Accidental Aesop: Despite its deliberate aversion of morals, the show does deliver aesops, even if incidentally.
The main characters frequently lie, and in pretty much every instance, the lie comes back to bite them in the ass by the episode's end. So the aesop? Don't lie, it only makes things worse.
A great many plots that are not powered by a Snowball Lie are set off by small violations of the unwritten rules of society — laughing in a concert hall, refusing junk mail, and so on. These can each be read in a variety of ways: "accept responsibility for your actions," "let's communicate with one another more," "don't take perceived slights personally," etc. Of course, they're also exaggerated for comedy and wouldn't be as funny if used as learning opportunities.
The finale, divisive as it may be, does send the roundabout message of "don't be an asshole on the way up to the people whose help you'll need on the way down." Had the four main characters been generally kinder rather than the cynical, selfish jerkasses they were, they might have earned a few more friends who'd have taken their side in court rather than countless enemies who only made them look worse.
"The Deal" is probably the only one that plays this (mostly) straight, sending the message that feelings are complicated and you can't just turn them on and off, no matter how diplomatic you try to be about them. Despite their best efforts, Jerry and Elaine's differing feeling about casual sex were going to make having it difficult, no matter what.
Several viewers have noted that "The Cafe" sends the message that people shouldn't act too prideful when thinking they've done a good deed, because you'll never know if said deed really is going to benefit other people. Granted, Babu Bhatt's restaurant failed mainly because he was a bad businessman, but Jerry still gave him some rather questionable advice.
In "The Burning", was Kruger invoking Obfuscating Stupidity to George to get back at him for leaving the meetings early? Or did he truly think George was worthy of taking on such a big task by himself? Evidence of the former includes Kruger's Ironic Echo of "Thank you George, you've been great. That's it for me." and leaving George to do the project all by himself; evidence of the latter: Hey, he is Kruger, not the brightest bulb.
Are the core four terrible people who ruin the lives of everybody that crosses their path, or are they merely superficial and self-involved people who wind up at the center of a lot of misunderstandings? Word of God would seem to indicate the former if you go by The Finale, but most of their social blunders over the course of the series aren't rooted in malice.
George is an interesting case. He is short, chubby, and bald, and is generally written to be a loser. On the other hand, he managed to pull down several high paying executive-level jobs over the years, and has dated quite a few attractive women. While none of his careers or relationships ended particularly well, George didn't do as bad in life as his reputation would suggest.
The diner is a real Manhattan diner, in the Upper West Side, called Tom's.
The Boston Red Sox actually have an "Administrative Assistant to the Traveling Secretary and Baseball Operations".
There was, at one point, an electronics chain store called The Wiz, their slogan being "Nobody Beats The Wiz," although they didn't have a mascot. The store was eventually phased out at the Turn of the Millennium.
Frisbee golf (from "The Summer of George") is a real game dating back to the 1960s.
The sets for "The Parking Garage" were ironically not nominated for an Emmy for being too good; the voters assumed the episode was filmed in a real parking garage.
All the actors in the cast except for Jason Alexander walked away with an Emmy at one point or another (though Jerry Seinfeld's Emmy was as a producer rather than an actor) despite George being the fan favorite character (perhaps tied with Kramer) of critics and most of the fanbase.
In "The Chinese Woman", Jerry strongly implies that he has impregnated at least one woman in the past. The instance is used almost as a throwaway line and never mentioned again. He also mentions a sister in the same episode. Such a character never appeared in any episode, nor was mentioned. It's especially odd in episodes that feature Jerry's parents (the real Jerry Seinfeld does have a sister, however.).
The discovery of Susan's father's affair with John Cheever gets shockingly little attention. The episode's commentary brushes this off with "It wasn't funny anymore."
Base-Breaking Character: Jerry himself. For some, he's the perfect Straight Man for the show and provides great Deadpan Snarker moments. For others, he's the show's most boring, unfunny, and annoying character. Due to not being as outlandish as the rest of the cast.
Jerry Seinfeld's questionable acting: Some viewers find it to be pretty charming and would argue he still delivers jokes well, while others find his performance to unfunny, distracting, and even hard to watch.
The series finale oh so much; love the continuity or confused by it. Or just plain don't like seeing the show end on such a downer that vilified the cast.
To a lesser extent, the original version of The Betrayal. Fans either like the backwards narrative, or hate it. There is another version that puts the events in order, however.
Not as much as the series finale, but while fans generally agree on the best episodes/seasons there's some disagreement over the quality of the seasons following Larry David's departure from the show (Seasons 8 and 9) when the show became less realistic and rooted in the sort of "social manners" humor Larry David is known for.
