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'Yadda yadda yadda!'
'No soup for you!'
'It's a show about nothing!'
'You double-dipped the chip! It's like putting your whole face in the dip!'
'These pretzels are makin' me thirsty!'
'Maybe the dingo ate your baby!'
'Master of your domain!'
From obscure subtlety to outrageous surrealism, Seinfeld is famous for two things; its absurdity and its acute observations of human nature. In the beginning, the show was made popular in large part by Jerry Seinfeld's stand-up comedy at the beginning of the show. The comedy served as a topic sentence for the story. Its format and uniformly hilarious wit was a crucial factor in TV Guide's choice of rating it the best TV show of all time. From the classic 'Bubble Boy' episode to the finale, Seinfeld demonstrated a wit unmatched by any other. It doesn't matter that the exterior design of Jerry's apartment is physically impossible - the kitchen juts out into what would be the hallway - and all of the nitpicks of critics are overwhelmingly small compared to the enormous critical praise. America lived with Seinfeld. One h2g2 Researcher even learned how to spell the word 'restaurant' from the exterior shot of Monk's Coffee Shop. Seinfeld is not a normal sitcom. It's a show about nothing; it doesn't just take the fourth wall off an apartment, it takes the fourth wall off the lives of 'chronically maladjusted Manhattanites'.
The show aired from July 1989 to May 1998. It frequently traded the number one spot with its ratings rival, ER1 in the Nielsens (Nielsen Media Research measures the popularity of television and other media). It was on NBC (National Broadcasting Corporation) for half an hour, and had 180 episodes. Seinfeld was nominated for 68 Emmys2 over the years, and won ten.
There are two credible American sources of television awards; The Emmys presented by the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, and The Golden Globes, presented by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. The Emmys gave Seinfeld 68 nominations and ten wins. The Golden Globes presented 15 nominations of Seinfeld and they won three. Though to be fair, the Golden Globes have far less awards than the Emmys.
In the pilot episode or The Seinfeld Chronicles, as it was called when it first aired, things were about as different you could imagine from the original series that ensued. Elaine meets the complete opposite of George, Kramer and Jerry. To start with, Kramer3 knocks on the door before entering, which is uncharacteristically polite and thus, not Kramer-esque. When Jerry meets George at the restaurant, the exterior shot reads 'Pete's' instead of 'Monk's'. When talking to George, he discusses the second button and its position on George's shirt, how it's the worst possible position on the shirt. A quick summary of the episode entails:
Kramer/Kessler/Hoffman has a dog.
Jerry has a large window to the left and a telescope.
Jerry has no hallway or bedroom.
Elaine doesn't exist.
The whole of Jerry's apartment is different, with yellow walls, brown cabinets and no cereal.
There is a Superman reference in this, though cleverly hidden. Jerry is in red sweatpants and a blue sweatshirt, which is similar to the colour scheme of Superman's outfit.
Jerry is the self-titled one, much like Drew Carey or Bob Newhart, who also had shows named after themselves and played themselves, at least in name. But Seinfeld takes it a step further - he literally plays himself, a comedian in New York, though it was recorded in LA, with a George, (Larry David) a Kramer (Kenny Kramer) and an Elaine. Elaine was partly based on an ex-girlfriend of Jerry's, Carol Leifer, and partly on Larry David's ex-girlfriend, Monica Yates. The character of Jerry is the only constant throughout the show; he's always been a neat freak and a comedian, though apart from the pilot, the set doesn't change. Jerry lives at 129, W 81st Street, Apartment 5A, although in the first seasons, it was 3A; the awning on the building reads 'The Shelley'. Jerry Seinfeld played Jerry Seinfeld, and in doing so, won a Golden Globe for Lead Actor in a Comedy in 1993, but unfortunately, no Emmys.
Elaine Marie Benes
Since Superman appears in or is referenced in every Seinfeld, it's no real surprise that she is named Elaine, which is similar to Lois Lane, and incidentally, Julia Louis-Dreyfus's first surname is just a vowel away from 'Lois'. In fact, Elaine is referenced as being 'Lois Lane' in many episodes. Although she never appeared in the pilot, she became a major figure in the series at the end of its run. Elaine advanced throughout the series from a normal-type person to an exaggeratedly idiosyncratic person. In the beginning Elaine tried to be a good person, but in the end, it seems that she just stopped trying. Despite this, Elaine was never really established as a personality; she only had situations thrust upon her, and usually didn't create them, except her dance in which she kicks and thrusts her thumbs all about. Elaine lives at 16 West 75th Street, Apartment 2G, and she's pro-choice. Julia Louis-Dreyfus's portrayal of the role won her the Best Actress in a Television Supporting Role Golden Globe in 1993. She also won the 'outstanding supporting actress for a comedy series' Emmy in 1996.
