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Seinfeld Cast photo Jerry, George, Elaine, Krammer

Emmy award-winning American situation comedy

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Something From Nothing

  • Jul 18, 2013
Rating:
+2
Seinfeld is famously The Show About Nothing. Now, what that means to me is that the characters are simply existing. We know very little about just who they are, what they do, and what they want. In the grand scheme of things, there's nothing, and so to me, that's why Seinfeld is The Show About Nothing.

Now, on the day to day basis, Seinfeld being about nothing was nothing more than a little marketing scheme for idiots or jaded 90's people. Each and every episode was not only about something, but they were all written and woven in very clever roundabout ways. Do you really believe the episode with The Soup Nazi was about nothing? Or the episode with the marble rye bread? The chicken roaster? The bet? All of those episodes had plots! The finale of Seinfeld was one of television's most infamous letdowns because it was believed the show had lost its way. In that respect, yeah, indeed it did - where the show had no great, overarching theme throughout its entire run, now in its finale, creators Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld went big and extravagant and in the process, they ended up squeezing an honest to god theme into Seinfeld. If you buy the idea that each individual episode was about nothing, though, you don't have the right to complain about the finale because it was merely doing what Seinfeld had always done in the first place.

Seinfeld centers around four characters: Jerry Seinfeld (Jerry Seinfeld), a stand-up comedian of some renown who, between performances, hangs out with his three best friends: George Costanza (Jason Alexander), Elaine Benes (Julia Louis-Dreyfuss), and Cosmo Kramer (Michael Richards). They hang out at Jerry's apartment, and they hang out at a local diner, and they get into and out of romantic tangles, and sometimes, they fight the ongoing evil of Newman (Wayne Knight). Mostly, though, the show is about the four of them hanging out.

These four people are clearly bored, because in just about every episode, they have nothing better to do than sit around fighting about common social conventions. A huge bulk of the humor from Seinfeld actually comes from this. They debate about the proper situations to say God Bless You after someone sneezes, at what point garbage truly becomes garbage, and when the right point to help your friend move is. They introduce a bunch of well-known catch phrases which wormed their way into the English lexicon.

The plots, although they're obviously there, are weak, and so Seinfeld relies on strong characterization to drive the show along. Name a character and you're likely to identify them by traits and not particular actions: Jerry is the show's Only Sane Man. George has a bit of a temper. Elaine is impulsive and bubbly, and Kramer - whose first name we didn't learn until a few seasons in - is just weird. The plots are driven by the absurd actions of the main characters, not the other way around. Therefore, a lot of what happens on Seinfeld tends to be extremely low-key. There aren't any Very Special Episodes, very few big revealed secrets, and even a lot of the show's major events aren't given any more emphasis than anything else. Over the run of Seinfeld, Jerry got a TV show, George hopped jobs and got engaged to a woman who died licking cheap wedding invitation envelopes, and these things were treated like anything else that happened on the course of the show.

That fits with the ethos of David and Seinfeld, who went into the show following just one ironclad rule: No Lessons, No Hugging. They kept that rule consistent through nine years on the air, so don't go into Seinfeld expecting to see tearful reunions or saccharine I Love You moments or anything in those veins. As a result, it's absurd how many people the four main characters know outside of their own exclusive little social circle. Yet, supporting characters on Seinfeld pop up everywhere, and everyone is treated like they've been part of the characters' lives all along. If there was a new character being introduced on Seinfeld, chances are it was a one-shot appearance and that character would most likely disappear and never be seen or mentioned again. The characters flew in and out of relationships at a similar pace, although George gets into a long-term relationship with a woman named Susan Ross (Heidi Swedberg) and Elaine has an odd relationship with a man named David Puddy (Patrick Warburton). For the most part, though, significant others are frequently referred to be colloquialisms, like The Woman with Man Hands and The Woman with Great Breasts.

It seems to me that the majority of Seinfeld's plotlines revolved around social conventions and coincidences. A lot of the happenings on the show are about one of the four breaking a long-sacred social norm, and he questions just what it meant anyway, and a string of relevant coincidences begins and ends with the characters either right back where they started or humiliated. No one gets anywhere, and a reset button is usually pushed.

I think the reason this show was embraced so hard is that it managed to capture the muskrat cynicism which defined Generation X in the 90's while giving them something to laugh at. To really be able to enjoy Seinfeld to its fullest, you can't feel a whole lot for the characters, and the show doesn't convince you to even try. Seinfeld almost encourages its audience to have a strong sense of detachment. Let's face it, as much as we love all these characters, they certainly don't make it easy, and there are times they seem to want us to hate them. My mother hates Seinfeld, and she frequently cites George's reaction to Susan's death as the instigator - George's reaction was extremely muted, due largely in part to the fact that he was starting to rethink the idea. The show wants us to have an outlooks that says "meh," and it succeeds. Most of the time, the characters act indifferent toward each other, even though they've been friends for a long time.

Seinfeld was one of the final great memes before the internet made memes things. Even today, you can still hear it being quoted everywhere. Unfortunately, Seinfeld is possibly the most dated show of the 90's, and so one of the funniest and darkest shows of all time is lost on Millennials. Everything that was a major breakthrough in Seinfeld is now a tame version of shows that are much more extreme, like It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia and Family Guy. Still, those of us who remember the heyday of Seinfeld will never forget how special it once was.

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July 20, 2013
Nice review. For me, this show had its strong episodes and a number of others that I did not like much.
July 20, 2013
I always believed the classic episodes were overrated, and some of the forgotten episodes - like the ones with the chicken roaster and the pez dispenser - never got their due.
 
July 18, 2013
This was my favorite all-time comedy show and Larry David did finally have a decent resolution as part of a re-union he did for one of the later seasons of Curb Your Enthusiasm with George getting married and divorced and losing a fortune to Bernie Madoff. One of the things great about the show was that it probably had the most popular one off characters of any show (many of them appeared in that two part finale) and the interaction with Jerry and George's parents.
 
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More Seinfeld reviews
Quick Tip by . May 09, 2013
posted in Pass The Remote!
For many, many years, I never really understood the gargantuan hype surrounding Seinfeld.  I don't think it's a terrible show, but I find most of the show to be lukewarm in its humor.      With that said, there were occasional moments of hilarity, such as this.            On a sidenote, Jason Alexander may be most famous as George Castanza in this show, but I found him much funnier as the title character in the cult cartoon …
Quick Tip by . April 14, 2011
Definitely the best sitcom of all time! Seasons 1 & 2 are funny, but it starts getting even better around season 3 +.
review by . December 09, 2008
Just ask yourself one simple question: Has any other sitcom come close to being as funny as Seinfeld? You'd be pressed to think of any. The fact is, Seinfeld ranks as one of the best TV shows to have ever aired in the United States. And for good reason! The "show about nothing" depicted four self-centered individuals living in New York City and depicted their adventures and how they crossed paths with each other on a regular basis. Pure genius.     The show's topics, too, were …
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Nicholas Croston ()
Ranked #19
Hi! I'm here in part to plug my writing and let everyone know that I'm trying to take my work commercial.      Now, what about me? Well, obviously I like to write. I'm … more
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About this tv show

Wiki

Seinfeld was a sitcom that aired on NBC for 9 seasons between 1989 and 1998. Many magazines and opinion polls consistently rank the show as in the top 5 ever produced, both at home in the United States and abroad in many English-speaking countries. The show is the product of Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld. Its cast included Seinfeld himself, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Michael Richards, and Jason Alexander. 
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Details

Premiere Date: July 5, 1989
Description: Emmy Award-winning American situation comedy

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