Susan's death in "The Invitations" is one of the most controversial moments in the series due to Jerry, George, Elaine, and Kramer's uncaring reaction. Some believe that this moment is hilarious, others believe that it's tasteless.
Catharsis Factor: The Bubble Boy getting his bubble popped by Susan is incredibly satisfying given how much of a Jerkass he was up until that point.
Susan Ross' death is an outstanding practice of this trope. It began as a challenge for the writers to kill of a character that was neither melodramatic or made the other characters seem cruel, and their only conclusion reads like something out of the Darwin Awards: getting poisoned from licking too many cheap stamps.
The JFK parody where Jerry demonstrates how Kramer and Newman's claim that Keith Hernandez spat on them can't be true due to simple positioning and physics.
George shoving himself though kids, a clown and an old lady on walkers to get away from the "fire" (actually just burnt food) in "The Fire". That's an incredibly despicable thing to do and if a real person did it, let alone a different character, it would be completely unforgivable. With George, it's exactly what you expect him to do and is therefore hilarious.
The sub plot of "The Wizard", where Elaine tries to find out whether or not her boyfriend is a light-skinned black man without actually asking him, may feel a little bit tone-deaf for modern viewers. However, the punchline of them both realizing they're "just a couple of white people" before enthusiastically agreeing to go to the GAP is still hysterical.
The entire episode "The Limo", where Jerry and George accidentally wind up in a limo heading to a neo-Nazi rally, with George mistaken as the leader of the group. Special mention goes to when George starts whistling "If I Were a Rich Man", Jerry desperately trying to shut him up.
Season 8's "The English Patient" has Jerry helping Kramer to smuggle Cubans into the country. Not cigars - actual Cubans. This is essentially human trafficking, but it's Played for Laughs so effectively (particularly with the running catchphrase "We're talking about people, right?") it avoids coming off as grotesque.
Played for Laughs with Newman, who really isn't any more evil than any of the main cast. He's often brought in to mastermind various heists, dognappings, and other schemes, is the butt of the show's jokes about lazy mailmen, and his limited guest appearances mean he doesn't get to balance out his characterization with many episodes where he's the victim, but he's just as likely to be the Only Sane Man bystander when the main cast's hijinks get out of hand.
A lot of times, despite being billed as Villain Protagonists, Seinfeld and Co were actually in the right:
In The Walk, Kramer partakes in an AIDS charity walk but refused to wear a ribbon, and gets beat up by the other volunteers simply for letting his actions speak louder than his words and not following herd mentality.
In The Stall, Elaine asks the woman in the toilet stall next to her to pass some toilet paper to her, the woman (who just happens to be Jerry's date) refuses, and Elain latter gets payback by stealing the toilet paper from the Ladies Room the next time they meet. It may have been petty and spiteful on Elain's part but hardly underserving.
And of course, in The Cafe where Jerry tries to help a failing restaurant by convincing the owner Babu to repurpose it into ethnic Pakistani food. The restaurant as it turns out was failing anyway due to Babu's poor business tactics but Jerry is blamed anyway as a scapegoat.
Ensemble Dark Horse: Just about any of the show's many, many recurring and one-off characters are extremely popular with Newman, Frank and Estelle Costanza, The Soup Nazi and Bookman the Library Cop being some of the more prominent examples.
Some of the writers have noted that many of David Puddy's stories could have been done with various one-off Elaine boyfriends, but both they and the audience loved Patrick Warburton's performance so much that they kept giving them to him.
Whenever someone tries to rate all of Jerry's girlfriends or make a list of his best girlfriends, then Laura, Sidra, and Gennice are probably the three who most consistently get favorable placings. Sidra's popularity largely comes from her parting zinger at Jerry as they break up, Gennice's neuroses amuse a lot of people, and Laura won over a lot of fans by having some good chemistry with Jerry, being happy to help the gang's Zany Scheme, and being played by Marlee Matlin.
Interpretations of the final episode have claimed that, in reality, the airplane on which the four leads were flying crashed, killing them all. Their trial was actually a stand-in for their judgment in the afterlife, and their prison sentence represents them being damned to hell for all eternity or a very lengthy stay in Purgatory.
George takes the last copy of Time magazine at the airport and mocks the serial killer being shuttled through about it, he gets locked in the airplane bathroom with him. It's Played for Laughs, but what would happen if you got locked in with a serial killer who swore to murder you? In view of this event, it becomes possible that every episode from that point on is George's trial and judgement and George's alone, as his bloody corpse was discovered in the plane bathroom a few hours later...
