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|Created by||Larry David
|Theme music composer||Jonathan Wolff|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||9|
|No. of episodes||180 (list of episodes)|
|Running time||22-24 minutes|
|Production company(s)||West-Shapiro Productions
Castle Rock Entertainment
|Distributor||Columbia TriStar Television (1995–2002)
Sony Pictures Television (2002–present)
|Original release||July 5, 1989– May 14, 1998|
Seinfeld is an American sitcom that originally ran for nine seasons on NBC, from 1989 to 1998. It was created by Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld, the latter starring as a fictionalized version of himself. Set predominantly in an apartment building in Manhattan's Upper West Side in New York City (although taped entirely in Los Angeles), the show features a handful of Jerry's friends and acquaintances, particularly best friend George Costanza (Jason Alexander), former girlfriend Elaine Benes (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), and neighbor across the hall Cosmo Kramer (Michael Richards). It is often described as being "a show about nothing", as many of its episodes are about the minutiae of daily life.
Seinfeld was produced by Castle Rock Entertainment. In syndication the series has been distributed by Sony Pictures Television since 2002. It was largely written by David and Seinfeld with script writers who included Larry Charles, Peter Mehlman, Gregg Kavet, Carol Leifer, David Mandel, Jeff Schaffer, Steve Koren, Jennifer Crittenden, Tom Gammill, Max Pross, Dan O'Keefe, Charlie Rubin, Marjorie Gross, Alec Berg, Elaine Pope, and Spike Feresten.
A favorite among critics, the series led the Nielsen ratings in seasons six and nine, and finished among the top two (with NBC's ER) every year from 1994 to 1998. In 2002, TV Guide named Seinfeld the greatest television program of all time. In 1997, the episodes "The Boyfriend" and "The Parking Garage" were respectively ranked numbers 4 and 33 on TV Guide's 100 Greatest Episodes of All Time, and in 2009, "The Contest" was ranked No. 1 on the same magazine's list of TV's Top 100 Episodes of All Time. E! named it the "number 1 reason the '90s ruled." In 2013, the Writers Guild of America named Seinfeld the No. 2 Best Written TV Series of All Time (second to The Sopranos). That same year, Entertainment Weekly named it the No. 3 best TV series of all time and TV Guide ranked it at No. 2.
- 1 Premise
- 2 Episodes
- 3 Production
- 4 High-definition versions
- 5 Reception and legacy
- 6 Consumer products
- 7 Home video releases
- 8 After Seinfeld
- 9 References
- 10 External links
- Jerry Seinfeld – Jerry is a "minor celeb" stand-up comedian who is often depicted as "the voice of reason" amidst the general insanity generated by the people in his world. The in-show character is a mild germaphobe and neat freak, as well as an avid Superman, New York Mets and breakfast cereal fan. Jerry's apartment is the center of a world visited by his eccentric friends and a focus of the show. Plot lines often involve Jerry's social interactions and romantic relationships around New York City. He typically finds minor, pedantic reasons to break up with women, including a habit of eating peas one at a time, oversized "man hands" and an irritating laugh. Other plot lines involve his longtime enemy Newman and his overbearing relatives, whom he meets periodically.
- Elaine Benes (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) – Elaine is Jerry's ex-girlfriend and later friend. She is attractive and genial, while also being humorous, arrogant and occasionally impulsive. She sometimes has a tendency to be too honest with people (usually by losing her temper), which often gets her into trouble. She usually gets caught up in her boyfriends' quirks, eccentric employers' unusual behaviors and idiosyncrasies, and the maladjustment of total strangers. She tends to make poor choices in men she chooses to date and is often overly reactionary. First she works at Pendant Publishing with Mr. Lippman, is later hired as a personal assistant for Mr. Pitt, and later works for the J. Peterman catalogue as a glorified assistant. One of Elaine's trademark moves is her forceful shove while exclaiming "Get Out!" when she receives good, objectionable or surprising news. Another is her memorable "Little Kicks" dance move, which is described as a full body heave accompanied by a double-fisted "thumbs-up" and "little kicks." She hates The English Patient, which is met with significant social disapproval. Elaine is popularly described as an amalgamation of David's and Seinfeld's girlfriends during their early days in New York as struggling comedians.
- Cosmo Kramer (Michael Richards) – Kramer is Jerry's "wacky neighbor." His trademarks include his humorous upright pompadour hairstyle, vintage clothes, and energetic sliding bursts through Jerry's apartment door. Kramer was heavily based on a neighbor of David's during his amateur comedic years in Manhattan. At times, he appears naïve, gullible, and ignorant, and at other times, intelligent, understanding, and well-read; similarly, he is exaggeratedly successful, socially, with his charisma and laid-back personality. This is seen in his success with women and employers. He has been described as a "hipster doofus." Although he never holds a steady job, he is rarely short of money and often invents wacky schemes that often work at first then eventually fail. Among these are coffee table books about coffee tables (for which he appeared on Live with Regis and Kathie Lee) and a bra for men called the Bro, also known as the Manssiere, with Frank Costanza. Kramer is longtime friends with Newman, and they work well together despite their differences.
