It’s often referred to as “the show about nothing,” but “Seinfeld’s” legacy is anything but zilch.
The sitcom, which ran on NBC from 1990 to 1998, was “must-see TV” for much of its run, and it has remained popular in syndication, having never actually gone off the air. It’s consistently ranked as one of the best TV shows of all time. Syracuse University pop culture historian Robert J. Thompson sees the everyday exploits of George, Jerry, Elaine and Kramer being as relevant today as they were in the 1990s.
Thompson noted that the show introduced numerous expressions and concepts into the pop-culture lexicon: “not that there’s anything wrong with that” and “yada yada yada” became routine phrases, while “double dipping” and “cheating on your barber” became widely understood notions.
“Seinfeld was not about nothing, but actually about so many things we regularly experience: simple situations like losing your car in a multi-surface garage,” Thomson said. “It was an extraordinarily well-acted, well-written program that holds up. It was one of those shows, similar to ‘I Love Lucy,’ that managed to jump the generations and remain relevant, funny and good to audiences. The show came out before the Internet revolution but came out when much of what we now know as modern, contemporary life had already happened … it speaks to a lot of what is still contemporary.”
For fan Lisa Sparks, the ordinary humor found in routine circumstances is a metaphor of sorts for life.
“I like that the show forces us to reconcile with our humanity, the duality of it; to be honest with ourselves by recognizing that we are always both despicable and likeable at the same time … sometimes it’s what makes us despicable that also makes us likeable,” she said. “I don’t think there is a single aspect of the human condition that isn’t covered by ‘Seinfeld’; the answer to anything in life is referenced somewhere within ‘Seinfeld.’ I still quote the show regularly, though it’s been over a decade since the series finale aired.”
Seinfeld lasted for nine seasons and 180 episodes, many of them still as memorable today as when they first aired. In honor of Jerry Seinfeld returning to Wichita on Thursday, we asked local fans to share their favorite memories from some of the series’ classic episodes.
‘The Red Dot’ (Season 3, Episode 12)
Elaine gets George a job, and to repay her, he buys her a cashmere sweater, which is marked down considerably in price due to a minor flaw. Elaine spots it and becomes irate, returning it to him. On the new job, George becomes attracted to the cleaning lady and they have a tryst after drinking a bottle of Hennigan’s scotch.
“I love the Hennigan’s scene; it’s classic comedy. I grew up on reruns of ‘Abbott & Costello,’ and other greats who transitioned from vaudeville, through radio, television and then film. The humor in ‘Seinfeld’ is a throwback to these comedians of earlier days: the timing, pace, and content.” – Lon Smith of Wichita, 52, Kansas Aviation Museum executive director
‘The Contest’ (Season 4, Episode 11)
After George’s mother catches him in a compromising solo position, he, Jerry, Elaine, and Kramer start a contest to see who can go the longest without self-pleasuring. In the 1992 episode, the word “masturbation” is never spoken, but several euphemisms are used in its place, including the now infamous phrase “master of my domain.”
“I love the part when Kramer flies into the room 5 minutes into the bet and announces ‘I’m out.’ Elaine sees John-John (JFK Jr.) at the New York Health Club, and suddenly ‘she’s out’ — hilarious.” – Carole Ochs of Wichita, 49, artist
‘The Puffy Shirt’ (Season 5, Episode 2)
Kramer and his friend start a new clothing line with a puffy shirt “like the pirates used to wear.” Jerry agrees to wear the shirt the next day on the “Today” show while he promotes a benefit for Goodwill. Bryant Gumbel can’t stop laughing at his outfit.
“I actually had a first date with a guy who showed up wearing one — but he was serious! It was our first and last date.” – Carole Ochs
‘The Soup Nazi’ (Season 7, Episode 6)
George, Jerry and Elaine visit a new soup stand that Kramer has been raving about, but its owner has been dubbed the “Soup Nazi” because he obsesses about his customer’s ordering procedures. Despite the strict manner of behavior he imposes on his guests, people line up for blocks to eat there.
“If I never hear ‘no soup for you’ again, that would be so freaking amazing.” — Tanya Tandoc of Wichita, 45, chef and owner of Tanya’s Soup Kitchen
‘The Rye’ (Season 7, Episode 11)
A loaf of marbled rye bread and its appearance and disappearance is at the center of friction between George’s and Susan’s parents, who clash during their first meeting over dinner. George’s parents surreptitiously take back the bread they brought as a dinner gift, exacerbating the conflict. In an attempt to impress Susan’s parents, George goes to great lengths to replace it.
