Created in 1990 by stand up comedian jerry seinfeld and his best friend larry david,this show had an inauspicious beginning.
Originally commisioned for only 4 episodes,yes 4! ,the show began life as The Seinfeld Chronicles.It centres around the everyday life of a stand up comic called Jerry Seinfeld and his best friend George Costanza.
Now this doesnt sound special at all yet this show would grow from such humble beginnings to become the biggest sitcom in US tv history. it broke every rule that sitcoms followed and regularly featured taboo subjects such as masturbation,naziism,sexismhomophobia and of course getting `it`out on the first date.
The first episode is barely even a glimpse of what was to come as it struggled to break the confines of the regular sitcom ouvre.
However,the introduction of a female counterpart Elaine Benes in the 2nd episode showed this show had balls.She was a force of nature from the start.An equal to the men in every sense.
She may have been Jerrys ex but this was never going to be a will they/wont they show.
Elaine was as big a loser,as selfish and hell,as funny as the guys.The sparring between Elaine and Jerry was like tracy and hepburn at their peak.Here was a couple who should never have been together in the first place and once that was established,thoughts of them getting together disappeared and opened up the doors for a variety of stories and situations that other shows could only dream of.
The template for the show was always `No hugging,no learning` and it never deviated from its goal. Yes,people could learn from Seinfeld,but it wasnt learning in a cozy,cosby show,golden girls way. Seinfeld showed the truth of the human condition,that man is inherently selfish but it managed to do it in such a way that you still rooted for the characters because deep down,you knew you were that guy.
No character summed this up quite as well as George. Blatantly and admittedly based on Larry David himself,George is a monster of a man. A seemingly born loser who wanted nothing more than an easy life,then raged against the notion that he had to work to help him on his way.Yet the strength of the writing made George strangely likeable,supremely funny and instantly relatable.Who amongst us hasnt lied and schemed to get what we want,then instantly regretted it and lied and schemed to get out of it? That is the genius of george,his motto being...`its not a lie if you believe it`.
It is well known that Larry David used people and situations from his own life for stories and no person had a bigger role than his next door neighbour Kenny Kramer.
David brought in his old friend Michael Richards for the role. A tall,gangly,dishevelled hulk of a man,Richards was a comedy actor of no mean talent.but it was his gift for physical comedy that elevated Kramer to the giddy heights he reached. Just by opening a door,he could leave you in stitches.
Initially, he struggled to get to grips with the character,playing him as a homage to christopher lloyds tour de force in Taxi yet he quickly saw the limitations he was confining himself in and began to unleash the full range of skills at his disposal.
Kramer,despite being a total oddity,was also in effect,the closest thing the show had to a heart. he may have been a scrounger and a drifter but he was always there to help out the others in their ludicrous schemes.
This leads us to the leader of this motley crew,Jerry Seinfeld himself,because thats who he actually played,himself.
Jerry in effect had the most difficult role.He was the star of the whole show and it lived or died by his performance.Its huge credit to him that he wasnt swept aside by the sheer magnitude of the task,not only starring but also co writing and producing the show,as well as competing with the huge performances of his more accomplished co stars.
The true genius of the show was that while it may have been called Seinfeld,it was never a one man show.Jerry and Larry both knew that to succeed,the 4 leads all had to be equal and above all,they had to be real. We all know a George or a Kramer,we all have struggled to get out of the rut we felt like Elaine and we all feel like the leaders in our own little sitcom called life.
Seinfeld wasnt about learning,it was about living life as we see it.
It wasnt about hugging because how often do you do that in your real life?
It was as it said on the label `The show about nothing`. Life is full of nothings but thats what makes it fun.Its what you do with all those nothings that make up your day,your week,your life.
Seinfeld knew that and ran with it,taking the simple sitcom to heights it never knew it could reach. A truly groundbreaking,game changing, juggernaut of a show. Its influence is seen in every successful sitcom which came after. Seinfeld was a once in a lifetime show...thank god it was my lifetime.