Everything post episode involving George's encounter with the Van Buren Boys was George's dying dream after being violently attacked by the gang.
Fair for Its Day: While George and Jerry's panicked, self-conscious Not That There's Anything Wrong with That response to being Mistaken for Gay in "The Outing" makes the two seem more homophobic by today's standards, the sentiments expressed were groundbreaking for a series in the '90s — making the joke about the two male friends' insecurity in a time and place that they acknowledged as being homophobic, stressing that the problem was their own. There’s also some decent examples of Values Resonance in the episode, especially with how Kramer is upset that Jerry and George didn’t tell him about being gay, showing that he is supportive. “I thought we were friends!” The scene with the gay soldier is also obviously critical of the US military’s homophobic policies at the time. Season 7's "The Wig Master" outright has a man ask another man on a date, and it's depicted as a perfectly normal thing for two people to do (Jerry even gets offended by the assumption that he's not seeing one of the men in question).
In "The Butter Shave", which features a plot about Newman wanting to eat Kramer, Newman is seen reading the novel Alive, which is about survivors of a plane crash who had to resort to eating the bodies of the deceased passengers to survive.
The show includes three quotes from the infamous "Buddy Rich Bus Tapes", in which the virtuoso jazz drummer berates his band members. According to Seinfeld, the tapes were circulated among comedians of his era.
In "The Lip Reader", viewers who know American Sign Language note that Marlee Matlin correctly indicated that the two characters they were eavesdropping on said, "we'll sweep together" and it was Kramer (who wasn't a fluent in sign language as he claimed to be) that was at fault for the line being misinterpreted as "we'll sleep together", leading to disaster for George.
The show began as a fairly innocuous observational sitcom, but took a sharp upswing in the last two episodes of its second season: "The Chinese Restaurant", a real-time episode with a single set, garnered impressive critical acclaim, while "The Busboy" started the show's practice of weaving together the various subplots at the end of each episode. It got more stubble with "The Parking Garage" but didn't really grow its beard until "The Boyfriend" and "The Limo", late in season three, which saw the show introducing more off-the-wall elements into the mix.
While it definitely started to hit its stride by the end of season 3, season 4 is what really cemented it for most fans. This season is considered not only by the fans, but by the writers themselves to be The Breakthrough Season. It is the first season to feature a Story Arc (in which Jerry and George write a pilot for NBC for a sitcom called Jerry), later seasons would become known for them (particularly season 7 when George becomes engaged to his on-again-off-again love interest Susan, then spends most of the season trying to get out of the engagement). Season 4 houses maybe more signature, quotable Seinfeld episodes than any other, including "The Bubble Boy", "The Contest", "The Outing", and "The Junior Mint".
In "The Masseuse", Elaine is trying to get her boyfriend Joel Rifkin to change his name to avoid being confused with a serial killer. One of the names Elaine suggests (whilst reading a football magazine) is "O.J." Seven months after this episode aired, O. J. Simpson was accused of fatally stabbing his ex-wife and one of her friends, leading to one of the most controversial murder trials in US history.
Susan's death from poison envelopes, after the post-9/11 anthrax scare. Even worse when you know it was done because it was the only "funny way to kill someone" they could think of.
In "The Contest", Elaine finds out John F. Kennedy Jr. is interested in her, and gushes over possibly becoming "Elaine Benes Kennedy Jr." Now you can't help but feel she was pretty darn lucky it didn't work out, as seven years later John would crash his plane, killing himself and his wife.
In "The Puerto Rican Day", Kramer accidentally burns the Puerto Rican flag with some sparklers, and when a mob of parade attendees attack Jerry's car, Kramer remarks, "It's like this every day in Puerto Rico!" NBC ended up having to apologize for the episode's poor taste and it was left off of syndication packages for several years. It's even more uncomfortable to look at now since Kramer's actor Michael Richards went on a racist tirade against several hecklers at a stand-up routine in 2006.
One episode had Kramer be Mistaken for Racist when a bad tan made it look like he was wearing blackface. After Michael Richards' infamous racist tirade against some black hecklers in 2006, this scene comes off as very uncomfortable in retrospect.
He Really Can Act: Jerry typically sticks to his usual laid-back, sarcastic routine throughout the show, and the show also makes jokes about how Jerry would not be a good actor, but when he and Kramer swap apartments in Season 8's The Chicken Roaster, he replicates Kramer's mannerisms spot on.
In the opening of "The Kiss Hello", Jerry and George are arguing whether or not ketchup comes in squeezeable plastic bottles. Today ketchup is more available in plastic bottles than glass bottles.