George Louis Costanza
George Costanza set a higher bar for characters. He was TV's best loveable loser and TV Guide rated him as the tenth greatest character of all time. His relationship with his parents and lack of self-confidence are major flaws that are focused on. These things kept being exploited throughout the run of the series even after the storylines became sillier. George is the kind of jerk you love to hate. He pushes children, an old lady and a clown out of the way to make a path for himself when he realised there was a fire. He usually has good intentions but very bad reactions. He consciously admits that all of his friends have a general apathy for society, be it by peeing in a parking garage or watching a fat man get mugged. He'll even give out certificates for a donation to a fake charity in the name of the receiver to save money on presents. He's not a nice person. George is the kind of stubborn person that would spend all day fighting over a parking space. He never tells anyone his ATM password, except a dying old lady, until that comes back to bite him on the butt. Overall, George is a normal American, based on Larry David, exaggerated and genuinely 'New York'. George was aptly played by Jason Alexander, who never won an Emmy or Golden Globe, but was nominated very frequently.
Kramer's role is the oddball next-door neighbour, always willing to pop in uninvited and steal some food4. He's always a bit of a question mark, and is hinted as having a very odd nest, Apartment 5B. But he's also the sort of person you can count on for a favour, any time. He'll follow a car for hours and pick up old golf clubs thrown at him, or guard an armoire (wardrobe) all night. He'll even help you clean out your fridge.
It's hinted that he has a friend named Bob Saccemeno, who has done and does just about everything, such as selling rat hats at the World Trade Center, and this shows how Kramer has a very large life outside of the circle of Jerry, George and Elaine. But there still remains a strong sense of mystery about him. He can't walk down the street without someone yelling, 'Hey Kramer!'. However, Jerry apparently remains his best friend.
Kramer is unemployed, though he spends a lot of time 'working'. He'll go to an office that he doesn't work for, he'll work with Morty Seinfeld on a raincoat scheme and work with Poppy for a pizza restaurant where you make your own pizza. He's been an underwear model, a golfer, an actor, a ball man, a fireman, and a photographer, to name a few. He's presented many inventions and ideas, like a cologne that smells like the beach, aptly named 'The Beach'. There's the car periscope idea, a Michigan recycling scheme, and many more. Kramer has done it all. And he loves suing people. He's even shot a Titleist golf ball into a whale's blowhole. Everything. Kramer lives at 129, W 81st Street, Apartment 5B. Cosmo Kramer was played by Michael Richards, who won an Emmy for outstanding supporting actor in a comedy series in 1993, 1994 and 1997, but no Golden Globes.
Newman (played by Wayne Knight) is considered to be Jerry's arch nemesis, his Lex Luther. He appears in many episodes and is another character that goes by one name. He lives in apartment 5E, but sometimes in 5F. A chubby mailman who has an on-off respect for the mail, Newman is a good friend of Kramer's and has a crush on Elaine. He is also a poet and a great wiseman.
Jackie Chiles (Phil Morris) is a lawyer that generally represents Kramer when he sues people like Sue Ellen Miske, heiress to the 'Oh, Henry!' candybar fortune, and JavaWorld. He lost the case against Sue Ellen Miske for reckless endangerment when Stan the Caddy gave bad legal advice. He won the case against JavaWorld for free coffee forever. In the last episode he defended all four main characters against the 'Good Samaritan Law' and lost.
George's parents live in Queens. They are retired, but often get the energy to play important parts. Frank Costanza (Jerry Stiller) invented Festivus, a family holiday. He is one of the loudest characters ever. Estelle Costanza (Estelle Harris) is the emotional, nagging mother who has never laughed. Ever.
David Puddy (Patrick Warburton) is Elaine's only real long-term relationship. He was a mechanic at the Grease Monkey and a car salesman. He has a strong, stupid look about him and speaks in monotone. He loves Arby's fast food.
