2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Television

Genre Sitcom
Running time 21 Minutes (syndication),
22 Minutes (original)
Creator(s) Larry David
Jerry Seinfeld
Starring Jerry Seinfeld
Jason Alexander
Julia Louis-Dreyfus
Michael Richards
Country of origin Flag of United States United States
Original channel NBC
Original run July 5, 1989– May 14, 1998
No. of episodes 180 (171 single parters, 9 two parters)
Official website
IMDb profile summary

Seinfeld is an American television situation comedy set in New York City that ran from July 5, 1989, to May 14, 1998 running a total of nine seasons.

The sitcom was one of the most popular TV programs of the 1990s, and many of its catchphrases have entered into the pop culture lexicon. The show was created by Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld. The latter stars as the eponymous character based largely on himself. (See Jerry Seinfeld (character).) Set predominantly in an apartment block on Manhattan's Upper West Side, the show features a host of Jerry's friends and acquaintances, including George Louis Costanza ( Jason Alexander), Elaine Marie Benes ( Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and Cosmo Kramer ( Michael Richards).

Seinfeld was produced by Castle Rock Entertainment then helmed by director-actor-producer Rob Reiner, and distributed by Columbia Pictures Television and Columbia TriStar Television (now Sony Pictures Television). Seinfeld was written largely by Larry David (co-written with Jerry Seinfeld early in its run), with later input from numerous script writers, including Larry Thomas, Gregg Kavet, Andy Robin, David Mandel, Jeff Schaffer, Steve Koren, Jennifer Crittenden, Tom Gamill & Max Pross, Alec Berg and Spike Feresten, most of whom had been nominated for best writing awards such as the Emmys.


While most television sit-coms to date had been mostly family or co-worker driven, none of the Seinfeld characters are related by blood or employed by the same organization; in fact, many characters were not employed at all. Like the self-parodying "show within a show" episodes of year four, Seinfeld was perhaps, more than other sit-coms, a "show about nothing."

Tom's Restaurant, a diner at 112th St. and Broadway in Manhattan, referred to as Monk's Cafe in the show.
Tom's Restaurant, a diner at 112th St. and Broadway in Manhattan, referred to as Monk's Cafe in the show.

In the original concept, the show featured clips of Seinfeld himself delivering a standup routine in a club (in reality, the studio), the theme of which relates to the events depicted in the plot, at the beginning and end of each episode. This device deliberately blurred the distinction between the actor Jerry Seinfeld and the character whom he portrays. In later seasons, these standup clips became less frequent and were ultimately discontinued. The show's main characters were modeled after Seinfeld's or Larry David's real-life acquaintances. Many of the plot device too are based on real-life counterparts - such as the Soup Nazi (based on Al Yeganeh), J. Peterman of the J. Peterman catalogue, and New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner.

In virtually every Seinfeld episode, several story threads are presented at the beginning, involving the characters in separate and unrelated situations. Rapid scene shifts between story lines moves the action forward as rapidly as possible. Despite the separate plot strands, the narratives show "consistent efforts to maintain [the] intimacy" between the small cast of characters. (Gantz 2000)

The show kept a strong sense of continuity - characters and plots from past episodes were frequently referenced or expanded upon. Occasionally, storylines would span multiple episodes and even entire seasons. Larry David, the show's head writer and executive producer for the first seven seasons, was notorious for keeping a close eye on minor details and making sure the main characters' lives remained consistent and believable, and would later make use of season-long story arcs in his next series, Curb Your Enthusiasm.

