I have officially seen the three biggest sitcoms in totality of the last 30 years, or basically, my lifetime: Seinfeld (which ran from 1989 to 1998, Friends (which ran from 1994 to 2004), and The Big Bang Theory (which ran from 2007 to 2019). I suppose if I wanted to fill the missing three-year gap there between 2004 and 2007, I could do Two and a Half Men. We shall see.
Anyhow, the point being, for years, I’ve already seen every episode of Friends multiple times. Then, after years of friends telling me to watch The Big Bang Theory, I finally did this year and recently wrote a review. Well, Seinfeld was an early pandemic binge for me, but I got burnt out around Season Six? I took a break, and then picked it back up after completing The Big Bang Theory. Which, I think worked in Seinfeld’s favor? Because Seasons Six, Seven, Eight and even Nine are all hilarious and feels as if the show really starts hitting its stride particularly with Season Seven.
As it’s famously known as, Seinfeld is the show about nothing. It’s modeled after comedian Jerry Seinfeld, who plays a fictional version of himself, and his observational comedy. His friends, George Costanza (played by Jason Alexander), Elaine Benes (played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus), his former girlfriend, and Kramer (played by Michael Richards), all navigate those observational moments, absurdities, relationships moments, and essentially, give voice to little things in life that we only tell our closest friends or ourselves. In that way, the cast of characters here are rather psychopathic in how they treat people, but that’s the humor of it all.
Which is why I think the finale where the group gets its comeuppance and are revealed as jerks works so well. They literally go to prison for being antisocial monsters. First off, again, I think that works on the level of these jerks finally getting what was coming to them (even if we, as the audience, love them despite it), and secondly, it works on the level of, the show was trending absurd since Season Seven. As such, this wasn’t exactly beyond the realm of where the show was. Heck, there was a scene at the end of an episode where fake Cubans hijack Elaine’s plane.
Anyhow, the show is hilarious. A few of the highlights off-hand include Jerry Stiller playing George’s dad, Frank, which to me, is the precursor to his King of Queens Arthur character (although my “hot take” is that I prefer the Arthur character), how some of the most famous bits from Seinfeld come later in its run (yada yada, heellllooo, and Frank’s Festivus), and some of my favorite episodes include “The Betrayal” (brilliant comedic use of doing the episode backwards), “The Parking Garage” (again, such a simple life thing turned hilarious), and “The Soup Nazi” (a real highlight for Elaine’s character).
Jerry Seinfeld was right to try to end the show on a high note because, again, a lot of the most memorable moments are later in the series.
The funniest thing to me about Seinfeld is that the the most memorable characters are George, Kramer and Elaine (I’m sure some might swap Elaine for Newman or Frank, but I love Elaine’s character). George has so many great lines. I still say to myself from time to time, “You want to get NUTS?! Let’s get NUTS!” Kramer is great for the physical comedy, which is something you don’t see much anymore. And Elaine more than holds her own by being a sort of morphing of George and Jerry. She’s a bit nuts like George and a the female equivalent to Jerry’s I-can’t-date-this-person-because-of-X-little-thing.
But something interesting I find about Seinfeld, which I briefly mentioned in my Big Bang Theory review is that unlike other sitcoms, Seinfeld is never serious. There are never genuinely serious moments. Everything is played for laughs and a gag and hijinks. That’s not a problem per se, but it’s noticeable! And from what I’ve read, intentional. They weren’t going for any of those “life lessons” or real moments and hugs that other shows did at the time.
I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention that Elaine dated two Breaking Bad characters, Brian Cranston and Bob Odenkirk, aka, Walter and Saul. That was exciting to see.
What a great, great show. I can’t say anything new about a 31-year-old show that hasn’t been said, but it’s more than deserving of its hype as one of, if not the, greatest sitcoms ever. I’m glad I finally watched it. My cultural understanding feels enhanced.