- George Costanza (Jason Alexander) – George is Jerry's best friend, and has been since high school. He is miserly, dishonest, petty and envious of others' achievements. He is depicted as a loser who is perpetually insecure about his capabilities. He complains and lies easily about his profession, relationships and almost everything else, which usually creates trouble for him later. He often uses the alias Art Vandelay when lying or concocting a cover story. Despite these shortcomings, George has a sense of loyalty to his friends and success in dating women and eventually secures a successful career as Assistant to the Traveling Secretary for the New York Yankees. During the run of the show, George and Jerry work with NBC to produce a pilot episode of a TV show called Jerry. During this time, he meets Susan Ross, who works for NBC. George has an on-and-off relationship with her, eventually getting engaged, until she dies at the end of season seven.
Many characters have made multiple appearances, like Jerry's nemesis Newman and his Uncle Leo. In addition to recurring characters, Seinfeld features numerous celebs who appear as themselves or girlfriends, boyfriends, bosses and other acquaintances. Many actors who made guest appearances became household names later in their careers, or were already well known.
Many Seinfeld episodes are based on the writers' real-life experiences, with the experiences re-interpreted for the characters' storyline. For example, George's storyline, "The Revenge", is based on Larry David's experience at Saturday Night Live. "The Contest" is also based on David's experiences. "The Smelly Car" storyline is based on Peter Mehlman's lawyer friend, who could not get a bad smell out of his car. "The Strike" is based on Dan O'Keefe's dad, who made up his own holiday—Festivus. Other stories take on a variety of turns. "The Chinese Restaurant" consists of George, Jerry and Elaine waiting for a table throughout the entire episode. "The Boyfriend", revolving around Keith Hernandez, extends through 2 episodes. "The Betrayal" is famous for using reverse chronology, and was inspired by a similar plot device in a Harold Pinter play, Betrayal. Some stories were inspired by headlines and rumors, as explained in the DVD features "Notes About Nothing", "Inside Look", and "Audio Commentary." In "The Maestro", Kramer's lawsuit is roughly similar to the McDonald's coffee case. "The Outing" is based primarily on rumors that Larry Charles heard about Jerry Seinfeld's sexuality.
Seinfeld broke several conventions of mainstream TV. It's often described as being "a show about nothing". However, Seinfeld in 2014 stated "the pitch for the show, the real pitch, when Larry and I went to NBC in 1988, was we want to show how a comedian gets his material. The show about nothing was just a joke in an episode many years later, and Larry and I to this day are surprised that it caught on as a way that people describe the show, because to us it's the opposite of that."
The show is typically driven by humor interspersed with superficial conflict and characters with peculiar dispositions. Many episodes revolved around the characters' involvement in the lives of others with typically disastrous results. 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. 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 elicits no genuine emotions from anybody in the show.
The characters are "thirty-something singles with vague identities, no roots, and conscious indifference to morals." Usual conventions, like 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 where the characters promote a TV sitcom series named Jerry. The show within a show, Jerry, was much like Seinfeld in that it was "about nothing" and Seinfeld played himself. The fictional Jerry was launched in the season four finale, but unlike Seinfeld, it wasn't picked up as a series. Jerry is one of many examples of metafiction in the show. There are no fewer than twenty-two fictional movies featured, like Rochelle, Rochelle.
Many terms were coined, popularized, or re-popularized in the series' run and have become part of popular culture. Notable catchphrases include "Yada, yada, yada", "No soup for you", "These pretzels are making me thirsty" and "Not that there's anything wrong with that".
As a body, the lexicon of Seinfeldian code words and recurring phrases that evolved around particular episodes is referred to as Seinlanguage, the title of Jerry Seinfeld's best-selling book on humor.
A signature of Seinfeld is its theme music. Composed by Jonathan Wolff, it consists of distinct solo sampled bass synthesizer riffs (played on a Korg M1 synthesizer) which open the show and connect the scenes, often accompanied by a "percussion track" composed of mouth noises, like pops and clicks. The bass synthesizer music eventually replaced the original music by Jep Epstein when it was played again after the first broadcast "The Seinfeld Chronicles". The show lacked a traditional title track and the riffs were played over the first moments of dialogue or action. They vary throughout each episode and are played in an improvised funk style. An additional musical theme with an ensemble, led by a synthesized mid-range brass instrument, ends each episode.
In "The Note", the first episode of season three, the bumper music featured a scatting female jazz singer who sang a phrase that sounded like "easy to beat". Jerry Seinfeld and executive producer Larry David both liked Wolff's additions, and three episodes were produced with this new style music. However, they had neglected to inform NBC and Castle Rock executives of the change, and when the season premiere aired, the executives were surprised and unimpressed, and requested that they return to the original style. The subsequent two episodes were redone, leaving this episode as the only one with additional music elements. In the commentary of "The Note", Dreyfus facetiously suggests it was removed because the perceived lyric related closely to the low ratings at the time.
