeld episodes, one story thread is presented at the beginning, involving the characters in separate and unrelated situations. Rapid scene shifts between story lines move the story forward. By Season 4, the episodes ended by having all of the separate story lines converge, often unexpectedly. Despite the separate plot strands, the narratives reveal ''consistent efforts to maintain the intimacy'' between the small cast of characters. The show kept a strong sense of continuity characters and plots from past episodes were frequently referenced or expanded upon. Occasionally, story arcs would span multiple episodes and even entire seasons. Larry David, the show's head writer and executive producer for the first seven seasons, was praised for keeping a close eye on minor details and making sure the main characters' lives remained consistent and believable. He would later make use of season long story arcs in his next series, Curb Your Enthusiasm. The show stood apart from other sitcoms of the time for not placing a shred of importance on the characters learning moral lessons. In effect, the characters are often morally indifferent or callous. It was often said that the mantra of the show's producers was: ''No hugging, no learning.''
Jerry Seinfeld (Jerry Seinfeld) - Jerry is the show's central character who comes across as a ''neat freak''. He is obsessed with orderliness and is a bit of a ''germophobe''. In the show, Jerry makes a living as a stand up comedian. His apartment is the center of a world visited by his eccentric friends George, Elaine, and Kramer. He is often seen as ''the voice of reason'' amid all the insanity generated by the people in his world. Plot lines often involve Jerry's romantic relationships; he typically finds ''stupid reasons'' to stop dating women. While seemingly the 'normal' one amongst his friends, his character's neurosis reveals itself in his obsessive cleanliness, narcissism, and steadfast immaturity. His favorite superhero is Superman and there are various references to it in the series.
George Costanza (Jason Alexander) - George is Jerry's best friend since school. He is cheap, dishonest, petty and often jealous of others' achievements. He is often portrayed as a loser who is insecure about his capabilities. He often complains and lies about his profession, relationship, and almost everything else, which usually creates trouble for him later. He often uses an alias ''Art Vandelay'', when lying or assuming a fake identity. George was once succinctly described by Elaine as a ''short, stocky, slow-witted, bald man''. He fantasizes of being an architect. He often does questionable things which others might also do but often gets caught in the act (such as urinating in a parking garage).
Elaine Benes (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) - Elaine is intelligent and assertive, but superficial. She sometimes has a tendency to be very honest with people, which often gets her into trouble. She often gets caught up in her boyfriends' habits, her eccentric employers' unusual demands, and the unkindness of total strangers. A recurring plot line for Elaine is her frustrating inability to find Mr. Right; she also goes through an on/off relationship with David Puddy throughout Season 9. She used to date Jerry, and remains his close friend. One of Elaine's trademark maneuvers is her forceful shove when she receives good or shocking news while using her catch phrase ''get out!''. She is notable among sitcom females in that she is not the ''straight face'' of the show and behaves with much the same conceited attitude as her male friends.
Cosmo Kramer (Michael Richards) - Kramer is Jerry's ''wacky neighbor'' and friend. His trademarks include his humorous upright pompador hairstyle, vintage clothing, his weirdness, and his energetic sliding bursts through Jerry's apartment door. Elaine refers to him as a 'hipster doofus'. At times he acts naive, dense, and almost child like, yet randomly shows astonishing insight into human behavior. Though he never seems to have held a 'real' job, he often makes a bundle on some wacky scheme. He often dreams of ridiculous schemes to make money, some of which include a pizza place where ''you make your own pie'', a cologne that smells like ''the beach'', authoring a coffee table book about coffee tables (for which he appeared on Live with Regis and Kathie Lee), and designing a brassiere for men called the ''Bro'' (or Manssiere according to Frank Costanza). Kramer consistently goes out of his way to help total strangers. Despite being arguably the 'weirdest' of the group, Kramer seems to have the most success with the opposite sex.
There are numerous recurring minor characters in Seinfeld. The most prominent are:
Newman (Wayne Knight) - An overweight, despicable postal worker. He is Kramer's accomplice and Jerry's nemesis and is a neighbor of both (Apartment 5E). He will go out of his way to make Jerry's life miserable. He is usually greeted contemptuously by Jerry with ''Hello Newman'' to which he also mostly responds with ''Hello Jerry'' in similar fashion. He is typically found plotting against Jerry, eating, and being obnoxious in Jerry's apartment. Newman has an infatuation for Elaine, who finds him repellent but occasionally exploits his attraction to her. He is the most frequently recurring secondary male character, from his first appearance in the show's third season all the way through the last episode.
Morty Seinfeld (originally portrayed by Phil Bruns, but later replaced by Barney Martin) and Helen Seinfeld (portrayed by Liz Sheridan) - They are Jerry's parents. Morty is a retired raincoat salesman and famous for obstinately sticking to his convictions; Helen cannot understand why anyone would not like her son. They always feel that Jerry is not making enough money and try to help him out financially. These two characters are based on Jerry's biological parents.
Frank Costanza (originally portrayed by John Randolph, replaced by Jerry Stiller) and Estelle Costanza (portrayed by Estelle Harris) - They are George's eccentric parents. George usually blames them for his current mental state and failure to succeed in life. They are known for their violent temper, often leading to yelling and constant verbal fights. They make many appearances from season 4 to 9.
Uncle Leo (Len Lesser) - He is Jerry's uncle and Helen's brother. He personifies the eccentric old man and often tries to demean Jerry with comparisons to his own purportedly successful son. He has a habit of grabbing the person with whom he is conversing by the arm. He always brags about his son, Jeffrey (who never makes an appearance on the show), who works for the NYC Parks Department. Uncle Leo is seen in seasons 2 to 9 occasionally.
