The NBC classic sitcom Seinfeld certainly ranks as one of the greatest television shows to ever hit the airwaves. Billed as a show about nothing, it won a multitude of awards, received critical acclaim, and achieved top TV viewership ratings. The comedy made household names - and very wealthy people - out of its four primary stars: Jerry Seinfeld (playing a version of his stand-up comedian self), Jason Alexander (George Costanza), Michael Richards (Cosmo Kramer) and Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Elaine Benes). The show also featured a host of hysterical secondary characters.
While fans of the show surely have their own favorite characters and most-loved moments, the Seinfeld legacy has gone well beyond that of the typical recalling of a particularly funny episode, or just quoting some memorable lines from the series. Rather, those lines - or Seinfeld-isms - have crept into our collective lexicons and set up camp. This show has provided a long-lasting impact on our everyday lives and continues to do so.
The definitive example of a "water cooler show," it's precisely what people at work did every Friday morning - they stood around and discussed the episode of Seinfeld that had aired the night before. The fact that the show aired on Thursday nights simply made Friday that much more fun. It was the end of a long work week, and what better way to start looking forward to the weekend than to discuss the latest zany episode? It was TGIF and LTAS (Let's Talk About Seinfeld) all rolled into one.
But let's be honest, Seinfeld would have worked regardless of what night it aired. For instance, if it was broadcast on Sunday nights, employees everywhere would suddenly look forward to going to work on a Monday morning. The show actually had that level of influence.
I, for one, had plenty of time spent around the water cooler (or the copier, or the break room....) on a Friday recalling the antics of our favorite neurotic TV characters. In fact, approximately 14 hours after George introduced it to the world, there I was - along with a few of my co-workers - eating a Snickers bar with a fork and knife at our lunch break. True story. What made it even funnier was this was not some planned activity. Apparently, we individually all thought - though we knew others would get the joke - that we would be the only one to actually do this. We underestimated the power of Seinfeld for sure.
The show's history has provided us with countless legendary sayings, expressions, and, most impressively, what are now considered as widely accepted meanings. We routinely describe things using terms we were introduced to while watching the sitcom. Man hands, high talker, close talker, sponge-worthy, shrinkage ("I was in the pool!"). When Jerry encountered a "low talker" it resulted in another classic mainstay within the same episode - the puffy shirt.
Commonly, while party guests are standing around the snacks that are set out, a line or two (or sometimes both) from the show will eventually be overheard. Whether it be someone accusing another of "double dipping" or a guest complaining that, "These pretzels are making me thirsty," a Seinfeld reference isn't far behind.
After George started talking in the third person and explained his ire by proclaiming, "George is getting upset," there suddenly were plenty of (insert first names here) getting upset as well. Yes, the show had that kind of effect on people. It clearly still does. Every December 23rd, my cell phone will receive several text messages wishing me a Happy Festivus.
When the Seinfeld finale was set to air on May 14, 1998, I had invited my father over to my house to watch it with me. Just a few minutes before the episode was to begin, I was still waiting for my dad to arrive and getting a bit worried he might not show up in time for the start of the show. He made it with a moment to spare and had a great reason for cutting it so close. He produced a bag full of goodies to enjoy while watching the final episode - Junior Mints, Yoo-hoo, Pez candy (complete with multiple dispensers), Drake's Coffee Cake and fresh mangoes. True fans of the show understand. For those who don't, what are you waiting for to find out?
Through syndicated reruns, new generations are discovering Seinfeld every day, and the show's airings don't seem to be going anywhere, anytime soon. Not only will the torch remain lit, it may shine even brighter.
Ultimately - as time has more than proven - this show about "nothing" does mean something.... and indeed so much more.
© 2021 Ralphie Del