In the final three seasons, the bits were tweaked slightly with more frantic rhythms; a bass guitar was added in addition to the sampled bass from earlier seasons. Throughout the show, the main theme could be re-styled in different ways depending on the episode. For instance, in "The Betrayal", part of which takes place in India, the theme is heard played on a sitar.
|Season||Episodes||Originally aired||Nielsen ratings|
|First aired||Last aired||Rank||Rating||Viewers
|1||5||July 5, 1989||June 21, 1990||N/A||N/A||19.26|
|2||12||January 23, 1991||June 26, 1991||#46||12.5||18.07|
|3||23||September 18, 1991||May 6, 1992||#42||12.5||17.66|
|4||24||August 12, 1992||May 20, 1993||#25||13.7||20.91|
|5||22||September 16, 1993||May 19, 1994||#3||19.6||29.59|
|6||24||September 22, 1994||May 11, 1995||#1||20.6||30.06|
|7||24||September 21, 1995||May 16, 1996||#2||21.2||33.19|
|8||22||September 19, 1996||May 15, 1997||#2||20.5||32.48|
|9||24||September 25, 1997||May 14, 1998||#1||22.0||38.03
Seinfeld stood out from family and group sitcoms of its time. None of the principal characters are related by family or work connections but remain distinctively close friends throughout the series. Its own creative personnel called it "a show about nothing".
Many characters were based primarily on Seinfeld's and David's real-life acquaintances. Two prominent recurring characters were based on well-known people: Jacopo Peterman of the J. Peterman catalog (based on John Peterman), and George Steinbrenner, owner of the New York Yankees. Many characters were introduced as new writers got involved with Seinfeld. Other characters based on real people include the Soup Nazi and Jackie Chiles based on Johnnie Cochran.
Seinfeld follows its own structure: story thread is presented at the beginning of every episode, which involves the characters starting in their own situations. Rapid scene-shifts between plot lines bring the stories together. Even though it does not follow a pattern as other sitcoms, the character's story variously intertwines in each episode. Despite the separate plot strands, the narratives reveal the creators' "consistent efforts to maintain the intimacy" among the small cast of characters.
The show maintains a strong sense of continuity—characters and plots from past episodes are often referenced or expanded on. Occasionally, story arcs span multiple episodes and even entire seasons, the most memorable being season four, which revolved around the pilot pitch to NBC by Jerry and George. Another example is Jerry's girlfriend Vanessa, who appears in "The Stake Out" and he ends the relationship when things do not work out in "The Stock Tip". Other examples are Kramer getting his jacket back and Elaine heading the "Peterman catalog". Larry David, the 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. Curb Your Enthusiasm—David's later comedy series— expanded on this idea by following a specific theme for all but one season in the series.
A major difference between Seinfeld and sitcoms which preceded it is that the principal characters never learn from their mistakes. In effect, they are indifferent and even callous towards the outside world and sometimes one another. A mantra of the show's producers was: "No hugging, no learning." Entertainment Weekly's TV critic Ken Tucker has described them as "a group dynamic rooted in jealousy, rage, insecurity, despair, hopelessness, and a touching lack of faith in one's fellow human beings." This leads to very few happy endings, except at somebody else's expense. More often in every episode, situations resolve with characters getting a justly deserved comeuppance.
The show premiered as The Seinfeld Chronicles on July 5, 1989. After it aired, a pickup by NBC seemed unlikely and the show was offered to Fox, which declined to pick it up. Rick Ludwin, head of late night and special events for NBC, however, diverted money from his budget by canceling a Bob Hope television special, and the next 4 episodes were filmed. These episodes were highly rated as they followed summer re-runs of Cheers on Thursdays at 9:30 p.m., and the series was finally picked up. At one point NBC considered airing these episodes on Saturdays at 10:30 p.m., but gave that slot to a short-lived sitcom called FM. The series was renamed Seinfeld after the failure of short-lived 1990 ABC series The Marshall Chronicles. After airing in the summer of 1990, NBC ordered thirteen more episodes. Larry David believed that he and Jerry Seinfeld had no more stories to tell, and advised Seinfeld to turn down the order, but Seinfeld agreed to the additional episodes. Season two was bumped off its scheduled premiere of January 16, 1991, due to the outbreak of the (Persian) Gulf War. It settled into a regular time slot on Wednesdays at 9:30 p.m. and eventually flipped with veteran series Night Court to 9:00.
