Seinfeld, probably the greatest sitcom of our time, premiered on NBC 25 years ago, on July 5th. Though ostensibly a show about nothing, Seinfeld proved to be about nearly everything. It had a unique way of honing in on every kind of social triviality, lending the most mundane interactions a comic ridiculousness and relatability. At its heart, it was a show about who we think we are versus who we really are. Jerry, George and Elaine all longed to be viewed as decent people and to pat themselves on the back for their good deeds all while doing some pretty reprehensible things. As an example: George buys a chair for a security guard so the guard doesn’t have to stand all day, and, in a separate episode, pushes children and the elderly aside so he can be the first to escape a fire. Kramer, on the other hand, was the foil, content to be just who he was.
Elaine Benes is one of my favorite female TV characters ever, despite being a not-so-great person. She could hang with the boys without having to emulate them. She was sexual without being sexualized. And she was funny. Like, really funny. And not funny by doing gender-specific schtick. Just, well, funny. I’d say, punch for punch, she landed some of the best zingers on the show. The character is a testament to Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s range as an actor.
It was also a show about New York City. Yes, the situations were relatable no matter your zip code, but NYC dwellers had a unique window into the world of Seinfeld. A few storylines that would garner knowing nods from New Yorkers:
- Elaine giving a false address in order to have really good Chinese food delivered to her apartment. (“If we deliver to you, then what, 85th Street, Wall Street, Mexico, 84th Street…?”)
- George, Elaine and Jerry’s ultimately fruitless hunt for the perfect apartment
- Elaine’s screaming inner monologue when the subway breaks down
- Elaine leading a group that includes a pregnant woman and a priest under a set of bleachers in order to find an escape route out of the Puerto Rican Day parade
- Elaine and Jerry’s determination to bring a chocolate babka to a party (“You can’t beat a babka.”), then settling for cinnamon.
- Kramer telling Jerry that if he doesn’t want to be a part of society, he should move to the East Side.
- Kramer, lost and scared, calling Jerry and telling him he’s in the “Nexus of the Universe”: the intersection of 1st Street and 1st Avenue. (“How can the same street intersect with itself?”)
“Cinnamon takes a backseat to no babka”