TV Guide named it the greatest television program of all time. The Writers Guild of America named it the second best written series of all time (after The Sopranos). It was awarded an Emmy, a Golden Globe Award and a Screen Actors Guild Award, and it’s reportedly the second most lucrative show in television history. “Seinfeld”, the rules-changing ‘show about nothing’, just turned 25, and it’s a good enough excuse to grab some Junior Mints, Jujyfruits, Twinkies and PEZ dispensers, sit back, and sing an ode to one of TV’s most treasured – and most influential – shows ever.
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“Seinfeld” premiered on July 5th, 1989. In an era where a sitcom’s job was to offer its audience comfort (and maybe teach it some moral lessons) through wholesome, good-natured characters; or alternatively, to offer a ridiculing look at utterly-dysfunctional families (such as the cartoonishly dim-witted Bundys of “Married with Children”), “Seinfeld” was a different kettle of fish. Its characters were four rather antisocial, yet lovable individuals, who focused on the annoyance of life, and talked about nothing of importance. Its unorthodox premise suggested that sitcoms didn’t need to be about important issues, or even traditional storytelling to be great. Instead, they could just revolve around the minutiae of everyday life.
“We were in a grocery store and talking about the different products on the shelves. And we were making each other laugh.”, co-creator Larry David recently told The Rolling Stone when asked about his conversation with Jerry Seinfeld, that led to the idea for the show. “Then we both realized that this is the kind of dialogue we never really heard on television, or even movies, for that matter. So that was sort of the basis — that was just the way we communicated and the things that we talked about.”
Over the course of 9 years, the show went on to run for 180 episodes – that most fans can recite by heart – and became the top-rated hit on American TV, with 78 million watching its final episode. Jerry Seinfeld has reportedly turned down a $110 million offer from NBC for a 10th season, since he was inspired by The Beatles, who broke up after nine years together.
The show’s influence on the sitcom genre is plainly-evident, and far-reaching. Jerry Seinfeld’s observational humor affected many other shows of the era (and long after the series had ended). The “single people living in the big city” premise became the centerpiece of seemingly every other sitcom. The show’s multi-storylines structure blew up the classic 2-storylines-per-episode routine, that dominated the genre.
But the show’s greatest appeal, is just how incredibly hilarious, and still fresh it is, to this day.
On Saturday, to commemorate the show’s quarter-century anniversary, the Brooklyn Cyclones transformed MCU Park in Coney Island into a one-night shrine to the beloved New York City-set show. Players took batting practice in puffy pirate shirts. A fan reeled in a slice of marble rye bread with a fishing rod from the suite level. George Costanza announced the third inning. There was a cereal eating contest, and a lobster bisque stand, courtesy of the Soup Nazi. The first 3, 000 attendees at the temporarily renamed Vandelay Industries Park also received a Keith Hernandez “Magic Loogie” bobblehead.
We join in the celebrations with a humble recap of five of the most hilarious, groundbreaking and memorable episodes throughout the show’s run. Be sure to give us your favorites in the comments below, as there are plenty more to choose from!
5 – “The Chinese Restaurant” (May 23, 1991)
Airing in Seinfeld’s second season, this episode is a prime example of why the series came to be known as “a show about nothing”. The plot centers around Jerry, Elaine and George as they wait for a table at a Chinese restaurant. And… that’s it. That’s the whole episode. NBC reportedly nearly refused to air the episode and, after caving in, asked the pair to never repeat the concept again. This request led the unperturbed, cheeky David to write “The Parking Garage” – the show’s second, and equally-masterful bottle-episode – which aired as early as in the show’s next season.
4 – “The Yada Yada” (April 24, 1997)
“Seinfeld” had such an extensive influence on popular culture that an abundance of the show’s lines and catch-phrases have found their way into the popular lexicon. While the show didn’t technically coin the phrase “Yada, yada, yada”, it is safe to assume that so many of us think of “Seinfeld” while using it. This episode from the eighth season also featured Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston as Tim Whatley, a dentist whom Jerry suspects has converted to Judaism so he can tell Jewish jokes without fear of offending anyone. Jerry’s annoyance by the prospect and his resentment towards the dentist earn him the dubious title of an “anti-dentite” by his peers. George’s yada-yada-ing girlfriend, meanwhile, turns out to be a criminal, and Kramer and his friend Mickey begin dating two women, but are unable to decide who is dating whom.