Major characters

  • Jerome (Jerry) Seinfeld (played by Jerry Seinfeld) - Jerry is the "passive central player" in the show, a figure who is "able to observe the chaos around him but not always be a part of it." Plot lines involving Jerry often concern his various relationships -- Jerry often finds "stupid reasons to break up" with women, something which according to Elaine occurs "every week."
  • George Louis Costanza (played by Jason Alexander) — Once succinctly described by Elaine as a "short, stocky, slow-witted, bald man", George is a neurotic, self-loathing man, dominated by his parents, Frank and Estelle. He has been best friends with Jerry since their middle school years. Co-creator and executive producer Larry David was the primary inspiration for the character.
  • Elaine Marie Benes (played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus) - Elaine is frequently a victim of fate. She may get caught up in the machinations of the other characters, or come into conflict with boyfriends or the arbitrary requirements of her eccentric employers. Many episodes end with Elaine ruining something for someone, in the same way she has of sabotaging her own relationships, such as Jerry's sitcom or the Soup Nazi's business.
  • Cosmo Kramer (played by Michael Richards) - Kramer is the wacky neighbour and friend of main character Jerry Seinfeld. He was once described by Elaine as "a tall, lanky doofus with a birdface and hair like the Bride of Frankenstein." His trademarks include his humorous upright bouffant hairstyle and vintage wardrobe, the combination of which led to his categorization as a 'hipster doofus'; his violent bursts through Jerry's apartment door; his assortment of comic pratfalls; and his penchant for nonsensical, percussive bursts of noise to indicate skepticism, agreement, or annoyance.

Minor characters in Seinfeld

  • Minor characters in Seinfeld

There were numerous recurring minor characters in Seinfeld. The most prominent were:

Newman- A rotund postal worker who served as an accomplice of Kramer and a nemesis of Jerry, Newman was a neighbour of both and was noted for his excessive eating habits.

Frank Costanza/ Estelle Costanza- George's eccentric parents. George credits them with driving him crazy.

Susan Ross- George's fiancée, she died in the finale of Season 7 after licking the cheap on cheap wedding invitation envelopes that George had bought. She was previously an NBC executive and she also briefly experimented with lesbianism.

Morty Seinfeld/ Helen Seinfeld- Jerry's parents. Morty was most famous for stubbornly sticking to his convictions; Helen didn't understand why anyone wouldn't like her son Jerry.

Uncle Leo- Jerry's uncle and Helen's brother. He personified the eccentric old man and frequently belittled Jerry with comparisons to his own purportedly successful son.

David Puddy- Elaine's on-and-off boyfriend. He was a fine auto mechanic, but was also an airhead with numerous quirks.

J. Peterman- Elaine's eccentric boss. He owned the J. Peterman haberdashery (based on a store of the same name) whose catalog Elaine worked on.

George Steinbrenner- George's boss and owner of the New York Yankees. Steinbrenner's face was never shown. Voiced by Larry David, he was notable for his arrogance and being out-of-touch with the actual running of a baseball team.

No hugging, no learning

Seinfeld violated several of the conventions of mainstream television. The show, which correctly or not is often described as "about nothing", became the first television series widely described as postmodern,. Several elements of Seinfeld fit in with a postmodern interpretation.

The characters were: "thirty-something singles ... with no roots, vague identities, and conscious indifference to morals." . And the usual convention of isolating the characters from the actors playing them, and separating the characters' world from that of the actors and audience was broken. For example the story arc in which the characters' are promoting a television sitcom series named Jerry. Jerry was much like Seinfeld in that Seinfeld played himself, and that the show was "about nothing." Jerry was launched in the 1993 season four finale, in an episode titled " The Pilot."

On the set this was expressed as the "no hugging, no learning" rule, which held that the characters should not develop or improve throughout the series. In the final episode Jerry and George are only inches away from hugging when they are told that their show was to be aired once again on NBC but they end up not making any contact.

Gantz maintains that another factor in, or further proof of, spectators' and characters' participation in a larger Seinfeld community is the large amount of in- slang, "a lexicon of Seinfeldian code words and recurring phrases that go unnoticed by the infrequent or 'unknowing' viewer". Only the cognoscenti would understand the concepts of "double dipping" or "close-talking", or appreciate the addition of "not that there's anything wrong with that" by someone trying to take the edge off a politically incorrect remark. The idea that Seinfeld is postmodern has been disputed by postmodern intellectuals including Jacques Derrida.