TV critics championed Seinfeld in its early seasons, even as it was slow to cultivate a substantial audience. For the first three seasons, Jerry's stand-up comedy act would bookend an episode, even functioning as cut scenes during the show. A few episodes set a benchmark for later seasons. "The Deal" establishes Jerry and Elaine's relationship by setting rules about sleeping together and remaining friends. "The Parking Garage" was the first episode shot with no audience for the episode, as well as not showing Jerry's apartment, after "The Chinese Restaurant. "The Keys" contains a crossover to CBS show Murphy Brown, marking the first such cooperation between rival networks. "The Busboy" introduces George, Kramer and Elaine as having their own storylines for the first time. Although Castle Rock Entertainment's Glenn Padnick thought Jerry Seinfeld was too generous, showcasing his co-stars' comedic talent became a trademark throughout the series.
Larry Charles wrote an episode for season two, "The Bet", where Elaine buys a gun from Kramer's friend. This episode wasn't filmed because the content was deemed unacceptable, and was replaced by the episode "The Phone Message". "The Stranded", aired in season three, was intended for season two. In the beginning of this episode, Jerry clears up the continuity error over George's real estate job.
Season four marked the sitcom's entry into the Nielsen ratings Top 30, coinciding with several popular episodes, like "The Bubble Boy", where George and the bubble boy are arguing over Trivial Pursuit, and "The Junior Mint" where Jerry and Kramer accidentally fumble a mint in the operating room. This was the first season to use a story arc where Jerry and George create their own sitcom, Jerry. Also at this time, the use of Jerry's stand-up act slowly declined, and the stand-up segment in the middle of Seinfeld episodes was cut.
Much publicity followed the controversial episode, "The Contest", an Emmy Award-winning episode written by co-creator Larry David, whose subject matter was considered inappropriate for prime time network TV. To circumvent this taboo, the word "masturbation" was never used in the script, instead substituted by a variety of oblique references. Midway through that season, Seinfeld was moved from its original 9:00 p.m. time slot on Wednesdays to 9:30 p.m. on Thursdays, following Cheers again, which gave the show even more popularity. Ratings also sparked the move, as Tim Allen's sitcom Home Improvement on ABC had aired at the same time and Improvement kept beating Seinfeld in the ratings. NBC moved the series after Ted Danson announced the end of Cheers and Seinfeld quickly surpassed the ratings of the 9:00 p.m. Cheers reruns that spring. The show won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy Series in 1993, beating out its family-oriented, time-slot competitor Home Improvement, which was only in its second season on fellow network ABC.
Season five was an even bigger ratings-hit, consisting of popular episodes like "The Puffy Shirt" where Jerry feels embarrassed wearing the "pirate" shirt on The Today Show, "The Non-Fat Yogurt" featuring Rudy Giuliani, the Republican then-mayor-elect of New York, and "The Opposite" where George does the opposite of his instincts that lands him in the "New York Yankees" and Elaine leaves "Pendant Publishing" because of a comedy of errors that led to its demise. Another story arc has George returning to live with his parents. In the midst of the story arc, Kramer creates and promotes his coffee table book. The show was again nominated for Outstanding Comedy Series, but lost to the Cheers spin-off Frasier, then in its first season. Seinfeld was nominated for the same award every year for the entire run but always lost to Frasier, which went on to win a record thirty-nine Emmy Awards.
With Season six, Andy Ackerman replaced Tom Cherones as director of the show. The series remained well-regarded and produced some of its most famous episodes, like "The Beard" where Jerry is put through a lie detector test, to make him admit that he watched Melrose Place, "The Switch", where Kramer's mom, Babs, revealed that his first name is Cosmo and "The Understudy" when Elaine meets J. Peterman for the first time. Story arcs used in this season were Elaine working as a personal assistant to her eccentric boss Justin Pitt, as well as George's parents' temporary separation. This was the first season where Seinfeld reached No. 1 in the Nielsen Ratings. The use of Jerry's stand-up act declined with the end stand-up segment no longer used as the storylines for all four characters grew denser.
In season seven, a story arc involved George getting engaged to his ex-girlfriend, Susan Ross, after the unsuccessful pilot Jerry. He spends most of the season regretting and trying to get out of the engagement. Along with the regular half-hour episodes, two notable one-hour episodes include "The Cadillac" where George plans to date award winning actor Marisa Tomei and "The Bottle Deposit" with Elaine and Sue Ellen participating in a bidding war to buy JFK's golf clubs in an auction.
The show's ratings were still going strong in its final two seasons. Larry David left at the end of season seven (although he continued to voice Steinbrenner), so Seinfeld assumed David's duties as showrunner, and, under the direction of a new writing staff, Seinfeld became a faster-paced show. The show no longer contained extracts of Jerry performing stand-up comedy (Jerry had no time or energy for this with his new roles), and storylines occasionally delved into fantasy and broad humor. For example, in "The Bizarro Jerry", Elaine is torn between exact opposites of her friends and Jerry dates a woman who has the now-famed "man hands". Some notable episodes from season eight include "The Little Kicks" showing Elaine's horrible dancing, and "The Chicken Roaster" which portrays the Kenny Rogers Roasters chicken restaurant which opened during that time. A story arc in this season involves Peterman going to Burma in "The Foundation" until he recovered from a nervous breakdown in "The Money", followed by Elaine writing Peterman's biography in "The Van Buren Boys" which leads to Kramer's parody of Kenny Kramer's Reality Tour seen in "The Muffin Tops".
