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Seinfeld

From Academic Kids

Template:Infobox television Seinfeld is a television sitcom, considered to be one of the most popular and influential of the 1990s in the U.S., to the point where it is often cited as epitomizing the self-obsessed and ironic culture of the decade. In 2002, TV Guide released a list of the 50 best TV shows of all time and ranked Seinfeld #1. The show stars Jerry Seinfeld playing a character named after and based largely on himself, and is set predominantly in an apartment block in Manhattan's Upper West Side, New York. It features an eclectic cast of characters, mainly Jerry's friends and acquaintances – Cosmo Kramer (Michael Richards), George Costanza (Jason Alexander) and Elaine Benes (Julia Louis-Dreyfus). It is produced by Castle-Rock Entertainment (then helmed by famed actor and producer, Rob Reiner) and is distributed by Columbia Pictures Television (now Sony Pictures Television).

Contents

Overview

The show has been famously described as "the show about nothing", as most of the comedy was based around the largely inconsequential minutiae of everyday life, often involving petty rivalries and elaborate schemes to gain the smallest advantage over other individuals. The characters have also been described as utterly selfish and amoral, and to a degree that is accurate; the show stands out in deriving nothing but amusement from it. (However, it should be noted that a common motif concerns characters' attempts to do nice little things for people, only to have everything backfire exponentially in the face of the person who tried to do right.) Unlike other sitcoms, when a moment was just about to lapse into sentimentality, it managed to regain its balance. Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David's dictum of "no hugs, no learning" gave the show its distinctively cold and cynical tone. However, themes of illogical social graces and customs, neurotic and obsessive behavior, and the mysterious workings of relationships ran in numerous episodes, making it possible to categorize the show as a comedy of manners. The show is also unique in reflecting the activities of real people, rather than the idealized escapist characters often seen on television, although many episodes do feature surreal escapades, often based on scenes from famous movies.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Elaine, and Jerry Seinfeld as himself
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Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Elaine, and Jerry Seinfeld as himself

Originally called "The Seinfeld Chronicles", the initial plot of the series was to tell how a comedian got his material, hence, the insertion of clips of Jerry Seinfeld's routine. The clips became less and less frequent as the series progressed partly due to the show focusing more on its characters rather than on the initial "How a comedian gets his material" plot. However, this was never the true intent of the show. Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David used it only in their pitch to NBC. Also, in the pilot Kramer was originally called Kessler and had a pet dog. Elaine wasn't even supposed to be a main character. One of the waitresses at the restaurant was supposed to have the female recurring role.

Previous shows on television were almost always family or co-worker driven, and Seinfeld holds itself up as being a then-rare example of a sitcom wherein none of the characters were related by blood or employed, if at all, in the same building or business.

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

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." Likewise, in episodes adhering to the original concept, the show featured clips of Seinfeld himself delivering a standup routine at the beginning and end of each episode, the theme of which relates to the events depicted in the plot. By this device the distinction between the actor Jerry Seinfeld and the character who is portayed by him is deliberately blurred. In later seasons, these standup clips became less frequent. All the main characters were modeled after Seinfeld's nonfictional acquaintances.

Another violation of the fiction convention of isolating characters from the actors playing them, and separating the characters' world from the actors' and audience's world, was a story arc that concerned the characters' roles in 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 premiere of Seinfeld, in an episode titled "The Pilot". This story arc, along with other examples of self-reference, have led many critics to point out the postmodern nature of the show.

Jerry Seinfeld performing his famous stand-up comedy at the ending of an episode ("The Boyfriend Part. 2)
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Jerry Seinfeld performing his famous stand-up comedy at the ending of an episode ("The Boyfriend Part. 2)

According to Katherine Gantz, this entanglement of character and actor relationships "seems to be a part of the show's complex appeal. Whereas situation comedies often dilute their cast, adding and removing characters in search of new plot possibilities, Seinfeld instead interiorizes; the narrative creates new configurations of the same limited cast to keep the viewer and the characters intimately linked. In fact, it is precisely this concentration on the nuclear set of four personalities that creates the Seinfeld community".