The show premiered as The Seinfeld Chronicles on Thursday, May 31, 1990 on NBC. The show was not an immediate success. After the pilot was shown, on July 5, 1989, a pickup by the NBC network did not seem likely and the show was actually offered to Fox, which declined to pick up the show. It was only thanks to Rick Ludwin, head of late night and special events for NBC, for diverting money from his budget, that the next four episodes were filmed (to which he admitted in an interview for NBC's special "The Seinfeld Story"). After nine years on the air and 176 episodes filmed (along with 4 clip shows,) the series finale of Seinfeld aired on Thursday, May 14, 1998. It was watched by a huge audience, estimated at 76 million viewers. Jerry Seinfeld holds both the record for the "most money refused" according to the Guinness Book of World Records by refusing an offer to continue the show for $5 million per episode, and another record for the Highest Ever Annual Earnings For A TV Actor, while the show itself held the record for the Highest Television Advertising Rates up until 2004, when the final episode of Friends aired.

In 2004 a deal was negotiated to make Seinfeld available on DVD for the first time. Due to legal problems with the cast involving episode commentary and other DVD extras, the release was pushed back. The first 3 seasons were released November 23, 2004, and season 4 was released on May 17, 2005. Season 5 and season 6 were released on November 22, 2005. Season 7 will be released in the U.S on November 21, 2006. The release date(s) for the final two seasons are unknown, but a May, 2007 release appears to be most likely.

The show topped TV Guide's list of the top 50 greatest shows of all time in 2002, and was so influential in the '90s popular culture, it came in first in E!'s 2004 countdown of 101 Reasons the 90s Ruled. For its impact, the show won countless awards throughout the decade, including winning 10 Emmy awards and being nominated in every year of its run.

According to Bruce Fretts' 1993 The "Entertainment Weekly" "Seinfeld" Companion, Seinfeld's audience was, "TV-literate, demographically desirable urbanites, for the most part - who look forward to each weekly episode in the Life of Jerry with a baby-boomer generation's self-involved eagerness."

Criticism and popularity

Seasons 1-5: Critical Favorite

Television critics championed the series from the beginning, even as it was slower-paced and had yet to catch on with viewers. The series was widely seen as steadily improving over its first five seasons. Seasons four and five in particular are considered the show's "prime," as it became one of television's top-rated comedies and managed to impress critics at magazines such as TV Guide, Entertainment Weekly and even The New Yorker.

Season four marked Seinfeld's first entrance in the top 30-ranked television shows, and produced a string of high-profile episodes (e.g. " The Outing," " The Bubble Boy") but chief among them was " The Contest," from an Emmy-winning script by co-creator Larry David, whose subject matter - masturbation - was considered both risky for producers and risqué by audiences.

Seasons 6 & 7: "Crawling," Return to Form

Season six found the show changing directors ( Andy Ackerman replacing Tom Cherones) and slightly altering its pace, to the displeasure of some. Jerry Seinfeld later told TV Guide that he and his writers were "crawling" creatively at this point, struggling to keep its premises and trademark resolutions on par with previous seasons. Even so, the series remained well-regarded and produced some of its most famous shows (" The Fusilli Jerry," " The Jimmy"). This was also the first season Seinfeld scored #1 in the Nielsen ratings.

The series bounced back from this dry spell - according to the cast, crew and many critics - at the beginning of season seven. A younger and almost all-new writing staff poked fun at the underdeveloped lives of its four lead characters, who were now becoming neurotic, single forty-somethings. A story arc was introduced in which George Costanza became engaged to former girlfriend Susan Ross, whose life was derailed by him a few seasons back. Ranking in its highest ratings ever, Seinfeld produced some of its most well-regarded episodes in the first half of this season - namely " The Soup Nazi," " The Sponge" and " The Rye."

Season Seven Finale: Too Far?

As the season advanced, it took on an increasingly darker tone. This culminated in perhaps the most polarizing episode in the series, " The Invitations," which boasted a surprise ending in which Susan is unexpectedly killed. The cause of death is revealed to be a toxic glue on cheap wedding invitations picked out by George, who fails to conceal his relief that their engagement has been prematurely dissolved.

Seasons 8 & 9: After Larry David

The show divided even more of its audience in its final two seasons. Executive producer and alleged driving-force behind Seinfeld, writer/comedian Larry David, left the series (except to continue a recurring voice-over as George Steinbrenner). Without his, as Jerry Seinfeld put it, "obsessive" attention, the show became more of a fast-paced, absurdist farce, with more slapstick humor and plotlines occasionally delving into pure fantasy.

