Seinfeld

Seinfeld was a US television sitcom, considered to be the most popular and influential of the 1990s. It stars Jerry Seinfeld playing a character named after and based largely on himself, and is set in an apartment block in Manhattan, New York. It featured an eclectic cast of characters, mainly Jerry's friends and acquaintances - unlike many of the sitcoms of the 1980s that based themselves around family units with quotas of cute but smart-alec children.

The show was famously described as "the show about nothing," and the comment is largely accurate, 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. However, themes of illogical social graces and customs, neurotic and obsessive behavior and the mysterious workings of relationshipss run in numerous episodes. It follows the times. The show is also unique in reflecting the activities of real people, rather than the idealized escapist characters often seen on television.

As originally conceived, the show features clips, at the beginning and end of the show, of Seinfeld delivering a standup routine that ties in to the events depicted in the episode. It is probably worth mentioning that in this sitcom the distinction between Jerry Seinfeld and the character who is portayed by Jerry Seinfeld in the eponymous sitcom is therefore blurred; the character transcends his role. In later seasons, these standup clips were given less emphasis.

Many of Seinfeld's distinctive traits can be found in subsequent popular sitcoms, most notably Friends.

After nine years on the air, the series finale of Seinfeld aired on NBC on May 14, 1998. It received a huge audience, estimated at 40 million viewers. Jerry Seinfeld holds a record for the 'most money refused' according to the Guinness Book of World Records.

Table of contents
1 Characters
2 Secondary Characters
3 Seinfeld Sayings
4 References

Characters

  • Jerry Seinfeld (played by Jerry Seinfeld) - a reasonably successful 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 breaking the relationship. Another favourite obsession of Jerry's was that of Superman and Lois Lane.
  • George Costanza (played by Jason Alexander) - a short, balding, neurotic individual domineered by his parents, especially his father. He held jobs as a real estate agent, as assistant to the traveling secretary for the New York Yankees, and at Kruger Industrial Smoothing. The character of George was largely based on the show's co-creator Larry David.
  • Cosmo Kramer (played by Michael Richards) - tall, wild-haired, Kramer is the Seinfeld character with the loosest grip on reality, decorum, or concepts of property. (Based on Larry David's sometime neighbour, Kenny Kramer)
  • Elaine Benes (played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus) - like Seinfeld, much of Elaine's life revolves around trying to arrange relationships with attractive individuals, although some of hers last rather longer than Jerry's. She's held jobs for Pendant Publishing, The J. Peterman Catalog, and as a personal assistant to Mr. Pitt. Elaine was a composite of two girlfriends of the creators.

In various plotlines, several of these main characters carried pseudonyms in order to get them out of various sticky situations
  • George Costanza: Art Vandelay; an alias often used by George -- in one instance George tells the unemployment office he is close to getting a job at Vandelay Industries.
  • Cosmo Kramer: H. E. Pennypacker; in one instance Kramer poses as Pennypacker, an interested buyer in an apartment in order to use the apartment's bathroom. Another pseudonym used by Kramer was Dr. Peter von Nostrand; in one instance he tried to get Elaine's chart to erase something bad that another doctor had written on it.
  • Jerry Seinfeld: Kel Varnson; the arch-rival of Pennypacker and a wealthy developer/industrialist. Notably, both of them plus Vandelay appear in the episode "The Puerto Rico Day Parade" (where also JS' Saab is abused...)
  • Elaine Benes: Susie; after a co-worker mistakenly calls her Susie. Susie was created as a different person in theory killed off when the situation with her co-worker became too complicated

Secondary Characters

  • Frank Costanza (played by Jerry Stiller) and Estelle Costanza (played by Estelle Harris) - doting parents of George, who live in Queens
  • Newman (played by Wayne Knight) - portly, annoying U.S. postal carrier neighbor of Jerry and Kramer's
  • Mr. Steinbrenner (voice by Larry David) - George Costanza's boss while working for the Yankees; his face is never shown