Another attribute that makes Seinfeld exceptional is that in almost every episode, several story threads are presented at the beginning, generally involving the various characters in separate and unrelated situations, which then converge and are interwoven towards the end of the episode in an ironic fashion. Due to the densely-plotted construction of the storylines, attempts to summarize the action in a given script are generally more verbose than one would expect for a sitcom. Despite any separate plot strands, the narratives show "consistent efforts to maintain [the] intimacy" between the small cast of characters. "Much of Seinfeld's plot and humor hinge on outside personalities threatening—and ultimately failing—to invade the foursome, ... especially where Jerry and George are concerned." (Gantz 2000)

Gantz maintains that another factor in, or further proof of, spectators' and characters' participation in a 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". These include Snapple, Bubble Boy, Cuban cigars, Master of My Domain, Junior Mints, Mulva, Crazy Joe Davola, Pez, Sponge Worthy, and Vandelay Industries.

The show premiered on May 31, 1990 on NBC. Seinfeld was not an immediate success. After the pilot was shown, on July 5, 1989, a pickup by NBC 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. After nine years on the air and 180 episodes filmed, the series finale of Seinfeld aired on 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 dollars per episode, and another record for the Highest Ever Annual Earnings For A TV Actor[1] (http://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/index.asp?id=47798), while the show itself holds the record for the Highest Television Advertising Rates[2] (http://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/index.asp?id=47798).

In the UK Seinfeld was screened on BBC TWO, usually at around 11:30 PM. Fans and critics constantly campaigned for an earlier time slot, but it never happened. The show was subsequently rerun on the Paramount Comedy Channel on satellite in a mid-evening slot.

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. The DVD packaging claims that the series was remastered on HDTV to provide the best possible picture quality.

Characters

See also: Seinfeld characters and culture

  • Jerry Seinfeld (played by Jerry Seinfeld)—A standup comedian who seeks out relationships with attractive women which rarely last more than one episode. A number of episodes involve some obsession of Jerry's that results in offending the romantic interest and ruining the relationship. Among his strongest obsessions are his anal retentive neatness and his love of Superman and cereal. There is a reference, either visual, conversational, or thematic, to Superman in over 70% of the episodes of the series.
  • George Louis Costanza (played by Jason Alexander)—A "short, stocky, slow-witted, bald man", the neurotic George is a congenital liar domineered by his parents, especially his father Frank. He has held many jobs, including a real estate agent, an assistant to the traveling secretary for the New York Yankees, and also briefly worked at a sporting equipment company called Play Now and at Kruger Industrial Smoothing. The character of George was largely based on the show's co-creator and Seinfeld's real-life best friend Larry David. Episode plots would frequently feature George in an elaborate deception at work or in his relationships, in order to gain or maintain some petty advantage. These schemes would invariably backfire.
  • Cosmo Kramer (played by Michael Richards)—Tall, wild-haired, Kramer is the Seinfeld character with the loosest grip on reality, decorum, and concepts of property and propriety. He is frequently involved in hare-brained schemes to get rich. Undoubtedly the most popular character on the show, he is often described as the "action character" that draws audiences with his wild and unusual antics and movements. In one show, Kramer is called a "hipster doofus." He is based on Larry David's neighbour, Kenny Kramer. Kramer adopts a different bizzare habit or money-making scheme almost every episode. He is friends with Newman, as well as a wide variety of (mostly off-screen) acquaintances and shady partners.
  • Elaine Marie Benes (played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus)—Like Jerry, much of Elaine's life revolves around trying to arrange relationships with attractive individuals, although some of hers last longer than Jerry's. The most noticeable is the on-again, off-again relationship with David Puddy (played by Patrick Warburton). She has also held jobs for Pendant Publishing, The J. Peterman Catalog, and as a personal assistant to the wealthy Mr. Pitt. Elaine was a composite of two girlfriends of the creators, one being writer Carol Leifer, Seinfeld's nonfictional ex-girlfriend. In the show Elaine and Jerry dated, and "broke up", timeline-wise, just before the first episode, remaining friends over the course of the show. Elaine went to Tufts University (her "safety school) and is a writer, though she sometimes doesn't realize it. Elaine is most often a victim of circumstance, with plots surrounding her usually coming into conflict with her inadequate boyfriends or the arbitrary demands of her eccentric employers.
  • Newman (played by Wayne Knight) — Jerry and Kramer's vengeful and spasmodic neighbor, this character only appeared from 1992 onwards. Originally conceived to be "the son of the landlord [who] 'tells' on everyone", Newman evolved as the series progressed into a scheming mailman who was friends with Kramer but nursed a grudge against Jerry. During Season 2, only his voice was heard, for example when he annoys Kramer by claiming that he's planning to commit suicide. Originally, Larry David did some of the voice work for Newman before the character was fully developed. In subsequent reworkings of the early episodes his voice was re-dubbed with Wayne Knight's. Jerry has described Newman as "pure evil" and always greets him with "Hello...Newman" in a sarcastic, disgusted tone.