Some of these earlier off-beat entries were greeted as fun diversions, such as " The Bizarro Jerry" (which featured Elaine befriending polar opposites of Jerry, George and Kramer). As the eighth and ninth seasons progressed, however, most critics felt the show had gotten too cartoonish for its own good. The New York Post went so far as to conduct a poll early in the ninth season, asking readers whether or not the series was as strong as it used to be. More than half of those polled said that it was not up to its previous standards. Jerry Seinfeld responded with a letter to the paper thanking them for considering his show to be so important.

Many fans argue that even as Seinfeld changed its comedic approach in later years, it remained funny and watchable. It certainly remained popular, continuing to spawn catch phrases (a la "Serenity Now!", "Yada Yada Yada"), and stayed atop the Nielsen Ratings through its series finale.



On December 26, 1997, Jerry Seinfeld announced that the series would end production the following spring. The announcement made the front page of all the major New York newspapers, including the New York Times. Jerry Seinfeld was even featured on the cover of Time Magazine's first issue of 1998.

The series ended with a 75-minute episode (cut down to 60 minutes in syndication, in two parts) written by returning co-creator and former executive producer Larry David. It also was the first episode since the seventh season to feature opening and closing stand-up acts by Jerry Seinfeld. The finale was filmed in front of an audience of NBC executives and additional friends of the show. The press and the public were shut out of the filming for the sake of keeping its plot secret, and all who attended the finale signed written "vows of silence."

With all the hype surrounding the finale, the episode aired on the same day that Frank Sinatra died. The episode's airing was largely overshadowed by this event.

The secrecy only seemed to increase speculation on how the series would end. Some suggested Jerry and Elaine would get married, and more cynical fans favored Julia Louis-Dreyfus's suggestion that the foursome die in a car accident after all their wishes come true. The producers of the show tweaked the media about the hype, spreading a false rumor about Newman ending up in the hospital and Jerry and Elaine sitting in a chapel, presumably to get married.

The actual finale poked fun at the many rumors that were circulating, seeming to move into several supposed plots before settling on its true storyline - a lengthy trial in which Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer are prosecuted for lack of humanity.

The Finale

The series' final one hour episode aired on NBC on Thursday May 14, 1998, following a one-hour retrospective and clip show which included memorable scenes from the show's 180 episodes. The final episode began with Jerry and George being offered a series commitment for their failed 1993 pilot Jerry by NBC executives. When Jerry and George announce their news to their friends and family, they decide to celebrate their good news by vacationing to Paris with Elaine and Kramer. On the way to Paris, the plane loses control when Kramer, in an attempt to free water from his ear, loses his balance and falls into the cockpit, and the friends believe that they are about to die. Shortly after, the pilot makes an emergency landing in a Massachusetts town where they witness a mugging and are arrested for violating a Good Samaritan law. The four friends are put on trial and are sent to jail for one year after the jury and judge hear testimonies from a parade of familiar people whom the four friends have hurt or affected in the past. The final conversation between George and Jerry was regarding the "second button" on a buttoned up shirt and how it lies in a no-man's land. The two characters question whether or not they have had the conversation already. The "second button" conversation was the first conversation in the very first episode.

The plot of this episode is generally seen as an homage to Albert Camus' novel, The Stranger.

The episode was the third most watched finale in television history. However, the reaction to the episode was mixed; many felt as if the episode, by criticizing the main characters, in turn criticized the audience that watched them as well.

Life After Seinfeld

The "Seinfeld curse"

Alexander, Louis-Dreyfus and Richards have all attempted unsuccessfully to launch new sitcoms as title-role characters. Despite decent acclaim and even some respectable ratings, almost every show was cancelled quickly, usually within the first season. This has given rise to the term "Seinfeld curse" to describe sitcom failure by an actor following massive success on an ensemble show.

