Seinfeld is a show that is today part of television history. The sitcom has been consistently ranked among the best in history (by Entertainment Weekly, Rolling Stone, TV Guide, and others), but also among the most influential sitcoms in the history of television. Recently, the show has become available on Netflix and that is why we have decided to tell you whether Seinfeld is really that good and why it is so popular.
Seinfeld is undoubtedly one of the best sitcoms ever, and one of the most important television series in history. Due to its specific humor, great characters, and real-life situations that it depicted, the show is still enormously popular even today.
In this article, we are going to elaborate on the show’s popularity. You’re going to find out whether Seinfeld is the best sitcom ever, what the show is known for, and whether it is still that good, even after more than 30 years since its debut.
Why is Seinfeld so popular?
Seinfeld is one of those shows that has certainly withstood the test of time. The show was a major hit when it debuted and is one of the rare shows whose popularity didn’t really falter during the course of its run. People liked the show for different reasons – the humor, the characters, the situations – but what really made Seinfeld stand out was its authenticity.
Okay, sure, the situations presented in the show have been stylized a bit, but they were mostly based on real-life situations and that made the show really authentic. Another thing that made it so special was the fact that it was quite modern, even postmodern in many aspects, which is what the audiences needed in the post-Cold War era.
Nod Miller, of the University of East London, summarized Seinfeld‘s importance like this:
Seinfeld is suffused with postmodern themes. To begin with, the boundary between reality and fiction is frequently blurred: this is illustrated in the central device of having Jerry Seinfeld play the character Jerry Seinfeld. In the show’s fourth season, several episodes revolved around the narrative of Jerry and George (whose character is co-creator Larry David’s alter ego) pitching ‘a show about nothing’ based on the everyday life of a stand-up comedian to NBC. The reaction of the fictional NBC executives, by all accounts, mirrored the initial responses of those who eventually commissioned Seinfeld. The fourth season ends with ‘The Pilot’, an episode focusing on the casting, taping and screening of the show-within-the-show, Jerry. This episode also illustrates neatly the self-referential quality which is one of Seinfeld’s hallmarks. The series finale was so replete with references to earlier shows as to render it largely incomprehensible to those not already well-versed in the personae and preoccupations of the Seinfeld universe.– Nod Miller, 2012
This short statement brilliantly summarized the true value of Seinfeld and why it was such a revolutionary show to begin with and why it remains such a beloved show even today.
Is Seinfeld good even after more than 30 years?
Humor is a very specific thing, as you might know very well and to be honest, Seinfeld, despite its popularity, was never popular with everyone. There are just some people that don’t like this kind of humor and despite its inherent quality, not everyone was amazed.
You can compare it to the humor produced by Monty Python. The Pythons are undoubtedly masters of the genre and their humor is extraordinary, but not everyone is a fan of their surreal, intellectual humor and a lot of people don’t really understand it.
And while Seinfeld‘s humor isn’t surreal like the one produced by the Brits, it is quite postmodern and metatextual, which is also not for everyone’s taste. Seinfeld was not only right on time with its humor, it was also ahead of its time so in that context, it certainly does have a lasting effect. But is it that good?
Well, for those who have liked Seinfeld, its humor will still be entertaining even after more than three decades since its premiere. Seinfeld has a timeless quality to its humor and the situations depicted in the series, as well as Jerry’s performances, have that real-life feel that most shows don’t have. They can be easily translated into any time and place and still work more than well, actually.
As for those new viewers, Seinfeld might be a tad difficult to fully comprehend, but ever since The Office, modern viewers have been acquainted with a postmodern take on humor so they might find something in the show that will entertain them, which is why we think that even for new viewers, Seinfeld has something to offer.
As for those who’ve disliked the show initially, well… it’s never a bad thing to give the show another go. More than three decades have passed and you’ve probably matured and have had the pleasure of experiencing Seinfeld-like situations in your real life, which is why you might appreciate the show more than before.
This is why we do think that Seinfeld is still worth it, even after more than 30 years since its premiere.
Is Seinfeld the best sitcom ever?
As it was once described, Seinfeld is a show about nothing… and everything. And it is exactly that which makes the show so special. Seinfeld is about life in a postmodern world and there is really nothing more beautiful than a creative take on our everyday lives. This is why Seinfeld has consistently been listed as one of the best sitcoms and television shows ever. But, is it the best?
This answer depends on personal preferences, of course, but in terms of historical importance, long-lasting influence and popularity, Seinfeld is certainly among the best, if not the best sitcom ever produced. This has also been confirmed by various official and unofficial lists around the Internet.
For example, the magazine Rolling Stone listed Seinfeld as the third-best sitcom on its top 100 list, behind Cheers and The Simpsons, both cult shows themselves. This is how the site summarized the show:
Yada yada. Master of your domain. Spongeworthy. Double-dipping. No soup for you! The catchphrases of Seinfeld have so wormed their way into everyday use, they’ve all but consumed the legacy of the rest of the series. Perhaps this is because one of those phrases, “a show about nothing” — from the Season Four arc where Jerry and George pitch a familiar-sounding show-within-the-show to NBC execs — undersells exactly what Seinfeld did so brilliantly. Yes, co-creators Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David obsessed over ephemera, but they did it with the kind of comic precision the medium had never seen before. In particular, David’s masterstroke was figuring out how to make each episode’s plots collide with one another at the end (like Kramer’s golf game inadvertently helping George play marine biologist) — now among the show’s most-copied (if rarely as well) elements. Seinfeld is the gift that keeps on re-gifting. A.S.– Rolling Stone Magazine
Similarly, Entertainment Weekly listed it as the third best television show of all time, behind The Simpsons and The Wire. The show was summarized as follows:
Less the famous ”show about nothing” than a show about the amusing, stressful, neurotic intricacies of friendship, Seinfeld converted Jerry Seinfeld’s observational stand-up routines into hilarious universal truths about the banality of life, value-added with catchphrases (not that there’s anything wrong with that). The most endlessly rewatchable sitcom since The Honeymooners.– Entertainment Weekly
So yeah, Seinfeld is certainly among the best sitcoms ever and among the most important ones. That goes without further saying. Is it the best? Yours truly prefers some other shows over Seinfeld, to be honest (like Monty Python’s Flying Circus or Blackadder), but we fully understand those who think that it is the best ever.
5 things Seinfeld is known for
Now, before we close this article out, here are five things Seinfeld is known for, i.e., five ways it changed how people viewed sitcoms:
- It killed the “multi-camera” sitcom. This is more of a technical thing, but “multi-camera” sitcoms (think of Cheers, for example) were quite popular back in the day and they presented the show in a theatrical fashion, with several fixed cameras on the set. Modern shows apply a single, moving camera and present the show more cinematically, which we have Seinfeld to thank.
- Empowering female characters. Sure, television had its strong female leads even before Seinfeld, but Elaine became a prototype female lead of the modern day, and served as a rolemodel for later female characters.
- Predicting the “whiteness” of the 1990s. This had more to do with Clinton and politics than actual television production, but Seinfeld became a prototype of the “whiteness” of American mainstream shows of the 1990s (think of Friends), as opposed to what The Cosby Show brought in the 1980s.
- Self-involved jokes. Jerry Seinfeld’s humor was specific and people got so much used to it at the time, that they wanted more humor like that.
- New ways of writing sitcoms. Before Seinfeld, American sitcoms usually had an A-plot and a B-plot, and most of them were written in that format. Being a “show about nothing”, Seinfeld changed that trend and reformed how television sitcoms were written.