Classic Quotes

  • "Yada yada yada" —Various characters
  • "Maybe the dingo ate your baby! —Elaine
  • "But I don't wanna be a pirate!" —Jerry
  • "I've yada yada'd sex." —Elaine
  • "I am speechless, I have no speech!" —George
  • "I'm speechless. I am without speech." —Elaine
  • "Get out!" —Elaine
  • "No soup for you!" —Soup Nazi
  • "They're real, and they're spectacular." —Sidra
  • "Mulva?" —Jerry
  • "Who leaves a country packed with ponies to come to a non-pony country?" —Jerry
  • "Look to the cookie, Elaine. Look to the cookie." —Jerry
  • "They're (Marriage and family are) prisons. Man made prisons. You're doing time. You get up in the morning. She's there. You go to sleep at night. She's there. It's like you gotta ask permission to use the bathroom. Is it all right if I use the bathroom now?" —Kramer
  • "Not that there's anything wrong with that!" —Jerry
  • "The question is, are you still Master of Your Domain?" —Jerry
  • "I had a dream last night that a hamburger was eating ME!" —Jerry
  • "Sweet justice! Newman, you are wise." —Kramer (when Newman decides Kramer is the true bike owner)
  • "I'm at the corner of First and… First?! How can the same street intersect with itself? I must be at the nexus of the universe!" —Kramer
  • "These pretzels are making me thirsty!" —Kramer
  • "Serenity now!" —Various characters
  • "Like I don't know that I'm pathetic!" —George
  • "I got a lotta problems with you people!" —Frank Costanza
  • "Pez?" —Jerry
  • "I'm down!" —Kramer
  • "They should be sent to Australia" —Kramer
  • "Geishas; they cater to your every whim. They're shy at first, but they're quite skilled at conversation. They can discuss anything from world affairs to the fine art of fishing or… baking." —Kramer
  • "Pulp can move, baby!" —George
  • "They say ostrich has less fat, but you eat more of it." —George
  • "Hello, Newman." —Jerry
  • "Hoochie Mama!" —Frank and Kramer
  • "You want a piece of me? You got it!" —Frank
  • "MANDELBAUM! MANDELBAUM! MANDELBAUM!" —Izzy Mandelbaum and son
  • "We meet at last, Mr. Peanut." —George
  • "I saw Jane topless!" —Kramer
  • "You gotta see the baby!" —Elaine's friend
  • "You've out-Neiled him!" —Jerry
  • "That's you? I think the M&M should be you." —Jerry
  • "I take these glasses off, you can't tell the difference between me and a rock. You put these glasses on a rock, you know what pops into most people's heads? Costanza!" —George
  • "Drop your purse, honey." —Izzy Mandelbaum
  • "What in the name of… are these your sausages?" —Izzy Mandelbaum
  • "You know what you are? You're a ribbon bully." —Kramer
  • "I say we get him!" —Kramer
  • "My boys can swim!" —George
  • "A George divided against himself cannot stand!"—George
  • "Yeah I'm a cop, I'm a good cop, I'm a damn good cop!" —Kramer
  • "I dropped a grape." —Elaine
  • "The second button makes or breaks the shirt" —Jerry
  • "There are no BIG coincidences and small coincidences. There are simply coincidences." —Rava
  • "But he LOVES Rava! Worse, he loves Ray, and he doesn't think you're funny at all." —Elaine
  • "I'm out!" —Kramer
  • "It's go time!" —Izzy Mandelbaum
  • "That's kookie talk!" —Kramer
  • "You're an anti-Dentite!" —Kramer
  • "Who's gonna turn down a Junior Mint?" —Kramer
  • "Something beyond science. Something perhaps from above …" —Surgeon
  • "It's like my brain is facing my penis in a chess game." —Jerry