In "Male Unbonding", Kramer has an idea for a pizza restaurant where you cook your own pizza pie. Nowadays, Papa Murphy's is a highly popular "take and bake" restaurant (Kramer's proposal, however, involved customers going through every step of the pizza making process, including the use of a 600° industrial oven, as compared to Papa Murphy's, which begins their pizzas professionally for baking in a home oven).
Two Season 7 episodes that involved the New York Yankees became prophetic. "The Wink" ends with Steinbrenner going on a tangent about all the people that he fired over the years. He ends by mentioning then Yankees manager Buck Showalter before quickly stating that George didn't hear that. Shortly after the episode aired the Yankees fired Showalter. Then in "The Calzone", Steinbrenner gets the idea to bake the teams uniforms in ovens before the games and declares that this will help them with the American League Pennant. The Yankees would win both the Pennant and the World Series that year.
In an often cut opening to "The Soul Mate", Jerry and George talk about how it might be nice to go to prison.
In "The Truth", George mentions that he belongs in a psychiatric hospital, and enjoys being pitied by others. Four seasons later, he's involuntarily institutionalized.
In "The Seinfeld Chronicles", Jerry mocks the awkward button placement on George's shirt, saying "You look like you live with your mother." Five years later, George has to move back in with his parents.
In "The Ticket", George casually uses the word "masturbation" at one point. Later in the same season, "The Contest" would famously cover the subject of masturbation while avoiding the use of that very word at all costs.
Speaking of, "The Contest" sounds similar to No Nut November.
In "The Postponement", George misses out on make-up sex with Susan. Jerry informs him: "In your situation, the only sex you're going to have better than make-up sex is if you're sent to prison and you have a conjugal visit." Funny for two reasons: In season 8's "The Little Jerry", George did have conjugal visit sex (as well as fugitive sex) with a woman in prison that he's dating; and in the series finale, George lands in prison himself so it's possible he could've had conjugal visit sex at some point.
Elaine's boyfriend in "The Stall" was referred to as a male bimbo ("He's a mimbo.") years before "himbo" became a popular slang term.
Unlike what happened to Kramer in "The Fusilli Jerry", a man from Saskatchewan was denied a personalized vanity plate of "ASSMAN" which is his surname. Because of the denial, he puts a big decal of a mocked-up plate across the back of his pickup truck.
In "The Merv Griffin Show", Kramer finds the original set to the eponymous show and uses its setpieces in his apartment. In the 2010s, a producer also named Mike Richards became the executive producer of Jeopardy!, one of Griffin's game shows, and after host Alex Trebek passed away in 2020, the other Richards was considered to succeed Trebek as host.
In that same episode, Jerry and Elaine have a brief conversation on annoying Disney songs. Elaine eventually cuts Jerry off saying "Why don't we just let it go".
One episode has Elaine date a man with a shaved head, and Jerry asks if he's from the future. A few years after the episode aired, shaved heads became more popular among men.
One of Jerry's dates of the week was a dermatologist, whom he derogatorily referred to as a "Pimple Popper M.D". There is now a real, quite popular reality show starring a dermatologist with that very name on the TLC network.
In "The Voice," Jerry and George have an argument about Iron Man, concerning whether or not he wears clothes under his armor. Jerry believes he's clothed, while George insists that "He's naked under there!" Well, George lost that one. He's not naked under there.
Also in "The Non-Fat Yogurt"; the other characters, especially Kramer, make fun of Jerry and Elaine for their weight gain, but they don't look much different compared to other episodes. Must be the smallest eight and seven pounds ever.
The plot of "The Junior Mint" involves an ex-boyfriend of Elaine's who used to be fat, but had lost weight after losing her. In the commentary track, the real Jerry Seinfeld doesn't seem to remember when he says, "now, this guy was supposed to be fat, but he doesn't look that fat. Maybe back then, it would have been considered fat [at that moment, dialogue comes on where Elaine gushes over how much weight the guy lost] and they explain it, that's funny."
In "The Soup", Kramer dates Hildy, the waitress from Reggie's (the Bizarro Coffee shop), who's a Big Eater, and Kramer even remarks how she's, "A full-figured gal!" She appears to be as tall as Kramer is, but she certainly doesn't look full-figured.
Informed Wrongness: All four (and even some of the secondary and tertiary characters) have moments where they are made out to be wrong but either (a) are actually right or at the very least (b) have a point.
George is a moron and an amoral schemer, but man does his life SUCK. Especially in regards to how his relationship with Susan's parents soured. As a matter of fact, in one part of the series finale, Mr. Ross was shown buying a handgun. Yes, you saw that right. Susan's parents dislike George to the point of wishing death on him. To be fair, though, you can't blame them for missing their daughter.