The final season included episodes like "The Merv Griffin Show" where Kramer converts his apartment into a talk-show studio and plays the character of talk-show host, "The Betrayal" that follows in reverse chronology order of what happened to Sue Ellen's wedding in India, and "The Frogger", where George pushes a Frogger machine across the street. The last season included a story arc where Elaine has an on/off relationship with Puddy. Despite the enormous popularity and willingness from the cast to return for a tenth season, Seinfeld decided to end the show after season nine, in an effort to maintain quality and go out on top. NBC offered him $110 million but he declined the offer.
A major controversy caused in this final season was the accidental burning of a Puerto Rican flag by Kramer in "The Puerto Rican Day". This scene caused a furor among Puerto Ricans, and as a result, NBC showed this episode only once. However, Jerry Seinfeld defused the protestors by not letting this episode continue in syndication, as revealed in "Inside Look" on DVD.
After nine years on the air, NBC and Jerry Seinfeld announced on December 25, 1997, that the series would end production the following spring in 1998. The announcement made the front page of the major New York newspapers, including the New York Times. Jerry Seinfeld was featured on the cover of Time magazine's first issue of 1998. The series ended with a seventy-five-minute episode (cut to 60 minutes in syndication, in two parts) written by co-creator and ex-executive producer Larry David, which aired on May 14, 1998. Before the finale, a forty-five-minute retrospective clip show, "The Chronicle", was aired. The retrospective was expanded to an hour after the original airing and aired again on NBC as an hour-long episode, and has since aired in syndication.
It was the first episode since the finale of season seven, "The Invitations", to feature opening and closing stand-up comedy acts by Jerry Seinfeld. The finale was filmed before an audience of NBC executives and friends of the show. The press and public were shut out of the taping for the sake of keeping its plot secret, and those who attended the shoot of the final episode signed written "vows of silence." The secrecy only seemed to increase speculation on how the series would end. 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 marry.
The final episode enjoyed a historic audience, estimated at 76.3 million viewers (58% of all viewers that night) making it the fourth most watched regular series finale in U.S. TV history, behind M*A*S*H, Cheers and The Fugitive. However, the finale received mixed reviews from critics and fans of the show. The finale poked fun at the many rumors that were circulating, seeming to move into multiple supposed plots before settling on its true storyline—a lengthy trial where the gang is prosecuted for violating a "Good Samaritan law" and sentenced to prison terms.
According to Forbes magazine, Jerry Seinfeld's earning from the show in 1998 was US$267 million, including syndication earnings. He refused NBC's offer of $5 million per episode, or over $100 million total, to continue the show into a tenth season. The offer NBC made to Seinfeld was over three times higher per episode than anyone on TV had ever been offered. Seinfeld told the network that he was not married and had no children, and wished to focus on his personal life. As reported in July 2007, he was the second-highest earner in the TV industry, earning at the time $60 million a year. The show became the first TV series to command over $1 million a minute for advertising–a mark previously attained only by the Super Bowl. According to Barry Meyer, chairman of Warner Bros. Entertainment, Seinfeld has made $2.7 billion through June 2010.
Seinfeld began as a twenty-three-minute pilot titled The Seinfeld Chronicles. Created by Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David, developed by NBC executive Rick Ludwin, and produced by Castle Rock Entertainment, it was a mix of Seinfeld's stand-up comedy routines and idiosyncratic, conversational scenes focusing on mundane aspects of everyday life like laundry, the buttoning of the top button on one's shirt and the effort by men to properly interpret the intent of women spending the night in Seinfeld's apartment.
The pilot was filmed at Stage 8 of Desilu Cahuenga studios, the same studio where The Dick Van Dyke Show was filmed (this was seen by the crew as a good omen), and was recorded at Ren-Mar Studios in Hollywood. The pilot was first screened to a group of two dozen NBC executives in Burbank, California in early 1989. It didn't yield the explosion of laughter garnered by the pilots for the decade's previous NBC successes like The Cosby Show and The Golden Girls. Brandon Tartikoff, was not convinced that the show would work. A Jewish man from New York himself, Tartikoff characterized it as "Too New York, too Jewish". Test audiences were even harsher. NBC's practice at the time was to recruit 400 households by phone to ask them to evaluate pilots it aired on an unused channel on its cable system. An NBC research department memo summarized the pilot's performance among the respondents as "Weak", which Littlefield called "a dagger to the heart". Comments included, "You can't get too excited about two guys going to the laundromat"; "Jerry's loser friend George isn't a forceful character"; "Jerry needs a stronger supporting cast"; and "Why are they interrupting the stand-up for these stupid stories?" Seinfeld and David didn't see the memo for several years, but after they became aware of it, they hung it in a bathroom on the set. Seinfeld comments, "We thought, if someone goes in to use this bathroom, this is something they should see. It fits that moment."
