Available On: Hulu
Number of Seasons: 9
For this week’s TV Tuesday, I have chosen one of the most ingenious shows of all time:
“A Show About Nothing”
It might sound stupid; to be honest, it kind of is.
However, that’s the intangible that places Seinfeld in a league of its own. Seinfeld was a show that was groundbreakingly genius, while also groundbreakingly stupid for network television.
In some ways, it was quite typical of its time. It was an NBC sitcom about a group of friends in their late-twenties/early-thirties navigating adult life in 1990s New York, tackling dating, undesirable jobs, and daily rendezvous at the neighborhood coffee shop. Sound familiar? (Seinfeld came before Friends, but they both took on common adult sitcom themes of the 90s).
In other ways, it was a total curveball from the norms of television that had been established during the medium’s primitive decades. Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld, the show’s masterminds, used the show to break rules and shatter entertainment norms.
The show strays away from the typical idea of what a television show should be or even could be. The will/want of each character changes each episode, rarely carrying over. The characters barely show growth, actually showing more regression than anything. There are running jokes and recurring plotlines, but most of the episodes don’t need to be watched in sequential order to be understood. The show rarely builds up to anything and mostly focuses on things that you could experience without even watching TV, such as running errands or going to work. These elements might seem normal now, but they weren’t so much back then.
Seinfeld was a pretty bold idea, which is ironic considering how mundane the concept of the show is. Who would’ve thought that millions of people would come to love a show about the minutiae of daily life?
Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David did.
The show is centered around a fictionalized version of Jerry Seinfeld, seeing him as a stand-up comedian scraping his way through life and working his way up the ranks of show business. The show sees Jerry go through the minutiae of everyday life with his “best” friends- George, Kramer, and Elaine.
George Constanza (Jason Alexander) is Jerry’s best friend, as the two go back to junior high. As described by Elaine, he is a "short, stocky, slow-witted, bald man". While harsh, even George accepts that description isn’t too far from the truth. George is the often awkward and unlucky one of the group, getting himself into a sticky situation nearly every episode. His irritating parents, Frank and Estelle, make their way into many of the show’s funniest moments. However, seeing his parents together makes you realize why George is as weird and fucked up as he is.
Across the hall from Jerry lives Cosmo Kramer (Michael Richards), the group’s eccentric wildcard character. He somehow manages to survive without a steady job or source of income, which is one of the show’s running jokes. He gets into many strange hobbies and pastimes; he attends a “fantasy baseball camp” and considers himself a connoisseur of fruit and cigars. He leaves behind a large impression wherever he goes, often stumbling into rooms and making random outbursts of noise. However, he often proves himself to be considerate and trustworthy despite his eccentric traits.
Elaine Benes (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) plays one of the show’s most crucial roles. She is the lone female lead character, providing balance and serving as the group’s leading voice of reason. She is intelligent and independent, working her way up through the corporate world with confidence. She is quirky and unafraid to defend herself; after all, she needs that skill being around the raunchy guys all the time. Elaine and Jerry once dated, but they are strictly friends throughout the duration of the show. Surprisingly, things are rarely awkward between them; they acknowledge that they are better off as friends than lovers.
In addition to the solid lead characters, Seinfeld has an equally rich cast of minor and recurring characters. Some of the most notable are Newman (Wayne Knight), Jerry’s parents (Barney Martin & Liz Sheridan), Jerry’s Uncle Leo (Len Lesser), Susan Ross (Heidi Swedberg), and a fictional depiction of George Steinbrenner, owner of the New York Yankees.