Joel from the episode "Male Unbonding". He's rude and obnoxious but desperately lonely.
Kramer's comeuppances invite more sympathy than the other four as he usually does actually mean well even if his highly irresponsible actions are constantly for the worse.
Love to Hate: All four of them are terrible people but they're fun to watch.
Memetic Mutation: The show is one of the biggest pre-internet sources of memes in the history of media: See this page for more details.
Mexicans Love Speedy Gonzales: Even though his rowdy behavior at hockey games is Played for Laughs, the David Puddy character has long been embraced by the New Jersey Devils fan base, if only because it's one of the very few times the team has been depicted in pop culture media.
Mis-blamed: In the finale, Babu's story of how Jerry ruined his life is treated In-Universe as a Moral Event Horizon by the jury and seals the group's fate. The irony being that it's one of the few things that wasn't Jerry's fault. Babu failed at running a restaurant because he was a poor businessman and he got deported because the mailman was incompetent. Plus, Babu apparently never even tried to get replacement visa renewal papers.
Never Live It Down: Some viewers will never forget the time George pushed a clown and an old lady onto the floor and abandoned children to what he thought was a terrible house fire (it turns out he just mistook overcooked food for said terrible house fire). Despite the series moving on like nothing happened and George still being presented in a positive light at times, it's very hard to forget about such atrocious actions. The Snap Back and fact that it was a one time thing, understandably, does not really mitigate what he did.
Nightmare Fuel: The series is pretty much void of disturbing things, but "The Opera" is an exception. "Crazy" Joe Davola, who was already creepy/threatening in his behavior towards Jerry and Kramer, was stalking Elaine, as revealed when she comes to his apartment and finds tons of covertly-taken pictures of herself on his wall, including one when she was in the shower. As if that wasn't bad enough, when she tries to leave, Joe shuts the door and blocks her path. It's only after she pepper sprays him that she can escape.
No Yay: Season 2 ended with it looking like Elaine and Jerry might wind up being a couple. This was a point of contention between the network (who wanted them together) and Larry David (who didn't). Between seasons Jerry toured with his standup act and asked the audience what they thought of the pair finally getting together; the overwhelming negative response to the idea from the crowd sealed the deal and by season 3 they'd gone back to being friends.
Annie Reed: This man sells the greatest soup you have ever eaten, and he is the meanest man in America. I feel very strongly about this, Becky; it's not just about the soup.
Before Tom's Restaurant became the exterior for "Monk's Café", it was briefly seen in a 1978 episode of The Bionic Woman and was the inspiration for Suzanne Vega's "Tom's Diner" (1987).note Fun fact: both Seinfeld and Bionic Woman only used the exterior to establish a setting, as both shows were shot in studio in Los Angeles.
Quite a few, but one that stands out is Robert Wagner in "The Yada Yada": "If this weren't my son's wedding, I'd punch your teeth out, you anti-Dentite bastard!" His wife, Jill St. John, can be seen on the pew next to him.
Elaine's father in "The Jacket" was meant to be a recurring role but became this instead, due to everyone being afraid to work again with the notoriously cantankerous (and known to be occasionally violent) Lawrence Tierney.
Protection from Editors: Not surprisingly, Jerry Seinfeld and co. were given carte blanch to do whatever they wanted the last two seasons and responded by writing broader stories that would require bigger budgets. The elephant at the beginning of "The Betrayal"? The writer of the episode put it in because he could.
Three actors in the show would later achieve fame as part of the Breaking Bad cast. Bryan Cranston (Walter White) plays recurring character Tim Whatley, Anna Gunn (Skyler White) plays Amy in "The Glasses", and Bob Odenkirk (Saul Goodman) plays Ben Gelfen in "The Abstinence".
A very young Drake Bell cameos as the beginning of "The Frogger" as the punk who messes up at the game when George distracts him.
Seasonal Rot: Although still popular, seasons 8 and 9 were notably different from the former ones. This is because the showrunner Larry David left the show after season 7, leaving Jerry Seinfeld as the new Executive Producer. With the remaining writing staff left to its own devices, these seasons featured faster-paced, "wackier" episodes with many references to previous episodes, and attempts at running gags. Characters also slightly de-evolved, especially George, and Kramer's stunts became ever increasing. Still, the series continued to enjoy ratings success and a tenth season was proposed, until Seinfeld declined.
"Seinfeld" Is Unfunny: Trope Namer. It's hard to believe that this was considered pushing the boundaries of network censorship and sitcom conventions back in the day, not to mention how most sitcoms today copy the show's premise of jerkass city-dwellers getting into trouble (cf. It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia) or a neurotic comedian doing stand-up and having awkward encounters with others (Louie).