Seinfeld Sayings

A few notable expressions from Seinfeld became popular phrases in everyday speech (Seinfeldisms). Among the most famous:
  • yada yada yada - used largely like "et cetera, et cetera", although in the original Seinfeld episode it was used to gloss over important details
  • not that there's anything wrong with that - used to indicate that while one was not homosexual, one did not particularly disapprove of it
  • master of my domain - used to describe one's fortitude in refraining from masturbation.
  • spongeworthy - that a potential sexual partner is particularly attractive; in the original episodes, being "spongeworthy" meant Elaine was willing to use one of her limited supply of (no longer produced) contraceptive sponges with this person.
  • man hands - phrase to describe a woman's hands when they are 'less than feminine.'
  • mimbo - a male bimbo
  • low talker - a person who speaks very softly. This can have very adverse effects especially when Jerry was 'low talked' into wearing a puffy shirt on The Today Show.
  • high talker - a person who speaks in an abnormal high pitch, usually to describe a male who sounds like a female.
  • close talker - a person who doesn't understand the concept of personal space during conversation.
  • the jimmy leg - a condition that people have when their leg undergoes spasms while sleeping causing his/her significant other to lose sleep. This condition may cause a couple to sleep in different beds; Frank and Estelle Costanza resorted to sleeping in twin beds as a result of her jimmy arm.
  • that'll be ... five ... ten ... minutes - to put off those who are in waiting, such as for a free table in a restaurant, for what overtly appears a moderate duration, but with the effect or even the intention not to eventually end their wait at all.
  • to get upset self-reflectively - as in "George is getting upset!", exclaimed by George Louis Costanza himself. Self-reflective speech was initially a defining attribute of Jimmy.
  • to just ... write it off!! - to use a phrase without instruction.
  • Nn...nNewman! - as to identify a single individual being responsible for something, or all, that's bad.
  • Vv...vVargas! - as to identify a single individual being responsible for something, or all, that's good.
  • to name name(s) - as expression of the ultimate and irredeemable betrayal of an (until then shared) idea, or good; in referring to the betrayer.
  • to refer to Jerry Seinfeld as "Seinfield (sic.)", or "Miste (sic.) ... Seinfield" - as to demonstrate familiarity with the particlar instances in which Jerry Seinfeld was so addressed; and hence familiarity with The Seinfeld Chronicles as a whole; and, not least, to express appreciation for all co-authors, and actors.
  • no soup for you - an exclamation used in the event where someone changes his or her mind about giving something to someone else. The word "soup" may be replaced with the object at hand; the reference to the show can still be very obvious if the speaker uses the correct tone of voice.
  • soup nazi - a person who would often need to say: "No soup for you!"
  • shrinkage - the shrinking of a man's (specifically George Costanza) penis in cold water. "Like a frightened turtle," as Jerry says.
  • Manssiere or bro - names proposed by Kramer and Frank Costanza for support garments for male breasts
  • Festivus - a December holiday created by Frank Costanza to counteract the commercialism of those other December holidays
  • Shmoopie - nauseatingly sweet term of affection used by couples for each other, as in "I love you, Shmoopie!" Jerry uses it with a girlfriend, to George and Elaine's dismay.
  • two-face - describes a girl who looks good in one lighting condition, and ugly in another. Also used: "hotsy totsy, hotsy notsy."

References

  • Jerry Seinfeld; Sein Language; Bantam; ISBN 0553096060 (hardcover, 1993)
  • Bruce Fretts (Author); Entertainment Weekly Seinfeld Companion; Warner Books; ISBN 0446670367 (paperback, 1993)
  • William Irwin (Editor); Seinfeld and Philosophy: A Book about Everything and Nothing; Open Court Publishing Company; ISBN 0812694090 (paperback, 1999)
  • Ted L. Nancy (Author); Letters from a Nut; Avon; ISBN 0380973545 (1st edition, hardcover, 1999)
  • Ted L. Nancy, Jerry Seinfeld (Introduction); Extra Nutty!: Even More Letters from a Nut; St. Martin's Press; ISBN 0312261551 (hardcover, 2000)
  • Jerry Seinfeld (Author); Halloween (Collector's Edition with CD); Little Brown & Co (Juv Trd); ISBN 0316134546 (hardcover; book and CD edition, 2002)

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