When NBC announced its 1989–90 primetime schedule in May 1989, The Seinfeld Chronicles was not included, but supporters of the show didn't give up on it. The pilot first aired on July 5, 1989, and finished second in its time slot against the CBS police drama Jake and the Fatman, receiving a Nielsen rating of 10.9/19, meaning that the pilot was watched by 10.9% of American households, and that 19% of all TVs in use at the time were tuned into it. The ratings didn't exhibit regional skew that Tartikoff predicted, much to the encouragement of the show's supporters. Despite the poor test results, Ludwin cancelled one of the Bob Hope specials budgeted for that season so that the entertainment division had the money to order six more episodes of The Seinfeld Chronicles, which formed the rest of the show's first season, a move without which Chicago Tribune columnist Phil Rosenthal later stated there would be no Seinfeld. Although this was a very low order number for a new series (the smallest sitcom order in TV history), Castle Rock failed to find any other buyers when it shopped the show to other networks, and accepted the order. The show was renamed Seinfeld, but it wouldn't return to the airwaves until May 30, 1990, and it'd be another three years before it became a Top 5 ratings success. Preston Beckman, who was in charge of NBC's research department at the time, reminisced, "The show was different. Nobody had seen anything like it. It wasn't unusual for poor-testing shows to get on the air, but it was very rare that they became hits."
When it was first repeated on July 5, 1990, it received a rating of 13.9/26. These ratings were high enough to secure a second season. NBC research showed that the show was popular with young male adults, a demographic sought after by advertisers. This gave NBC an incentive to keep broadcasting the show. One DVD reviewer, Britt Gillette, wrote that "this initial episode exhibits the flashes of brilliance that made Seinfeld a cultural phenomenon."
There are two high-definition versions of Seinfeld. The first is that of the network TV (non-syndicated) versions in the original aspect ratio of 4:3 that were downscaled for the DVD releases. Syndicated broadcast stations and the cable network TBS began airing the syndicated version of Seinfeld in HD. Unlike the version used for the DVD, Sony Pictures cropped the top and bottom parts of the frame, while restoring previously cropped images on the sides, from the 35 mm film source, to use the entire 16:9 frame.
Reception and legacy
Elizabeth Magnotta and Alexandra Strohl analyze the success of Seinfeld with recourse to the incongruity theory of humor: "The Incongruity Theory claims that humor is created out of a violation of an expectation. For humor to result from this unexpected result, the event must have an appropriate emotional climate, comprised of the setting, characters, prior discourse, relationships of the characters, and the topic." Specifically, Magnotta and Strohl focus on "The Marine Biologist", where George is embroiled in yet another lie, and on "The Red Dot", where George tries to save a few dollars at Elaine's expense by giving her a marked-down cashmere sweater.
Nod Miller, of the University of East London, has discussed the self-referential qualities of the show:
Seinfeld is suffused with postmodern themes. To begin with, the boundary between reality and fiction is frequently blurred: this is illustrated in the central device of having Jerry Seinfeld play the character Jerry Seinfeld. In the show's fourth season, several episodes revolved around the narrative of Jerry and George (whose character is co-creator Larry David's alter ego) pitching 'a show about nothing' based on the everyday life of a stand-up comedian to NBC. The reaction of the fictional NBC executives, by all accounts, mirrored the initial responses of those who eventually commissioned Seinfeld. The fourth season ends with 'The Pilot', an episode focusing on the casting, taping and screening of the show-within-the-show, Jerry. This episode also illustrates neatly the self-referential quality which is one of Seinfeld's hallmarks. The series finale was so replete with references to earlier shows as to render it largely incomprehensible to those not already well-versed in the personae and preoccupations of the Seinfeld universe.
William Irwin has edited an anthology of scholarly essays on philosophy in Seinfeld and Philosophy: A Book about Everything and Nothing. Some entries include "The Jerry Problem and the Socratic Problem," "George's Failed Zest for Happiness: An Aristotelian Analysis," "Elaine's Moral Character," "Kramer the 'Seducer'," "Making Something Out of Nothing: Seinfeld, Sophistry and the Tao," "Seinfeld, Subjectivity, and Sartre," "Mr. Peterman, the Wicked Witch of the West, and Me," and "Minimally Decent Samaritans and Uncommon Law."