Mickey (Danny Woodburn) is a little person who is an actor. He occasionally has a part in the story, like faking an illness for medical students to diagnose, stand-ins for a soap, and acting like a child in case the mother comes home while Kramer hunts for him.
Jerry's Parents and Uncle Leo
Uncle Leo (Len Lesser) is an old stand-by for a laugh. He'll take a watch out of the garbage, or steal from a bookstore. Uncle Leo will accuse anyone of being an anti-Semite if anything in his life goes wrong. Jerry's parents, Morty and Helen Seinfeld, played by Phil Bruns (until Barney Martin took the role of Morty and Liz Sheridan as Helen) have lived in two parts of Florida, a condo with Jack Klompus (Sandy Baron) and in Del Boca Vista. The Seinfelds have a problem with distinguishing low heat from high heat and live in a furnace-like atmosphere. They despise George's parents and often bump into them.
Larry David, whose appearance became more famous with the HBO series, Curb Your Enthusiasm made occasional appearances on Seinfeld other than being executive producer. He played the man in the cape and voiced George Steinbrenner, more often in unaccredited roles than major ones. He was newspaper stand worker in the episode 'The Gum', MC of comedy club for 'The Fire', voice of soap opera director in 'The Stand In', the man on the beach in 'The Marine Biologist', the man on the raft in 'The Pilot (2)', the man ordering kosher meal's voice in 'The Airport', the fight referee's voice in 'The Parking Space', and Newman's voice in 'The Revenge'.
Kenny Bania (Steve Hytner) is an awful comic whom Jerry hates. Kenny idolizes Jerry and forces him into having several meals with him, which Jerry doesn't like (such as in 'The Soup' episode). Kenny has an odd obsession with Ovaltine in his act, and the crowd inexplicably likes it.
Mr Peterman (John O'Hurley) is the neurotic boss of Elaine, who produces the mail-order catalogue. He constantly threatens to fire Elaine. He eventually goes to Myanmar (Burma) and leaves Elaine in charge of the catalogue.
The Seinfeld quotes have affected every facet of American culture in one way or another.
Yadda Yadda Yadda
The basic premise of this story is that Jerry has a girlfriend who uses the term 'Yadda Yadda Yadda' over the major part of the stories, and Jerry gets suspicious when she says, 'An old boyfriend came over and yadda yadda yadda, I'm really tired today.' This spawns a great conversation with George over whether or not 'yadda yadda yadda' might mean 'sex'. It also inspires a great quote from Elaine when she says, 'I Yadda'ed sex once. I met a lawyer, we had dinner, I had the lobster bisque, and yadda yadda yadda, I never saw him again.' George then says, 'You yadda'ed over the best part!' To which Elaine replies, 'No, I mentioned the bisque.'
One of Elaine's hilarious actions is when someone is telling her something that is exciting or unbelievable, she'll push him and yell, 'Get out!'.
'No soup for you!'
Perhaps the most famous of the guest stars is in episode 116, entitled 'The Soup Nazi'. The owner of a soup store would only serve the people that followed his strict ordering procedures, and when they don't comply, he yells, 'No soup for you!' and he refuses service.
In episode 116, the 'sponge' contraceptive is taken off the market. Grief-stricken Elaine cleans out the city, but then later realises that she has to conserve them, because she cannot use any other birth control product. This begs the question of whether or not a man is 'spongeworthy'.
'Maybe the dingo ate your baby?'
The synopsis is, Jerry, George are at a party in Long Island. Elaine becomes annoyed by a woman constantly jarring on about her fiancé; 'Where is my fiancee? Has anyone seen my baby? My little baby!' Elaine memorably then says, 'Maybe the dingo ate your baby' This is not a very famous Seinfeld quote, but memorable indeed.
Like many unhelpful anger management techniques, this approach has a classic problem - it bottles up the rage. Whenever Frank Costanza gets mad, and fans of the show know that this happens quite often, he'll yell, 'Serenity Now!' and then becomes calm. Kramer adopts this method, and is incidentally storing a few computers for George. When Kramer finally loses it, and the rage bubbles up, he breaks all of the computers. Serenity now, insanity later.
'You doubled-dipped the chip!'
George, being a bit of a pig, takes a chip, dips it in the dip, bites the chip, and then puts the bitten part back into the dip for a second go. Basically, the germs are supposed to go from the bitten part to the dip, making it unsanitary. An onlooker of some importance points this out to George, who, being George, finds this to be stupid.
