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Series / Seinfeld

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George: It's about nothing!
Jerry: Right...
George: Everybody's doing something! We'll do nothing!
Jerry: So we go into NBC; we tell them we got an idea for a show about nothing?!
George: Exactly!
Jerry: They say, "What's your show about?" I say, "Nothing!"
George: There you go...
Jerry: I think you might have something here.
— "The Pitch"

What's the deal with Seinfeld?

[slap bass intensifies]

Seinfeld, a sitcom created by Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David which ran on NBC from 1989 to 1998, is a show about nothing. No hugging, no learning.

Okay, seriously. One of the most popular shows yet/ever made, Seinfeld mostly centered around a quartet of self-absorbed Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonists obsessing over the minutiae of modern life. Initially starting life as a one-off TV special called The Seinfeld Chronicles in 1989 before turning into a full series the following year, it lasted for nine seasons, only ending when Jerry Seinfeld himself refused to go on, even after being offered 5 million dollars an episode for a tenth season. Seinfeld was named the greatest television program of all time by TV Guide in 2002.

The show's style of comedy was revolutionary for its time, as the idea of characters spending whole episodes doing and resolving basically nothing, with all humor based on Slice of Life events and their discussions around inconsequential social protocols (eventually dubbed the Seinfeldian Conversation by many), was unheard of in 1989 America. Seinfeld was so revolutionary in America, in fact, that it was mercilessly copied. It remains very difficult to describe to younger generations just how huge the show was in the '90s, and how memetic its plots and sayings became. To use an analogy, Seinfeld is to TV shows what The Godfather is to movies (which makes it only fitting that the show directly spoofed The Godfather in the episode about the mohel). Part of what contributed to the authenticity of the "about nothing" theme was the fact that a great deal of the plots were based on personal stories from the lives of Larry David, Jerry Seinfeld, and various members of the writing team.

Seinfeld plays a fictionalized, Jerkass version of himself as the ostensible main (though in practice arguably least interesting) character, who works mostly as a foil for his best friend George Costanza (Jason Alexander), a similar caricature of Larry David who can make your regular Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist look like a winner; his sassy ex-girlfriend Elaine Benes (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), who couldn't spell "tact" if her life depended on it; and his eccentric neighbor Cosmo Kramer (Michael Richards), who had a tendency to burst into Jerry's apartment unannounced. Jerry was the technical Only Sane Man between these colorful personalities, but a highly ineffective one because, like his friends, he is supremely indifferent towards others, opting instead for the role of Deadpan Snarker extraordinaire. This quality of Jerry's, flavored with co-creator Larry David's gift for irony, coupled with the characters' propensity for Snowball Lies and Fawlty Towers Plots, is what fueled most of the elaborate yet utterly mundane plots of the episodes. This also made them unusually cruel by sitcom standards, as more than once they find themselves doing unpleasant things to Innocent Bystanders because of how convoluted the story had become.

Although none of the characters worked together, lived together, or were related by blood, and even though — or perhaps even because — no emotional or deliberately touching moments of friendship were ever shown between them, the four remained close friends throughout the show's run, spending a great deal of their waking hours in each other's company and seemingly going by an unspoken rule to always brush off their friends' minor offenses and to never inflict any gross offenses against one another in order to preserve real-life Status Quo Is God — one of the only social rules they bothered themselves to follow.

Other frequently-appearing characters include Jerry's other neighbor and Sitcom Arch-Nemesis Newman (Wayne Knight), his retired parents Morty (Barney Martin) and Helen (Liz Sheridan), and his crotchety uncle Leo (Len Lesser); George's overbearing parents Frank (Jerry Stiller) and Estelle (Estelle Harris), his fiancée Susan (Heidi Swedberg) and his boss George Steinbrenner (voiced by series creator Larry David); and Elaine's eccentric boss J. Peterman (John O'Hurley) and her on-again-off-again boyfriend David Puddy (Patrick Warburton). Several other characters appear in multiple episodes, including Ruthie Cohen (Ruth Cohen), the cashier at Monk's who appears (usually as a silent background character) in 101 episodes.

The seventh season of Larry David's successor series Curb Your Enthusiasm (which coincidentally also started as a one-off special before becoming a full show a year later— and a decade after Seinfeld did, no less) revolved around Larry creating an in-universe reunion episode of Seinfeld, with Seinfeld, Alexander, Louis-Dreyfus, Richards, and Knight all reprising their roles, as well as playing fictionalized versions of themselves. Later, Jerry's web series Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee had a special mini-reunion with him, Alexander, and Knight acting in character. You can watch it here.

Vote for the best episode here.

Tropes About Nothing:

No, seriously, what is it?



More like a full-body dry heave set to music.

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5 (17 votes)

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