Since the end of the program, Alexander has acted in film, theatre and television, including guest appearances on Larry David's HBO series Curb Your Enthusiasm. Louis-Dreyfus also appeared on Curb and has received on-screen and voice credits in television (such as Arrested Development) and animated film. Louis-Dreyfus is starring in the CBS sitcom The New Adventures of Old Christine, which debuted in March 2006 to strong ratings and has been consistent ever since. The show was also renewed for a second season, causing many to claim that the Seinfeld curse has been broken . She also received an Emmy for lead actress in a comedy series for her role as Christine. The "Seinfeld curse" was discussed in the opening of Saturday Night Live episode on May 13, 2006, hosted by Louis-Dreyfus. Alexander and Seinfeld also appeared in this episode of SNL. Richards continues to appear in new film and television work as well.

"It's so completely idiotic.... It's very hard to have a successful sitcom," Larry David once said of the curse. Most new sitcoms do not enjoy the success of hits like Seinfeld, though David's Curb Your Enthusiasm went on to win Emmy awards, perhaps because of his role behind rather than in front of the camera; the series relied on his signature humor, embodied in the Seinfeld character of George.

Shows specifically cited regarding the Seinfeld curse are Jason Alexander's Bob Patterson and Listen Up!, Michael Richards' The Michael Richards Show, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus' Watching Ellie. Listen Up! 's 22 episodes make it the longest running show starring a Seinfeld alumni since Seinfeld ended, although The New Adventures of Old Christine is likely to eclipse this number in late 2006.

Patrick Warburton, who played David Puddy, was also hit by the curse when his superhero-themed show, The Tick, was canceled after just one season. However, he has found success in voice acting. His repertoire includes the voice of Joe Swanson in Family Guy, the title character of Buzz Lightyear of Star Command, acts in American Dad, Brock Samson in The Venture Bros., Steve Barkin in Kim Possible, the Wolf in Hoodwinked, and Kronk in The Emperor's New Groove, Kronk's New Groove, and the The Emperor's New School. Lately, he can be seen on ABC's show Less Than Perfect as Jeb Denton.


Alexander was also the voice of Duckman, which had a certain amount of success (although this series ran from 1994 until 1997, which coincided with the run of Seinfeld). Wayne Knight has since had some roles with more or less the same importance of Newman, like the one in the not so successful The Edge, and one as a police officer in 3rd Rock from the Sun. He has also done some voice acting, his most notable current role being that of the dragon Dojo in Xiaolin Showdown. However, the actor who really broke the curse, at least for recurring guest stars, was Jerry Stiller who was cast successfully as Doug Heffernan's annoying father-in-law Arthur, in The King of Queens. Also, Bryan Cranston who had a semi-recurring role on Seinfeld as Dr. Tim Whatley, was later cast as Hal (Malcolm's father) on the successful and Emmy nominated show Malcolm in the Middle.

In the summer of 2005, John O'Hurley, who played J. Peterman in a recurring role on the final seasons of Seinfeld, received extensive publicity when he finished as the runner-up on the highly rated American ABC reality series Dancing with the Stars to Kelly Monaco (but won the subsequent "rematch"). John O'Hurley has gone on to make cameo appearances in many other programs, including SpongeBob SquarePants and Drake & Josh. O'Hurley has also done numerous amounts of television commercials for GCI, an Alaskan phone and internet communications company. On September 11, 2006, O'Hurley started hosting Family Feud replacing former host, Richard Karn. Also, in a case of life imitating art, O'Hurley became a major investor in the real-life J. Peterman catalog company, and sits on the company's board of directors.

On August 27th, 2006, Julia Louis-Dreyfus won an Emmy for her show The New Adventures of Old Christine, where she exclaimed, “I’m not somebody who really believes in curses, but curse this, baby" in reference to the "Seinfeld Curse."

Seinfeld himself

Meanwhile, Seinfeld himself returned to stand-up comedy, touring in 1998 and recording a comedy special entitled I'm Telling You for the Last Time. An album of the same name was also released that year, and it featured samples of his stand-up performance. The process of developing and performing new material at clubs around the world was chronicled in a 2002 documentary, Comedian, directed by Christian Charles. His stand-up routine is highly acclaimed and Seinfeld was ranked #12 in Comedy Central's list of the 100 greatest stand-ups of all time. Seinfeld has also written a few books, which are mostly archives of past routines.