U.S. television ratings
|Season||TV season||Episodes||Timeslot||Original air dates||Nielsen ratings||Most watched episode|
|Season premiere||Season finale||Rank||Rating||Viewers
|1||1989–90||5||Wednesday at 9:30pm (Episode 1)
Thursday at 9:30 pm (Episodes 2-5)
|July 5, 1989||June 21, 1990||N/A||N/A||19.26||"The Stake Out"||22.5|
|2||1990–91||12||Wednesday at 9:30 pm (Episodes 1-4, 12)
Thursday at 9:30 pm (Episodes 5-11)
|January 23, 1991||June 26, 1991||#46||12.5||18.07||"The Apartment"||24.7|
|3||1991–92||23||Wednesday at 9:30 pm (Episodes 1-11, 18)
Wednesday at 9:00 pm (Episodes 12-17, 19-23)
|September 18, 1991||May 6, 1992||#42||12.5||17.66||"The Letter"||22.3|
|4||1992–93||24||Wednesday at 9:00 pm (Episodes 1-3, 5-15)
Wednesday at 9:30 pm (Episode 4)
Thursday at 9:30 pm (Episodes 16-22)
Thursday at 8:00 pm (Episode 23)
Thursday at 8:30 pm (Episode 24)
|August 12, 1992||May 20, 1993||#25||13.7||20.91||"The Pilot"||32.8|
|5||1993–94||22||Thursday at 9:00 pm (Episodes 1-18, 20-22)
Thursday at 9:30 pm (Episode 19)
|September 16, 1993||May 19, 1994||#3||19.6||29.59||"The Stall" and "The Marine Biologist"||35.0|
|6||1994–95||24||Thursday at 9:00 pm (Episodes 1-14, 16-24)
Thursday at 9:30 pm (Episode 15)
|September 22, 1994||May 18, 1995||#1||20.6||30.06||"The Switch"||36.6|
|7||1995–96||24||Thursday at 9:00 pm (Episodes 1-14, 16-21, 23-24)
Thursday at 9:30 pm (Episodes 15, 22)
|September 21, 1995||May 16, 1996||#2||21.2||33.19||"The Engagement"||37.6|
|8||1996–97||22||Thursday at 9:00 pm||September 19, 1996||May 15, 1997||#2||20.5||32.48||"The Money"||37.3|
|9||1997–98||24||Thursday at 9:00 pm (Episodes 1-20, 23)
Thursday at 8:00 pm (Episode 21)
Thursday at 8:30 pm (Episode 22)
Thursday at 9:30 pm (Episode 24)
|September 25, 1997||May 14, 1998||#1||22.0||38.03
("The Puerto Rican Day")
Awards and nominations
Seinfeld has received awards and nominations in various categories throughout the mid-1990s. It was awarded the Emmy for "Outstanding Comedy Series" in 1993, Golden Globe Award for "Best TV-Series (Comedy)" in 1994 and Screen Actors Guild Award for "Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series" in 1995, 1997 and 1998. Apart from these, the show was also nominated for an Emmy award from 1992 to 1998 for "Outstanding Comedy series", Golden Globe award from 1994 to 1998 for "Best TV-Series (Comedy)", and Screen Actors Guild Award for "Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series" from 1995 to 1998.
A recurring feature of Seinfeld was its inclusion of specific products, especially candy, as plot points. These might be a central feature of a plot (e.g., Junior Mints, Twix, Jujyfruits, bite size Three Musketeers, Snickers, Nestlé Chunky, Oh Henry!, Drake's Coffee Cake and PEZ), or an association of candy with a guest character (e.g. Oh Henry! bars) or simply a conversational aside (e.g., Chuckles, Clark Bar, Twinkies). A large number of non-candy products were also featured throughout the series.
The show's creators claim that they weren't engaging in a product placement strategy for commercial gain. One motivation 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.'"
Many advertisers capitalized on the popularity of Seinfeld. American Express created a webisode where Jerry Seinfeld and an animated Superman (voiced by Patrick Warburton, who played the role of Puddy) starred in its commercial. The makers of the Today Sponge created the "Spongeworthy" game, on their website, inspired by "The Sponge". An advertisement featured Jason Alexander in a Chrysler commercial. In this, Alexander acts much like his character George, and his relationship with Lee Iacocca plays on his George's relationship with Steinbrenner. Similarly, Michael Richards was the focus of a series of advertisements for Vodafone which ran in Australia where he dressed and acted exactly like Kramer, including the trademark bumbling pratfalls.
In addition, the show occasionally incorporated fictional products like a Scotch brand called "Hennigan's" (a portmanteau of "Hennessy" and "Brannigans") and a canned meat product called "Beef-a-reeno" (a parody of "Beef-a-roni").
