Seinfeld: the sitcom that defined the 90s


Seinfeld, the ’90s sitcom that anchored indelible expressions such as “These pretzels make me thirsty!” And drew our attention to social puzzles such as, “Is soup a meal?” Can you double a fries? Can you redo a gift? “ and educated society about the shrinkage, invented a Festivus for the rest of us, and… yada, yada, yada, is now streaming on Netflix.

The show was originally presented to NBC by Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld as a Day in the Life of the titular comedian. He would see his friends, George Costanza (Jason Alexander) and Elaine Benes (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), and his neighbor, Kramer (Michael Richards), while also offering material for his act.

Few improper names are as blatant as the fact that Seinfeld was a show on “nothing”. Quite the contrary. At the end of its 10 years of existence, Seinfeld had satirized all possible social conventions; it was a show on all. I often say that almost every social situation we find ourselves in has a Seinfeld reference.

The sitcom covered everything from race and religion to the plots of JFK, OJ Simpson, abortion and homosexuality (“It’s not that there is something wrong with that!” ). Nothing was too risky or saucy for writing duo Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld. And everything they did was in good taste.

While by Seinfeld fashion and VCRs and answering machines remain vestiges of the 90s, the stories of the show remain timeless. In its seventh season, it tackled the AIDS epidemic. In a clip that has been shared endlessly to deride the absurdity of social media cancellation campaigns, a group of street toughs yells at Kramer, exclaiming, “What do you mean you won’t wear the ribbon?” ? “

As our culture has shed its taboos, it has also lost its taste for subtlety. Most jokes today in movies and television are sharpened on the rough edge of plastic spoons – for audiences writers assume even duller. Seinfeld was one of the few shows that respected its audience enough to make us think about what was being conveyed.

In an episode called “The Contest”, George Costanza’s mother catches him having fun. He challenges the group to see how long they can go without doing the act. It’s a testament to Larry David’s writing genius that every uncomfortable facet of the situation is communicated without any character ever mentioning. the act name.

Most sitcoms, like Friends, rely on writers to carefully package setups and punchlines for their characters to shoot each other. In Seinfeld, a lot of the humor is derived from the situations the characters find themselves in and their relationship to us.

Throughout its seasons, Seinfeld tackling the frustration of trying to book a rental car, getting a table at a popular Chinese restaurant, getting ripped off at a car dealership, having your shirt damaged by the dry cleaner, being stuck in an uncomfortable party, yada, yada, yada – you got the idea.

Which also put Seinfeld outside of the other sitcoms, it was the way the stories and jokes were intertwined. Just like that of Larry David Calm your enthusiasm, in Seinfeld, the episodes are composed of chains of coincidences which occur in a comic way at different times.

And then there is the casting. One of the major underrated brands of Seinfeld was the unsurpassed genius of Michael Richards in physical comedy. In one scene, when refused to try to pay for calzones with change, Kramer walks out of the script, pretends to speak Italian, and stomped out on the counter.

In another unscripted scene, trying to balance a board game, Kramer hilariously uses his foot to remove newspapers from Seinfeld’s table.

And then there is the story of the bus. You can see Seinfeld and Jason Alexander fighting to hold back their laughter as Kramer recounts his escapades, trying to get a cut toe to the hospital and fending off a bus pirate.

While shows such as Friends tried to make their characters seem relatable, which is why her trio of female roles were all different stereotypes of women, Seinfeld instead of created situations that were relatable. Its characters were deeply flawed and selfish, and the show made no effort to hide them. “Just remember,” George told Seinfeld, “that’s not a lie if you believe it.”

And despite reprimands from critics that Seinfeld was too male-centric, her female lead, Elaine Benes, is one of the strongest characters ever to appear on television. “I’m a little scared of her,” George once said of Elaine. Throughout all of her relationships on the show, she’s always the one wearing the pants and in charge. “She’s too bossy,” complained one of her exes. Unrelated to any trope, Elaine confidently danced with no rhythm, worked her way up the corporate ladder, and always stood up for herself.

The magic formula behind Seinfeld was the marriage of Larry David’s writing and Jerry Seinfeld’s precise observational comedy. Together they made The Beatles sitcoms, mocking the myriad of absurdities that permeate our daily lives.

Harry Khachatrian (@ Harry1t6 ) is a computer engineer in Toronto. He is also a writer and editor, specializing in music, culture and technology.

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