1 9 9 0 – 1 9 9 8 (USA)
172 x 30 minute episodes
Jerry (Jerry Seinfeld) – a nerdy young stand-up comic – lived in Apartment 5A, 129 West 81st Street, New York City, across the hall from the almost-always unemployed eccentric Kramer (Michael Richards), who continually had schemes afloat.
Jerry’s ex-girlfriend and platonic pal Elaine Benes (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) lived at Apartment 2G, 16 West 75th Street, while his best friend, luckless worrywart George Costanza (Jason Alexander), lived with his parents at 1344 Queens Boulevard in the Flushing section of Queens.
Although most of the stories were about life’s trivia – hanging out at Monk’s diner, waiting in line, forgetting where your car is parked, throwing out someone’s prized TV Guide – there were occasional longer story arcs, such as George and Jerry’s efforts to sell NBC a TV series based on “nothing” (Seinfeld itself was often described as a “show about nothing”).
Other recurring story arcs included George’s job with the New York Yankees – in which Yankees owner George Steinbrenner was frequently heard but not seen – and his engagement to Susan (Heidi Swedberg), which ended, to his all-too-obvious relief, when she died after licking out-of-date cheap envelopes for their wedding invitations.
Elaine originally worked as an editor at a publishing house and later went to work as a copywriter for globetrotting catalogue magnate J. Peterman (John O’Hurley).
Numerous recurring characters were seen, including Jerry’s parents, Helen (Liz Sheridan) and Morty (initially Phil Bruns and then Barney Martin); George’s folks, Estelle (Estelle Harris) and Frank (Jerry Stiller) who were as neurotic as he was) and Newman (Wayne Knight), the malevolent postal worker.
Other characters who inhabited the Seinfeld universe included Elaine’s bosses, Mr Lippman (Richard Fancy) and later Mr Pitt (Ian Abercrombie); her hapless boyfriend, Puddy (Patrick Warburton); her comical stalker, Crazy Joe (Peter Crombie); George’s boss at the Yankees, Wilhelm (Richard Herd); Jerry’s ill-humoured Uncle Leo (Len Lesser); his pragmatic dentist, Tim (Bryan Cranston); rival comedian Kenny (Steve Hytner); Kramer’s pompous attorney Jackie Chiles (Phil Morris); his short friend, Mickey Abbott (Danny Woodburn); and the obsessed President of NBC, Russell (Bob Balaban), to whom Jerry and George pitched their pilot.
Memorable stories included ‘The Pez Dispenser’; Elaine showing a bit too much of her breast on a Christmas card; Jerry and his date (Susan Walters) whose name he could never remember (“it rhymes with a female body part”); Jerry wearing a silly puffy pirate shirt on the Today Show; the gang’s experiences at a local soup restaurant run by the tyrannical “Soup Nazi”; Kramer trying to smuggle in some “Cubans” (cigars) and instead getting a group of real Cubans – who turned out to actually be Dominicans; and the “backwards episode” in which the scenes were shown in reverse order – first the final scene (a wedding in India), then the scenes that led up to it, then the scenes that led up to that, and so on all the way back to thirteen years before the ceremony took place.
The “show about nothing”, gradually grew into an enormous hit on NBC and was the archetypal friends-hanging-out series of the 1990s.
In 1998, after eight years on the air, Jerry Seinfeld decided to call it quits, much to the chagrin of millions of fans around the world. The script for the final episode was the subject of much hype, conjecture and secrecy, with various fake scripts floating around on the Internet.
In the end, the 14 May finale – one of the most-watched episodes in TV history – was largely judged to be a let-down.
Phil Bruns (1)
Barney Martin (2)
Susan Biddle Ross
‘Crazy Joe’ Davola
Dr Tim Whatley