Susan Ross (Heidi Swedberg) - George's fiancée and a former NBC executive. She tries to become friends with Elaine and Jerry in one episode but can't tolerate their inane chatter. She worked for NBC in season 4 and was engaged to George in season 7. She dies in the last episode of season 7, from licking the poisonous glue of their wedding invitation envelopes. She is the most frequently recurring female character in seasons 4 and 7, and has a cameo role in the season 9 episode titled ''The Betrayal''.
George Steinbrenner (voiced by Larry David, portrayed by Lee Bear, who is only seen from behind) - He is George's boss and owner of the New York Yankees. Steinbrenner's face is never shown on the show. He is parodied for his arrogance and lack of touch with the realities of running of a baseball team. A recurring gag is for him to call George into his office, then proceed to ramble on about inane topics as George slowly walks out the door. In edited scenes, the real George Steinbrenner makes a cameo appearance and goes out with Elaine. The scenes were cut due to time constraints and are available on the season 7 DVD. He usually appears from the finale of season 5 to 9.
J. Peterman (John O'Hurley) - He is one of Elaine's eccentric bosses. Peterman owns The J. Peterman Company and Elaine works on the catalog released by the company. Using the florid style of a treasure hunting adventurer, he typically announces his journeys to exotic locations in search of unique clothing. He is usually seen making an appearance from the finale of season 6 to season 9.
Kenny Bania (Steve Hytner) - Bania is a fellow stand up comedian. Jerry hates Bania, because he is so annoying. Bania's trademark ''Hey Jerry!'' is often treated by Jerry and his friends with annoyance and indifference. Kenny Bania appears in various episodes throughout seasons 6 through 9.
David Puddy (Patrick Warburton) - Puddy is Elaine's on again, off again boyfriend. He is a competent auto mechanic, but also an airhead with numerous quirks, most notably his squinting, staring, and insatiable appetite for high fives. He calls himself a Christian and he is known for his short, unapologetic delivery and unflinching assuredness, such as when he delivers his catch phrase ''That's right''. He is seen in seasons 6 and 9.
Jackie Chiles (Phil Morris) - Jackie is Kramer's lawyer. He has a secretary named Suzy and sets up appointments for his clients with an unseen ''Dr. Bison''. He also speaks with a rapid fire delivery and tends to overuse grandiose adjectives like 'preposterous' and 'outrageous'. Chiles is a caricature of the late Johnnie Cochran. He is seen occasionally in seasons 7 to 9.
Justin Pitt (Ian Abercrombie) - Usually referred to as ''Mr. Pitt,''. He was Elaine's demanding boss during the sixth season. He hired her because she reminded him of Jackie Onassis. He makes his appearance throughout Season 6 as well as ''The Finale''.
Tim Whatley (Bryan Cranston) - Jerry's dentist, he appears in Seasons 6, 8 and 9. Elaine accuses him of regifting in ''The Label Maker'', and he converts to Judaism and begins to make references to the Jewish people as if he is a lifelong Jew in ''The Yada Yada''.
Seinfeld violated several conventions of mainstream television. The show, which (correctly or not) is often described as ''about nothing'', became the first television series since Monty Python's Flying Circus to be widely described as postmodern. Several elements of Seinfeld fit in with a postmodern interpretation. The show typically is driven by humor dispersed with superficial conflict and characters with strange dispositions.
Many episodes revolved around the characters becoming involved in the lives of others to typically disastrous results. However, regardless of the damage they caused, they never gained anything from the experience and continued to be selfish, egocentric people. On the set, the notion that the characters should not develop or improve throughout the series was expressed as the ''no hugging, no learning'' rule. This quote is almost referenced in an episode ''The Secret Code'' where Kramer says to Jerry, ''Well the important thing is, you learned something,'' to which Jerry replies, ''No I didn't.'' Unlike most sitcoms, there are no moments of pathos; the audience is never made to feel sorry for any of the characters. Even Susan's death in the series elicits no genuine emotions from anyone in the show.
The characters were ''thirty something singles ... with no roots, vague identities, and conscious indifference to morals''. Usual conventions, such as isolating the characters from the actors playing them and separating the characters' world from that of the actors and audience, were broken. One such example is the story arc in which the characters promote a television sitcom series named Jerry. The show within the show, titled Jerry was much like Seinfeld, in which Seinfeld played himself, and that the show was ''about nothing''. Jerry was launched in the Season 4 finale, but unlike Seinfeld, it was not picked up as a series.
Nearly every episode is based on the writers real life experiences. For example, ''The Revenge'' is based on Larry's experience at Saturday Night Live. ''The Contest'' and ''The Phone Message'' are also based on Larry David's experiences. ''The Smelly Car'' is based on Peter Mehlman's friend who is a lawyer that couldn't get the bad smell out of his car. ''The Strike'' is based on Dan O'Keefe's dad who made up his own holiday Festivus. However other stories takes a different turn in a number of ways. ''The Chinese Restaurant'' is simply waiting for a table for the whole episode. ''The Boyfriend'' revolves around Keith Hernandez extending to two episodes. ''The Betrayal'' is based on Pinter's play in which the story uses reverse chronology.
The Seinfeld community can draw on a large amount of in slang, ''a lexicon of Seinfeldian code words and recurring phrases, that evolved around particular episodes'', often called seinlanguage. The characters frequently coin new terms to refer to characteristics of secondary characters, such as ''re-gifter'', ''mimbo'', ''sidler'', ''close talker'', ''low talker'', and ''high talker''. The show has propelled many catch phrases such as ''Yada Yada Yada'', ''master of your domain'', and ''Not that there's anything wrong with that'' into daily life conversations.