It’s been almost twenty years since the final episode of Seinfeld aired, and the show still stands as one of the most memorable television shows of all time.
The charm of Seinfeld is that it never takes itself too seriously. While every sitcom is, by nature, not serious, almost all of them eventually have serious consequences or deal with serious issues. In the case of Seinfeld, however, this never happens, and the result of this is a show that is nothing but funny.
With a rather rocky first two seasons, one would be surprised with how great Seinfeld would be from its third season on, especially when it even becomes a parody of itself in the fourth. Seinfeld knows what it is, and it even makes fun of it, with Jason Alexander’s George Costanza pitching to NBC a show called ‘Jerry’, which is about nothing. A friend of mine told me to stick around beyond the first couple of seasons, and that I’d see how special the show really is later on, and he certainly was not wrong.
In its commitment to staying light, Seinfeld also has minimal character growth for all four of its main characters, and oddly, this is a compliment. George, for example, may move up the ladder career-wise (albeit very slowly) throughout all nine seasons, but he is still as pathetic as ever. Alexander gets better and better in his role as the show goes along, and I’m not just saying this. Comparing first episode George to last episode George, you can see that there’s an overall better performance from Alexander as the years go by.
Similarly, Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ Elaine Benes is all over the place professionally throughout the series, but as a character, she is always the same. Unlike the other characters, there isn’t a distinct characteristic to Elaine, and what this allows for is a lot of versatility in all her stories. There is no denying that Louis-Dreyfus is capable of everything Elaine asks of her.
The titular character of the show isn’t necessarily its singular main. Jerry Seinfeld, playing Jerry Seinfeld, probably has the easiest job of the lot, because not only is he playing himself, he’s playing a comedian too. However, even so, Jerry is a delight on screen because he is the audience character. He’s sarcastic and genuinely funny. He is perhaps the most real of all the characters, but there’s still a certain flair to him that makes you love him.
Seinfeld’s stand-out character, obviously, is Michael Richards’ Cosmo Kramer. Richards in real life is irrelevant and I will not get into that, but Kramer himself is such a delight. There is not a single moment with Kramer that isn’t memorable, and every second of Richards’ performance is spectacular. Kramer is quirky, unstable, and there’s always a certain welcome mystery to him.
Cosmo Kramer may indeed be one of the best characters TV has ever seen.
My one critique of Seinfeld is that its main set, Jerry’s apartment, can have a little bit more life to it. I’m not implying it has to be as colourful as Monica’s purple apartment from Friends, but, it could use just a little bit more colour. There’s a prominent grey to the set, which in fairness is just a regular apartment, but for something we see so often, it could use a little bit more. But that’s just a minor critique, and that’s just me.
Seinfeld’s laid back nature also enables it to be able to explore virtually any topic in its episodes, and it most certainly does. Seinfeld often handles controversial topics like mental health and death very lightly, and if this isn’t done just right, it could spark a lot of backlash. Thankfully, Seinfeld somehow manages to deliver just the right amounts of everything, and you end up laughing at whatever it gives you.
Seinfeld’s greatest strength, despite all I’ve said, is its memorability. There are a lot of episodes on most sitcoms that are fine but forgettable, but with Seinfeld, nearly all of them are worth remembering, from the episode where Kramer turns his apartment into the set of The Merv Griffin Show, to the episode where Elaine befriends a group of the opposites of Jerry, George and Kramer, to even the brilliant bottle episodes such as “The Chinese Restaurant” and “The Parking Garage”.
Seinfeld is legendary, and it always will be. It truly embraces the idea of being a show about nothing, and in doing so, ends up being a show with everything anyone would want. The penultimate episode, The Clip Show, admittedly does get a tear rolling down in its blooper reel, and Seinfeld deserves that tear.
Even twenty years on, Seinfeld continues to be watched and re-watched. And it likely will be twenty years from now, too. Giddy-up!