'Are you still master of your domain?' or 'I'm queen of the county'
During the most memorable Seinfeld episode, 'The Contest', they choose to monitor each other's behaviour, 'down there', on the honour system. So to check up on Elaine, Jerry would ask, 'But the question is, are you still master of your domain?' To which Elaine says, 'I'm queen of the county.'
'These pretzels are makin' me thirsty'
While being an extra on a movie set of the great Woody Allen, Kramer lands a line in the movie which reads, 'These pretzels are makin' me thirsty!'. Now, throughout the episode, everyone encounters difficulty at some point: George has a problem parking cars to avoid fees; Elaine has guilt about breaking up with her recently injured boyfriend; and Jerry has car insurance troubles. Coincidentally each has pretzels, and when a moment of great difficulty occurs, they say, 'These pretzels are makin' me thirsty!'.
The many characters of Seinfeld have had many jobs; here is a guide:
George has been a real estate broker, most notably unemployed, a sitcom writer, he's served on the board of a charity foundation, and has worked for the Yankees. George's job woes have created one of the most treasured Seinfeld scenes:
...I like sports, I could do something in sports.
But in what capacity?
Like the general manager of a baseball team? Or an announcer, you know how I'm always making those interesting little comments during the games.
Well, they tend to give those kinds of jobs to people who have been in sports.
Well that's really not fair
Elaine has been an editor for Pendant Publishing5. She was a writer for the J Peterman Catalogue, a personal assistant, a mannequin, and president of J Peterman.
Kramer has been everything, but officially, nothing.
Jerry has been nothing but a comedian, except if you count bootlegger, sitcom writer, and actor, but not for long.
One of the more famous of the bosses was George's Yankee boss, Mr Steinbrenner, he also had the bosses Mr Morgan and Mr Wilhelm (Richard Herd). Elaine has been the personal assistant of Justin Pitt (Ian Abercrombie), and at Pendant Publishing, Mr Lippman (Harris Shore and Richard Fancy). But Jerry and Kramer never really had bosses.
Episode 51 - 'The Contest'
In this episode the four are in Monk's Coffee Shop, and George tells a harrowing tale of his mother catching him, you know, pleasuring himself. He says, 'I'm never doing that again.' This sparks a contest between the four to find out who can last longest. Over the rest of the episode, Kramer, Elaine, Jerry and George go through a great deal of sexual prodding. There is no distinct winner of the contest, but we know it's not Kramer. (Also in a later episode, it is implicated that George won, but then further down the line, we learn he cheated.)
Original Air Date - 18 November, 1992
Episode 60 - 'The Junior Mint'
In episode 60, Elaine's old boyfriend is in the hospital and requires surgery. Jerry and Kramer end up witnessing the surgery in the gallery, and Kramer offers Jerry a Junior Mint. Jerry resists and out of the commotion ends up dropping the Junior Mint into the surgery 'hole' which miraculously cures him.
Original Air Date - 18 March, 1993
Episode 43 - 'The Pitch' (Part One)
This is a famous episode which is used to describe the show. George and Jerry pitch a sitcom idea to NBC executives. They are talking about Salsa and Seltzer when George suddenly comes up with an idea - 'What about a show about nothing?'. No story just talking. George starts dating Susan Biddle Ross (Heidi Swedberg), and Kramer throws up on her.
Original Air Date - 16 September, 1992
The Seinfeld Curse
There is a general idea of a curse among the cast of Seinfeld, that after working on the hit show, success somehow eluded them. For Julia Louis Dreyfus, the NBC show, Watching Ellie failed; the Michael Richards Show did likewise. And for Jason Alexander, Bob Patterson went under on ABC. No one has sustained a particularly successful career after Seinfeld, except Jerry, who occasionally endorses products and continues with his stand-up act today.
Religion Among the Gang
George doesn't believe in God, except for the bad things. He also converts to Latvian Orthodox for a woman.
Jerry is Jewish; though you couldn't tell it from his parents, it's obvious from Uncle Leo.
Kramer is implicated to believe in God, but is not officially proclaimed.
Elaine doesn't really have a stance, but is obviously not a conservative.
George's fiancée was Susan, an executive at NBC. He proposes to her out of the blue after setting on a pact with Jerry. George constantly tries to get out of the wedding, but ultimately, Susan ends up dying after cheap, toxic envelopes poison her. After her death, George starts working with a foundation in honour of her, and ends up realising how much she was worth.
