Seinfield: A Look Inside

Seinfield: A Look Inside

By: Roberto Machado Noa

Television as you know it was not a reality for me until two years ago when I immigrated to Canada. There were only two television stations in my country until recently when that number went up to six. Their main purpose was to broadcast propaganda or at least the points of views the government wanted us to know by heart. Spread among all that you could find few shows from the western hemisphere. Having that background, I really enjoy television programs that entertain and amuse, I tend to reject news, commentaries and opinions programs because I always feel that I am being manipulated. All that being said, I am going to write about a situation comedy that I love.

When we arrived and got cable at home, we were amazed with the numbers of channels. We never knew what to watch and we did not understand many of the programs. As language was being learned my son started watching this sitcom he truly enjoyed and along with him we all were captured. It was written and produced in the 90’s, it has already gone into syndication and it has made more than 2.7 billion dollars in revenue. On top of that, according to TV Guide it is considered to be the number one show of all times (“TV Guide”). I can assure I did not know any of that until I started taking this course and was encouraged to research about a TV program. So far, we plainly liked it. Isn’t that amazing? I am talking about “Seinfeld”.
It was sold as the show about “nothing” however it is considered...”the most entertaining or influential television series in American pop culture” (“TV Guide”). The series takes place in New York where Jerry Seinfeld hangs out with three of his pals: George, Kramer and Elaine. Jerry’s apartment is the centre of a world visited by his friends.

Jerry is a stand up comedian who is portrait as the voice of reason among all the insanity that according to the show is generated by the people of this world; he sarcastically comments but not always is part of the chaos that his friends cause. He is a slight germophobe and neat freak who likes superman and breakfast cereal. He finds silly reasons to break up with the women he dates. He sees his friends and their problems indifferently and only as joke material. He seems not to have feelings. Their friends go great lengths to prove that they are right while he observes and entertain himself with their miseries. Jerry rarely gets into trouble himself. His best friend is George Constanza(“Seinfeld”).

Divorce was a common thing in the 90’s so George describe his shortcomings as a result of his parents staying together. Among his shortcomings we can laugh at his stinginess, selfishness, dishonesty and neurosis. Although occasionally being referred as dumb, many signs point out that he is actually intelligent despite his neurotic behaviour however the writers enhanced his stupidity to make the character funnier. In an occasion when given an IQ test he has his friend Elaine takes it for him(“George”).

Elaine is normally intelligent and assertive but also superficial. She has a tendency to get angry easily. She is a serial dater and like Jerry’s she finds excuses to break with her boyfriends sometimes lead by superficial reasoning. Her clothing is conservative even when she is not at work. She has a combative attitude against George even though she is friends with him. She is the only character who does not own a car. When she needs help she goes to Kramer, another main character(“Elaine”).

tom's restaurant where seinfeld was filmed
Tom's Restaurant in New York where most of Seinfeld was shot
Kramer is eccentric, kind hearted and often goes out of his way to help even strangers and makes his friends do the right thing even when they are inclined not to do so. On the other hand, he gets them into trouble by making them do unwise or even illegal things. You could say that his brilliant ideas turn out to be problematic. He is extremely honest and therefore lacks tact. He has the greatest influence over Jerry and makes him do things he would not normally do. One of the traits of the United States society is individualism so a character like Kramer turns out to be funny since it gets into trouble while trying to help others which appeals and reaffirm that culture(“Cosmo”).

The show is different from those of the decade in that none of the characters were related by family or work and they remained closed friends throughout all the seasons. The 90’s were characterized by the AIDS epidemic so most of programs in that time were revolving around family. The situations take place in quotidian activities like a line in the cinema, going out for dining, dating, buying a suit and dealing with petty injustices of life. That is why the psychology of the characters has to be so well defined. Despite this apparent superficiality the program manages to keep a steady continuity. The most important difference between Seinfeld and other sitcoms prior to this is that the principal characters never learnt their moral lessons throughout the seasons. In effect, they were indifferent to the outside world. The characters can be callous to their relatives, guest’s characters and even to each other. They kept a mantra of “No hugging, No learning” which leads to few happy endings unless when it is at the expense of other character(“Seinfeld”)

On the other hand, reality slips through the series and we see reflections of what is happening in the outside world. A few examples follow:
  1. The beginning of knowledge about DNA research, we see Kramer accuse the government of running experiments on this field when in a chapter he goes to a hospital and “sees” a pig-man.
  2. The revolution in technology was starting and we see Jerry feeling inferior while talking to a woman who is lecturing him in e-mails so he goes: “What are you? A kind of scientist?”
  3.   It was a decade of huge economic growth and despite that the well-being is not depicted by people drinking alcohol or smoking unless wine in restaurants or cigars in very rare occasions.
  4. I find that they challenge the religious beliefs so enrooted in the American society when George is on its way to being successful and he gets a discoloured lip which he thinks is cancer and as a depicted loser he thinks God hates him and will kill him before he is rich and successful.
  5. The O.J. Simpson trial was a boom so they got a character “Jackie Chiles” a lawyer who is a parody of Johnnie Cochran. He would do anything to win a trial without having ethics or caring on which side the reason was.
  6. The concern for the environment was growing so Elaine mention Jerry that eating tuna sandwich was reinforcing the capture of dolphins to what Jerry respond that he will have the tuna sandwich anyway.
tom's restaurant where seinfeld was filmed
Outside view of Tom's Restaurant in New York
If you notice that the series lasted for 9 seasons, you can think that it reflected somehow the concern of society in the epoch however some issues were left outside. They did not challenge these issues or totally ignored them. I will mention only some of the vital issues going on only in Northamerica to make my point, they were all taken from the 1990s article in Wikipedia:
  1.  The Bill Clinton’s Lewinsky scandal was totally ignored.
  2.   The enactment of the NAFTA was not treated.
  3.   Hurricane Andrew which hit Florida in 1992 leaving thousands of homeless.
  4.  Global warming becomes a major concern and not a clue is seen in the program.
  5. Oklahoma bombing
  6.   World Trade Center terrorist attacks
  7.  War in Iraq
As a conclusion I would express that after researching into the series I think I am going to like it even more because now I understand the background and what was going on while it was produce. I think that for entertaining is an excellent offer and I would recommend it to all those who have not watch it. Nowadays is running everyday in channel 49 from 10.00 pm to 11.00 pm(two episodes of half an hour each). I hope you are not disappointed and you like it.

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