An episode of Saturday Night Live hosted by Jerry Seinfeld featured an "episode" of Oz (using the actual set and actors) where Jerry, who was sent to prison during the final episode of Seinfeld, is transferred to Em City; the short film combines and parodies memorable moments in both series.

In 2004, Seinfeld also appeared in two commercials 'webisodes' promoting American Express Credit Cards in which he appeared together with an animated rendering of Superman, voiced by Patrick Warburton (who had portrayed David Puddy on Seinfeld). The webisodes were directed by Barry Levinson.

Product placement

A recurring feature of Seinfeld was its use of specific products, especially candy, as plot points. These might be a central feature of a plot (e.g. Junior Mints, Twix, Jujyfruits, Chunky and Pez), or an association of a candy with a guest character (e.g. Oh Henry! bars), or simply a conversational aside (e.g. Chuckles). Non-candy products featured in Seinfeld include Rold Gold pretzels (whose advertisements at the time featured Jason Alexander), Kenny Rogers Roasters (a chicken restaurant chain), Drake's Coffee Cakes, Pepsi, Bosco Chocolate Syrup, Snapple, Cadillac, Saab, Specialized Bicycles, Tupperware, Calvin Klein, Klein Bicycles, Ovaltine, Arby's, TV Guide, Trump Tower, the board games Risk, Boggle, Scrabble, and Battleship, Entenmann's and the J. Peterman clothing catalog (which actually went bankrupt while the show was still active). The computers in Jerry's apartment are always Apple Macintosh; the featured model changed every few seasons to reflect Apple's latest offerings. Also seen throughout the show's run were many different brands of cereal, since Jerry ate a lot of it.

The show's creators claim that they were not engaging in a product placement strategy for commercial gain. One of the motivations for the use of real-world products, quite unrelated to commercial considerations, is the comedy value of funny-sounding phrases and words. "I knew I wanted Kramer to think of watching the operation like going to see a movie," explained Seinfeld writer/producer Andy Robin in an interview published in the Hollywood Reporter. "At first, I thought maybe a piece of popcorn falls into the patient. I ran that by my brother, and he said, 'No, Junior Mints are just funnier.'"

Nevertheless, Seinfeld is widely credited by marketers and advertisers with effecting a change in attitude toward product placement in US primetime TV shows. Product placement became more common in TV shows after Seinfeld demonstrated that a successful show could work specific products into its plots and dialogue.

Although not exactly product placements, several episodes feature a Porsche-themed painting (depicting a 904 GTS race car competing in the 1964 Targa Florio race in Italy, which it won) on a wall in Seinfeld's apartment. An issue of Excellence magazine, a Porsche-centered publication, is also featured prominently on an outdoor magazine rack.

For details of a study on the effectiveness of product placement (without respect to whether it was paid for or intended to promote products), see "Television Programs and Advertising: Measuring the Effectiveness of Product Placement Within Seinfeld." by Dana T. Weaver of Penn State University.

Two other types of advertising also capitalized on Seinfeld. One is a "Webisode," a reverse form of product placement. In this form, instead of inserting its product into an episode, American Express "inserted" Jerry Seinfeld and an animated Superman (voiced by Patrick Warburton, who also acted on the show, playing the role of David Puddy) into its commercial. The second type is the commercial use of the show's actors, such as Jason Alexander in a Chrysler commercial. In this type, which ran after the series ended, Alexander behaves much like his character George, and his relationship with Lee Iacocca plays on his George's relationship with George Steinbrenner. Similarly, Michael Richards was the focus of a series of advertisements for Vodafone which ran in Australia where he dressed and behaved exactly like Kramer, including the trademark bumbling pratfalls.


  • Superman appears in every episode of Seinfeld, whether in character, or as an homage to the hero (i.e., Jerry often wears red and blue, the colors of Superman's costume).
  • All Seinfeld episodes start with the word ' The', with the exception of " Male Unbonding" (episode 4 from Season 1).
  • Jerry Seinfeld appears in every episode. Jason Alexander did not have a part in " The Pen". Michael Richards was absent from " The Pen" and " The Chinese Restaurant". Julia Louis-Dreyfus was missing from " The Pilot", " The Trip, Part 1", and " The Trip, Part 2".

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