Elaine has never really had a serious relationship. She dated an anti-abortion mover who couldn't stand furniture; a poor man, Keith Hernandez; David Puddy off and on; 'The Whiz'; and a coincidentally-named Joel Rifkin6.
Jerry was engaged to Jeanie Steinman (same initials) who saved him from getting run over. He is exactly like her; they both like cereal, Superman and agree on everything. Jerry proposes to Jeanie (Janeane Garofalo) but the relationship ends in 'The first truly mutual break-up' in which they both said, 'I hate you' at the same time.
Dolores was a woman that Jerry met in the frozen foods section of the grocery. He can't remember her name at first, but she hints that it sounds like a female body part. He guesses Mulva and Bovary. Jerry also dated Elaine, a relationship which has many consequences, such as the two of them trying to be friends and doing the 'bedroom thing' at the same time. He dated a toy collector who had a collection of old toys that Jerry wanted to play with, so he essentially drugged her to play with them, and then invited George up to play with the toys after dining her with turkey and plenty of wine.
A Parallel of the Worlds
Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld, the co-creators of this show, account for many story lines, locations and characters. Jerry Seinfeld is himself, and uses the same address he had when he was a struggling comic, 129, West 81st Street. For six years, Larry David lived across the hall from Kenny Kramer, who was the inspiration for Cosmo Kramer. Kenny Kramer himself was a stand-up comic, and manager of a British reggae band. Kenny Kramer currently runs the 'Seinfeld's Reality Road-Show' which was spoofed on Seinfeld in the 'Muffin Top' episode as Cosmo Kramer's 'Peterman Reality Tour'.
Other Oddities and Nitpicks
An interesting fact of the real Jerry Seinfeld is that his father's name was Kal while Superman's Krytopian name was Kal-El and his father's name was Jor-El.
In the exterior shot of Jerry's building, there are no fire escapes, but outside Jerry's building, there is one.
In 'The Bubble Boy' the roadside diner they pull up in is apparently the same set as the Reggie's Diner set used in other episodes.
In the episode, 'The Dinner Party', Jerry is eating a black and white cookie. He has the black side up, but when the camera angle changes, he has the white side up, and when the angle changes again, it's black side up. This repeats several times.
The finale is generally considered a satisfactory episode, but not as good as it could have been. It was divided into two parts for syndication, but was aired at once on Thursday, 14 May, 1998. This episode drew an estimated 40 million viewers, about twice as many as normal the normal amount, and NBC charged 2 million dollars (about 1,200,000 British pounds) for a 30-second advertisement, which was about four times more than the average Seinfeld episode's advertising costs. Jerry Seinfeld (who holds the record for highest-paid TV star) set another record by refusing 5 million dollars per episode (instead of 1 million dollars) to continue Seinfeld. This record is 'most money refused' according to the Guinness Book of World Records.
George and Jerry get a call from NBC about the pilot and a 13-episode commitment, and NBC offers Jerry and George free use of their jet anywhere they want. Kramer returns from the beach, but with a little water in his ear. The four decide to go to Paris in the jet, but while in the air, Kramer tries to get the water out of his ear, and stumbles into the cockpit which affects the plane's flight forcing it to make a crash landing. During the fall, everyone is confessing things to each other, in case they die. The plane then redeems its flight and makes a landing in the small town of Latham, Massachusetts. While waiting for the jet, Jerry, Kramer, George and Elaine witness a mugging and do nothing, except make fun of the fat muggee. They are then arrested and prosecuted under the 'Good Samaritan Law'. Jackie Chiles defends them. Many regulars, including Mr Steinbrenner, Puddy, Peterman, Uncle Leo, Newman and parents arrive for the trial, and some of them testify.
Eventually, the trial is started by the honorable Art Vandalay7. After a long barrage of witnesses (including Babu Bhatt, and dozens other guest stars throughout the series). Destroying the group's credibility and character, the judge decides that they are very bad and are sentenced to one year in prison. Incidentally, the jury was apparently made up of people who were close to the show, including Michael Richard's girlfriend, Larry David's assistant, writers, some production people and Jason Alexander's wife. In jail, all four are in the same cell, and Jerry says to George, 'To me, that button is in the worst possible spot it could be...' and George memorably says, 'Haven't we already had this discussion?'