Slow-Paced Beginning: The first two seasons (mind you, these had about 15 episodes total) were very bland, slow and generically sitcom-y. The only thing that saved the show from being cancelled was the opinion of a few execs that the scripts were funny, if not good, and that the characters showed promise. The Growing the Beard episode is accepted as Season 2's "The Chinese Restaurant", where the characters do nothing but stand around in a restaurant waiting for a table for 23 minutes (in Real Time, no less), a move unprecedented in TV history.
Spoiled by the Format: Discussed in one of Jerry's stand-up routines. Specifically, he mentions how it's easy to predict if an episode of a show will end with a "to be continued" depending on how much time is left at the climax...at the end of an episode that does just that.
Squick: Robin's kid in "The Fire" put his tongue on the restaurant floor. Not shown, but still.
George's choice of wedding invitations that lead to Susan's death. While George's choice of the cheapest invitations possibly reflects on his cheap bastardry, he really did have a point. Why spend a lot of money on an invitation that the recipient is more than likely going to glance at and either mail back or else throw away?
In one early episode, Elaine criticizes George for being "careful with your money". George seems visibly hurt by this and argues, "I'm unemployed, you know!" Keep in mind this was the early part of the series, George had just been fired from his real estate job, and wasn't quite the Jerkass he was in later seasons. Knowing all that, you can't help, but agree with George here, that Elaine was out of line making such a comment.
As touchy of a situation as it was, George was perfectly justified in asking for compensation from the hospital in "The Bris". The hospital royally screwed up in letting a suicidal maniac walk free, let alone anywhere near an open window. The damage caused to the car was absolutely the hospital's responsibility. Only made worse by the fact that it is one of the few times in the series that George attempts to handle a situation in a sensitive, professional manner. Hopefully he sued the hospital if they continued to refuse to pay.
Given that many episodes revolve around miscommunication and deception, the prevalence of cell phones and the Internet would have simplified much of the plot.
"The Bubble Boy" has Jerry and Elaine getting lost while driving because George was driving too fast for them to catch up, and he was the only person that knew the address of their destination. This immediately dates the episode to the mid 90s, because this would not have been a problem if George had a cell phone. It even dates the episode to an earlier season, because cell phones appear in later seasons. The moors vs moops debate would also be resolved through a simple Google search.
The finale featured a bit where Elaine is reprimanded by Jerry for calling someone to ask about their health on a cell phone (rather than calling on their home phone). With the ubiquity of cell phones in the new millennium—to the point where some people don't even have a home phone—it seems almost laughably outdated to suggest that calling someone on a cell phone rather than a home phone would be seen as rude.
"The Boyfriend, Part 1" has George attempting to scam the unemployment office by claiming he interviewed for a job and giving Jerry's phone number as proof. The scheme gets derailed when Kramer answers the phone in complete ignorance while Jerry is out. If Jerry had a cell phone instead of a landline and a car phone, the scheme would have gone much smoother. On the other hand, this plot could have failed from the beginning if the unemployment office had been able to look up George's fake company on the Internet and discover that "Vandelay Industries" doesn't exist.
In "The Alternate Side", Jerry's car has a car phone, which is a minor plot point as it allows him to contact the thief who stole his car. Car phones were a luxury item that began to fall by the wayside in the 90s in favour of cell phones, with the networks being deactivated around 2008 (they were a radiotelephone that would connect to a switchboard, then be directed to the intended phone number).
One gag in "The Opera" revolves around Jerry singing the intro to The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Show, a program that would be cancelled just two years after Seinfeld finished airing. While Looney Tunes shorts would continue to be re-aired on TV even today, not since 2000 would it ever be through a dedicated compilation program with intros, outros, and framing scenes like what Jerry references.
"The Puerto Rican Day Parade" heavily features a guy with a laser pointer as a plot point. Laser pointers are treated as novelty objects, and a plotline hinges on a movie theater patron trolling the audience by pointing one at the screen, which was a brief fad in the 90s.
Any episodes involving airports due to the fact that the characters are always shown as waiting right outside arrival gates. As well as the fact that it, like any other show set in New York City, is bound to feature a shot of the Twin Towers. "The Airport" in particular would never happen today. George and Kramer are able to buy a ticket at the last minute from the departure gate as opposed to the entrance lobby of the airport, where you have to buy them today, due to security measures instituted after 9/11.
When Elaine starts dating a man who shaves his head, Jerry visibly reacts to his appearance and later quips to Elaine, "Is he from the future?" Fittingly, shaved heads would become much more mainstream after a few years.