Memorable incidents

Moops

"Moops" is the answer to the Trivial Pursuit question "Who invaded Spain in the 8th century A.D.?" according to George Costanza in the episode The Bubbleboy. The Bubbleboy contested the answer and suggested it was the Moors (which is correct). George, being the stubborn individual he is, refused to accept the response as the card clearly said Moops (presumably a typo).

The incident has become a legendary moment for Seinfeld fans.


The Contest

One of the most controversional Seinfeld episodes, The Contest centres around a pact of self-denial between Jerry, George, Kramer and Elaine. Kramer's early exit from the bet has become a classic moment in Seinfeld history, with his simple "I'm out!" as he slams his cash on the bench. This episode also features Jane Leeves (of Frasier fame) as "The Virgin", Jerry's concurrent girlfriend.

Other classic moments include Jerry's rant about the woman across the street who struts naked about her apartment (and the effect it is having on his ability to remain "Master of His Domain"), Elaine's fascination with John F. Kennedy Junior, and the "ease" at which the characters can sleep at night, depending on their current standing in the contest.

Music

Music featured in the show

  • Theme from The Greatest American Hero ([3] (http://www.tvtome.com/tvtome/servlet/ShowMainServlet/showid-586/)) - In "The Susie" (Season 8, #149) ([4] (http://www.seinfeldscripts.com/TheSuzie.htm))
  • "Morning Train (9 to 5)" - Sheena Easton - In "The Bizarro Jerry" (Season 8, #137) and "The Butter Shave" (Season 9, #157)
  • "Slow Ride" - Foghat - In "The Slicer" (Season 9, #162). Elaine tunes into her bedside radio and offers up a few characteristic dance moves.
  • "Downtown" - Petula Clark - in "The Bottle Deposit (1)" (Season 7, #131). George looks for clues about his work assignment when Wilhelm mentions the song to him.
  • "Wouldn't It Be Nice" - The Beach Boys - In "The Hamptons" (Season 5, #85).
  • "Desperado" - The Eagles - In "The Checks" (Season 8, #141)
  • "Good Riddance (Time of your Life)" - Green Day - From the album "Nimrod"- In The Clip Show, Part 2 (Season 9, #21).

References

  • Seinfeld, Jerry. Sein Language. Bantam. 1993. ISBN 0553096060.
  • Fretts, Bruce. The Entertainment Weekly Seinfeld Companion. New York: Warner Books. 1993. ISBN 0446670367.
  • William Irwin (Ed.). Seinfeld and Philosophy: A Book about Everything and Nothing. Peru, Illinois: Open Court Publishing Company. 1999. ISBN 0812694090.
  • Greg Gattuso. The Seinfeld Universe: The Entire Domain. New York: Citadel Press. 1996. ISBN 0806520019.

DVDs

Sources

  • Gantz, Katherine. "Not That There's Anything Wrong with That": Reading the Queer in Seinfeld. In Calvin Thomas (Ed.). Straight with a Twist: Queer Theory and the Subject of Heterosexuality. Champaign. Illinois: University of Illinois Press. ISBN 0252068130.
  • Rosenthal, Phil (November 18, 2004). Gold, Jerry! Gold! (http://www.suntimes.com/output/rosenthal/cst-ftr-phil18.html) Chicago Sun Times.

See also

External links

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Lists

Frequently Asked Questions

Episodes

Scripts

es:Seinfeld fr:Seinfeld nl:Seinfeld sv:Seinfeld he:סיינפלד

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