3 – “The Merv Griffin Show” (Nov. 6, 1997)
One of the series’ most ludicrous episodes was also one of its best. Kramer finds the set of “The Merv Griffin Show” in a Dumpster and decides to re-create it in his apartment. He assumes the role of the show’s host, conducting interviews whenever somebody enters his apartment — complete with commercial breaks. Animal expert Jim Fowler also guests as himself, asking: “Where are the cameras?”. Meanwhile, Jerry hatches a plan to drug his girlfriend so he can play with her classic toy collection and George is forced to nurse a squirrel he hit with his car. Everything comes to a crescendo when Kramer brings Jerry’s girlfriend out from backstage to confront him for drugging her, and George appears with the squirrel in tow, with Fowler’s hawk swooping in for the kill.
2 – “The Contest” (Nov. 18, 1992)
Pushing the boundaries of what was an acceptable subject matter of prime-time network television, this iconic, ingenious episode offers an unparalleled sexual innuendo – without ever addressing it directly. Spurred by a story George tells about” getting caught” by his mother while he was “alone, reading a Glamour magazine”, Jerry, Elaine, Kramer and George place a bet to see who can go the longest without “doing that” — thereby earning the title of “master of his/her domain”. All four struggle with their own temptations throughout the episode, except for Kramer, who is forced to bow out within minutes after seeing a naked woman in the apartment across from Jerry’s.
1 – “The Soup Nazi” (Nov. 2, 1995)
With arguably two of the most well-known and most-quoted catch-phrases in the entire show’s run (aka the Soup Nazi’s “no soup for you”, and Jerry & his girlfriend’s “you’re schmoopy“), this episode, about an extremely temperamental soup shop owner that obsesses over his customers’ ordering procedures, but whose soup is so good that people line up around the block for it anyway, not only made for a series-defining moment, but also brought about one of the most famous minor characters in TV history – one that earned guest star Larry Thomas an Emmy nomination for his iron-fisted performance. In the episode, George, who fails to follow the fearsome Soup Nazi’s rules gets kicked out when he dares asking for bread, while Elaine manages to get herself banned from the shop for a year. Jerry, in the meantime, drives everyone crazy by being excessively-affectionate towards his new girlfriend. Later, though, given the choice between his girlfriend or the soup, Jerry chooses the soup. This episode is also a standout for Elaine, who, after getting her armoire stolen by a pair of homosexual robbers, exposes the Soup Nazi’s secret recipes and thus single-handedly ends his tyrannical – yet delicious – regime.
Jerry Seinfeld was born in the borough of Brooklyn in New York City. His father, Kálmán Seinfeld, was a sign maker of Hungarian Jewish descent, and his mother, Betty, is of Syrian Jewish descent. At the age of 16, Seinfeld spent a short period of time volunteering in Kibbutz Sa’ar in Israel.
In 1976, after graduating from Queens College, Seinfeld tried out at an open-mic night at New York City’s Catch a Rising Star, which led to an appearance in a Rodney Dangerfield HBO special. In 1979, he had a small recurring role on the sitcom “Benson”.
In May 1981, Seinfeld made a highly successful appearance on “The Tonight Show” Starring Johnny Carson, impressing Carson and the audience and leading to regular appearances on that show and others, including “Late Night” with David Letterman.
Seinfeld created “The Seinfeld Chronicles” with Larry David in 1988 for NBC. The show was later renamed “Seinfeld” to avoid confusion with the short-lived teen sitcom “The Marshall Chronicles”. By its fourth season, it had become the most popular and successful sitcom on American television. The final episode aired in 1998, and the show has been a popular syndicated re-run.
In his first major foray back into the media since the finale of “Seinfeld”, he co-wrote and co-produced the 2007 film “Bee Movie”, also voicing the lead role of Barry B. Benson. In February 2010, Seinfeld premiered a reality TV series called “The Marriage Ref” on NBC. He went on to direct Colin Quinn in the Broadway show “Long Story Short” at the Helen Hayes Theater in New York, which ran until January 8, 2011, and more recently, he has been the host of the web series “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee”, which he also created.