In "The Handicap Spot", Jerry mentions "every big [boxing] fight" in the same breath as the Super Bowl.
In one episode, George wishes that ketchup and mustard would come in squeeze tubes (similar to toothpaste), though Jerry tells him they do come in squeezable bottles now, though George argues he's never seen such.
Keith Hernandez lights up in a bar in "The Boyfriend". Rather dated now that many states have adopted "no indoor smoking" policies. In fact, this became dated during the show's run, with Kramer setting up a smoking room in his apartment after having to join smokers outside the coffee shop.
Elaine's subplot in "The Contest" has John F. Kennedy Jr. joining her aerobics class, a few years before he died in a plane crash. It's especially uncomfortable when she hears that he might be interested in her and she dreamily says "Elaine Benes Kennedy Jr." considering that JFK Jr.'s wife also died in the plane crash.
Newman's rant about how "the mail never stops". With the increased prevalence of paying bills online and less actual letter writing, there's significantly less mail than there used to be, though online shopping has led to an increase in parcel post.
Starting with the 2020 COVID pandemic, parcel post surged as people increased so dramatically combined with many parcel carriers (including the USPS) being severely understaffed for various reasons has resulted in 12+ hour days for many of the services and often being a day or two behind on deliveries, resulting in the trope being zigzagged.
In "The Burning", Jerry figures his girlfriend's "tractor story" has to involve a disfigurement, to which George replies "Is she always carrying a pen that she never seems to need?", a reference to Senator and then-recent presidential candidate Bob Dole, whose right arm was paralyzed in World War II, causing him to spend his political career putting a pen in that hand so people wouldn't try to shake it.
Kenny Rogers Roasters, a plot point in "The Chicken Roaster", hasn't been a presence in North America since the early 2000's, with its final location in Canada shutting down in 2011. All of its restaurants are now in Malaysia, Philippines, and China.
Jerry's haircut in "The Barber" is considered disastrous, with his friends mocking him and the studio audience laughing at the mere sight of it. To a modern audience, it doesn't look that remarkable given that everyone has '90s Hair. Elaine laughing her ass off when she sees the hair makes for an especially jarring scene, given that she has borderline '80s Hair.
In "The Maestro", Jerry rents a house is Tuscany for the summer from Poppy's cousin for 2 million Italian lire (about US$1,800) and pays 75,000 lire to a cab driver (about $67), and tries to explain the exchange rate to Kramer. The lire was officially replaced by the Euro in Italy on 1 January 1999 and was officially abolished as legal tender on 28 February 2002.
In "The Andrea Doria", George's competition for an apartment is a survivor of the titular 1956 shipwreck. The episode aired in 1997, toward the end of the time this could be a viable plot point (at least for someone who was an adult at the time).
In "The Blood", George, trying to get Elaine away from Vivian, uses the excuse that Elaine had been selected for "the next Biosphere". He was referring to the Biosphere 2 project, which was supposed to study whether humans could live outside Earth in a new artificial atmosphere, and which was all over the news of the 90s but is now all but forgotten.
In "The Pilot", Jerry mocks George for wearing sweatpants in public, claiming that he's telling the world "I give up. I can't compete in normal society." In the decades since, the "athleisure" trend made wearing sweatpants and other athletic gear casually far more acceptable.
Jerry in "The Kiss Hello". Jerry isn't the nicest person but he's right to avoid unwarranted physical contact from the other people in his apartment building, and they were mean and petty to disown him.
The whole gang in the finale, infamously so. Though taping and laughing at somebody getting carjacked is quite scummy, they're still being sent to prison for a crime of mere inaction. The fact that the prosecution had to dig up an absurd amount of unrelated dirt on all four only further exposes how weak the original case against them was. And though they're extremely far from blameless, its hard to take much satisfaction in their guilty verdict when its been brought on by a large number of people just as bad, or even worse.
George in "The Bris". His attempt to get the hospital to pay for his damaged car is perfectly valid given their incompetence is what caused a patient to jump off the building and land on it. Despite this, he's played off as a tactless, greedy asshole, even though he actually approaches the matter sensitively.
Values Dissonance: Some of these are due to society having different standards, while others are due to certain things now not being how they were in the 1990s and vice versa.
George's on-the-nose homophobia in season 3's "The Note." While the closing standup bit indicates that it was meant to be lampooned, it's played pretty straight in the episode itself and is pretty difficult to find funny. The subsequent season's "The Outing" did a much better job addressing the issue and the reaction to it.