Home video releases
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment released all nine seasons of Seinfeld on DVD in Regions 1, 2 and 4 between 2004 and 2007. On November 6, 2007, Seinfeld: The Complete Series was released on DVD. The complete series set box set includes a 2007 "roundtable" reunion of the four main cast members and Larry David; only highlights of this were also included in the Season 9 set.
|DVD name||Release dates|
|Region 1||Region 2||Region 4|
|Vol 1: Seasons 1 & 2||November 23, 2004||November 1, 2004||October 13, 2004|
|Vol 2: Season 3||November 23, 2004||November 1, 2004||October 18, 2004|
|Vol 3: Season 4||May 17, 2005||June 13, 2005||May 25, 2005|
|Vol 4: Season 5||November 22, 2005||November 28, 2005||November 23, 2005|
|Vol 5: Season 6||November 22, 2005||November 28, 2005||November 23, 2005|
|Vol 6: Season 7||November 21, 2006||November 20, 2006||November 8, 2006|
|Vol 7: Season 8||June 5, 2007||June 4, 2007||June 13, 2007|
|Vol 8: Season 9||November 6, 2007||November 19, 2007||October 24, 2007|
Streaming on Hulu
On April 29, 2015, it was officially announced, during Hulu's upfronts presentation in New York, that all nine seasons of Seinfeld would be available for online streaming, via the video service, starting in June 2015. The news was first reported by Variety and Deadline, citing the deal at around $130 million to $180 million. On May 20, 2015, Hulu announced that every episode would be available, on June 24, 2015.
Streaming on Stan.
On November 8, 2016, the Australian streaming service Stan. announced via twitter that later in the week all episodes would be available to stream for the first time in Australia. All epsiodes were available from November 11, 2016 with the remastered versions of all episodes on the service featuring HD and Widescreen enhancements.
On the November 1, 2007, episode of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Seinfeld mentioned the possibility of shooting one last scene, after they leave jail. He mentioned that he was too busy to do it at the time, but didn't announce what the scene would entail, as its production isn't a certainty.
In commentary from the final season DVD, Seinfeld outlines that he and Jason Alexander spoke about this scene being in Monk's Cafe, with George saying "That was brutal" in reference to the foursome's stint in prison.
The Seinfeld "curse"
Louis-Dreyfus, Alexander, and Richards have all tried to launch new sitcoms as title-role characters. Despite acclaim and even respectable ratings, almost every show was canceled quickly, usually within the first season. This gave rise to the term Seinfeld curse: the failure of a sitcom starring one of the three, despite the conventional wisdom that each person's Seinfeld popularity should almost guarantee a strong, built-in audience for the actor's new show. Shows specifically cited regarding the Seinfeld curse are Julia Louis-Dreyfus' Watching Ellie, Jason Alexander's Bob Patterson and Listen Up!, and Michael Richards' The Michael Richards Show. Larry David said of the curse, "It's so completely idiotic. It's very hard to have a successful sitcom."
This phenomenon was mentioned throughout the second season of Larry David's HBO program Curb Your Enthusiasm. However, the Emmy award-winning success of Julia Louis-Dreyfus in the CBS sitcom The New Adventures of Old Christine led many to believe that she had broken the curse. In her acceptance speech, Louis-Dreyfus held up her award and exclaimed, "I'm not somebody who really believes in curses, but curse this, baby!" The show was on the air for five seasons starting March 13, 2006 before its cancellation on May 18, 2010; the series produced enough episodes to air in reruns in syndication for several years, something the other shows didn't achieve. The Saturday Night Live episode guest-hosted by Louis-Dreyfus made references to the curse. Louis-Dreyfus went on to win five further Lead Actress in a Comedy Emmys for her acclaimed performance as Vice President Selina Meyer in HBO's comedy series Veep.
Curb Your Enthusiasm
Early in March 2009, it was announced that the Seinfeld cast would reunite for season seven of Curb Your Enthusiasm. The cast first appeared in the third episode of the season, all playing their real life selves. The season-long story is that Larry David tries to initiate a Seinfeld reunion show as a ploy to get ex-wife, Cheryl, back. Along with the 4 main characters, some Seinfeld supporting actors like Wayne Knight, Estelle Harris and Steve Hytner appeared in the ninth episode at a table read for the reunion show. Though much dialogue in Curb Your Enthusiasm is improvised, the plot was scripted, and the Seinfeld special that aired within the show was scripted and directed by Seinfeld regular Andy Ackerman, making this the first time since Seinfeld went off the air that the central cast appeared together in a scripted show.
Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee
Jerry Seinfeld, Jason Alexander and Wayne Knight, playing their respective Seinfeld characters, appeared in a spot presented during halftime of the 2014 Super Bowl on February 2. FOX came up with the idea of doing such a spot, due in part to the location being in New York that year. An uncut version appeared on Crackle.com immediately afterward, as an episode of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee titled "The Over-Cheer". Although the spot was used to advertise Seinfeld's web series, it was not considered a commercial, as Sony, who produces the series, did not pay for it. Seinfeld has indicated that he thinks the webisode will probably be the last cast reunion, saying "I have a feeling you've seen the final coda on that very unique experience."
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- Weaver, D.T. & Oliver, M.B. (2000) Summary of the paper: "Television Programs and Advertising: Measuring the Effectiveness of Product Placement Within Seinfeld."
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