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 catchphrases 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
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.
Tom's Restaurant, a diner at 112th St. and Broadway in Manhattan,
referred to as Monk's Cafe in the show. Google Street ViewOriginally,
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.
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.
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.
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 break up" with 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 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, 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.
Main article: Minor characters in Seinfeld
There are numerous recurring minor characters in Seinfeld. The most
(portrayed by 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 always plotting against Jerry,
always 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 (portrayed by 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 (played by 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
J. Peterman (played by 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
Kenny Bania (portrayed by 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 (portrayed by 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.
Mickey Abbott (portrayed by Danny Woodburn)—A friend of Kramer's
and a "little person", he has aspirations to be an actor
("The Wait Out", "The Burning") and competes
for women with Kramer ("The Yada Yada"). He makes appearances
from Season 5-9.
Jackie Chiles (portrayed by 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 (portrayed by 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
Tim Whatley (played by 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
Sue Ellen Mischke (portrayed by Brenda Strong)—She is known as the
"Braless Wonder" due to her habit of not wearing a brassiere.
She is the heiress to the Oh Henry! candy bar fortune. Out of spite,
Elaine gives her a bra as a birthday gift which Sue Ellen wears
as a top. She repeatedly attempts to better Elaine, but was finally
betrayed in her appearance in "The Betrayal". She makes
appearances in seasons 7 to 9.
See List of Seinfeld minor characters for a complete list of celebrities
who played themselves and other guest stars in minor roles.
Besides its regularly recurring characters, Seinfeld featured numerous
celebrities who appeared as themselves or as girlfriends, boyfriends,
bosses and other acquaintances. Many of those who made guest appearances
would become household names later in their careers, or were comedians
and actors who were well-known for previous work.
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.
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.
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 catchphrases
such as Yada Yada Yada, master of your domain, and Not that there's
anything wrong with that into daily life conversations.[23