In "The Secretary", George is painted in a positive light for discriminating against attractive applicants. At one point he explains to one that while she is qualified, he would not hire her based solely on her looks. He was afraid of a "Sexy Secretary" situation that he knew would be his own fault and didn't want to objectify her. So he deliberately hired a stereotypically nerdy-looking secretary. Then he ended up having sex with her anyway.
In "The Muffin Tops", after Jerry accidentally shaves off all of his chest hair, he gets worried that his girlfriend will think less of him if it were to grow back and he's thus not "naturally hairless" after all, and Kramer says you shouldn't shave your chest hair period. This seems strange to viewers today now that "manscaping" is considered normal.
In "The Fatigues", George intentionally fails an eye exam so he can get a book on tape as he can't stand reading anymore. This is used to show what a lazy and unscrupulous person he is, but after the Turn of the Millennium, books on tape became very common, easy to get, and it's considered perfectly normal for those who aren't blind to use them. He does still defraud a charity organization that records books-on-tape for the visually impaired though, so there's that.
While the show featured a generally positive depiction of male homosexuality, the way lesbianism was depicted implied that it was a conscious choice, with Susan only getting involved with women because of her bad experience with George (itself a rather old, hoary joke), one of her partners getting "changed back" by Kramer and Jerry and George both referring to her as having "become" a lesbian.
Jerry and George staring at the cleavage of a 15-year-old girl (played by 22-year old Denise Richards, thankfully) — the daughter of NBC president Russell Dalrymple no less — in "The Shoes" already depicted them as being sad perverts no matter their justification, even if in a tongue-in-cheek way. Now with the increased awareness and paranoia of grown men preying on underage girls, it comes off as downright repulsive.
Similarly, Jerry is clearly the butt of the joke when he yells "What are ya, deaf??" at someone who turns out to actually be deaf. Asking someone if they're deaf when they don't hear you is now seen as incredibly offensive, arguably for this very reason, so it just comes off as another example of Jerry being a Jerkass.
The b-plot of Elaine trying to find out whether her light-skinned boyfriend is actually black without actually asking him in "The Wizard" is a bit on the tone-deaf side. While the characters do try to brush it off as a non-issue in much the same way people 20+ years later might (and even then, asking someone about their ethnicity isn't seen as being all that offensive, so long as it's done politely, which is obviously not going to happen with these characters), the jokes about White Guilt and N-Word Privileges feel more like an awkward reminder of how some white people are more concerned with being Mistaken for Racist than having concern for the feelings of people of color. Though arguably, it makes the punchline to the episode, where Elaine and Darryl realize they're both "just a couple of white people" and enthusiastically decide to go to the GAP, even funnier.
A few of Kramer's early characterizations may have been funny at one time because they hadn't gone mainstream, but are cringe-worthy today, such as claiming the "alternative media" is where you hear the "real" truth, and his rejection of professional medical care in favor of alternative medicine. Both are uncomfortably reminiscent of "news" websites that just make things up but are still believed by the gullible, and the anti-vax/anti-science movements.
Kramer's moral disgust towards circumcision in "The Bris" was practically unheard of in the 90's, with Jerry and Elaine being portrayed as sensible for disagreeing with him. Nowadays, the subject is much more divisive, with modern viewers being more likely to agree with Kramer, since circumcision isn't nearly as popular as it was back then.
When Elaine tries to turn a gay man straight in "The Beard", actually sleeping with him despite both being aware of his sexuality (not because she's against homosexuality, the guy is just that attractive). To the show's credit it's not long before it's made clear the attempt was doomed to failure; Jerry of all people even tells her beforehand that it's stupid and insensitive to even try. Still, the concept of turning someone nowadays is widely regarded as disgusting and homophobic.
Values Resonance: Part of the reason it has so much staying power despite the inevitable "Seinfeld" Is Unfunny is that every generation can find something about the comedy that they can related to, no matter how much has changed since The '90s.
At a time when homosexuals were largely still considered Acceptable Targets by most sitcoms (see the infamous "You kissed a guy" bit from Friends), this show has been praised for being unusually sympathetic to them, even winning a GLAAD Award for "The Outing".
Speaking of "The Outing," the less taboo homosexuality becomes in America, the funnier George and Jerry's knee-jerk reaction of "Not That There's Anything Wrong with That" becomes. At the time, it seemed like the reasonable response to a heteronormative audience. Now, it makes them come off as thought they're in even deeper denial of being homophobic, making them even bigger Butt-Monkey's.
Writer Cop Out: The finale as seen as this by some, as much of the second half of the episode was basically a Clip Show. This might not have been terrible had the previous two episodes not been Clip Shows, meaning that three of the series' final four episodes were mostly just old reused footage.