“The scene where Jerry wrestles a marble rye from an old lady for a seemingly noble reason, so that George can impress the family of his love interest, and then tucks it under his arm and runs away like a football player is hilarious even though you know you shouldn’t be laughing.” — Lisa Sparks of Wichita, 35, Wichita Scottish Rite office manager
‘The Sponge’ (Season 7, Episode 9)
Elaine’s preferred prophylactic will soon be taken off the market, prompting her to stockpile the endangered contraceptive sponge.
“When Elaine learns her favorite method of birth control is going to be discontinued, she buys 10 cases of ‘The Sponge.’ She rations herself, and only sleeps with men she deems ‘sponge worthy’.” — Carole Ochs
‘The Invitations’ (Season 7, Episode 24)
George and Susan’s wedding arrives, but George doubts he can go through with getting married. When he’s put in charge of the wedding invitations, he buys the cheapest ones. The glue turns out to be toxic and, in shocking twist, Susan dies as a result.
“‘The Invitations’ was an episode that was the pinnacle of self-absorption for George. He was more relieved that his fiance died, so that he didn’t have to break up with her. Though, Susan’s family dragged things on by naming George head of a foundation in her memory, ensuring that he would not be able to forget what happened any time soon.” — Lisa Sparks
‘The Bizarro Jerry’ (Season 8, Episode 3)
When Elaine breaks up with her boyfriend Kevin, they decide to just be friends. Elaine soon discovers that he’s a more reliable pal that Jerry, though, and after meeting Kevin’s friends, she realizes they are the exact opposite of her usual posse. Jerry dubs Kevin “Bizarro Jerry,” an inverted and opposite mirror of himself.
“I didn’t watch the show when it was new, but got into streaming it. This is my favorite episode because it really shows you all of these characters’ greatest flaws and quirks. When you see their mirrored opposite in the form of a completely new character it makes you appreciate them more. I’m a comic fan, so the whole bizarro world concept fascinates me, too.” –Matthew Jordan, 22, student at WSU
‘The Merv Griffin Show’ (Season 9, Episode 6)
Kramer discovers the set of the old “Merv Griffin Show” in a Dumpster and sets it up in his apartment, where he interviews anyone who stops by. Elaine’s new co-worker annoys her. George’s new girlfriend is upset after he kills a pigeon with his car, meanwhile Jerry’s girlfriend won’t let him touch her collection of classic toys.
“That episode has so many moving parts, from Elaine’s co-worker being a ‘sidler’ and needing Tic Tacs to be heard; to George running over pigeons and a squirrel and his girlfriend making him pay for tiny instruments to use on the squirrel to heal it; to Jerry making his girlfriend sleepy so that he can play with her toy collection. Newman makes the episode when he joins Kramer on the set of ‘The Merv Griffin Show’ and makes it more like the Maury or Jerry Springer Show.” — Manny Cowzinski of Wichita, 45, on-air talent for iHeartMedia
‘The Finale’ (Season 9, Episodes 23 & 24)
In the controversial series finale, which spans two half-hour episodes, George and Jerry finally land a production deal with NBC and will soon relocate to California. Jerry is given a private jet and the foursome plans to have one last hurrah in Paris, but mishaps in air prevent them from arriving.
When they land in a small Massachusetts town for repairs, they witness a carjacking. Instead of helping out, they record a video of the crime while cracking jokes about the victim’s size and walk away. They’re arrested for violating the Good Samaritan law, which requires bystanders to assist in such situations. Eventually, they are each sentenced to one year in a state prison as punishment.
“The finale fell a little flat except for the final scene where Jerry is doing standup in the prison. Probably the best standup scene of all time.” — Carole Ochs
“The finale was so anti-climactic. Parading out so many of the old recognizable and even obscure characters during the trial was a great way for the audience to have a final review of the entire series. Seeing Jerry, George, Elaine, and Kramer locked up in a cell, knowing that they would be there together for the next year seemed fitting. Though, it wasn’t a resolution the audience was expecting.” — Lisa Sparks
If You Go
When: 7 p.m. Thursday
Where: Century II Concert Hall, 225 W. Douglas
Tickets: $71.50 and $93.50 ; www.wichitatix.com, 316-303-8100