Seinfeld Now, Sanity Later

Find your nearest “jerk store,” Seinfeld is now on Netflix!


photo courtesy of Getty Images

The cast of Seinfeld poses during a comedic promotional photoshoot for the show.

Claire Majerac, Opinions Editor

Netflix has been on a roll, adding shows and movies to its lineup. With a new season of You coming out, the addition of Diana: The Musical, Titanic, The Holiday, and The Karate Kid, this October will make people not want to leave their couches.

But on October 1st, Netflix added Seinfeld, famously known as “the show about nothing.” Reports say that Netflix paid almost five hundred million dollars just for screening rights to the show. 

For five hundred million dollars, Seinfeld ought to have been something very special for viewers everywhere. According to Time Magazine, the number of viewers that tuned in for the show’s finale– a little over 76 million people– almost matched that year’s Super Bowl viewers.

But besides views, the show changed the course of sitcom (and possibly television) history. Seinfeld broke the stereotype that sitcoms should be about important issues and use traditional story-telling to be funny. The show focused on small, specific details of each character’s life that ultimately conjoined into one big plot in the end. 

Take “The Parking Garage,” for instance, in which the friends get lost in a parking garage and meet up in strange ways, or “The Opera,” where a miscommunication about Elaine’s boyfriend gets Jerry paranoid.

While other sitcoms largely featured only an A-plot and B-plot, Seinfeld was one of the first to give every character their own storyline with important details that played into a larger element of the story structure.

But in addition, Seinfeld was one of the first shows in which the audience was supposed to dislike the characters. All of the four main characters in the series are not especially likeable. From Jerry’s superficiality to George’s undeserved entitlement to Elaine’s hypocritical behavior, the characters represent less than noble human characteristics.

Nevertheless, the show still gained immense popularity. Perhaps the characters’ negative traits appealed to viewers. Entitlement and selfishness are human emotions that everyone experiences, and poking fun at them, and even watching others accentuate them to such a high degree, is comforting in a sense.

The show also included one of the first female leads in sitcom history. Other shows before Seinfeld had female leads, no doubt. But Elaine Benes was allowed to have her own fully developed story and be “unapologetically… whatever she wanted to be.” She had strange jobs like the male characters and often got into just as much trouble as they did. Her character was just as selfish, petty, and rude as Jerry, George, and Kramer. Her unique character was reflected in her fashion choices as well. She did not dress to impress men. Her choice of maxi skirts, saddle shoes, shoulder-padded blazers, and big frizzy hair reinforced the idea that she was her own woman. 

Today, Seinfeld references are ubiquitous, whether you recognize them or not. For example, “no soup for you!” is a classic line from Season 7 in which the “Soup Nazi” refused to give Jerry, Elaine, and George soup from his restaurant. A white chef’s jacket signed with the famous quote pictured next to it can be found in the delicatessen Zuppa’s near NASH.

Even the phrase “yada yada yada,” was used in a Season 8 episode, at first seemingly to gloss over unimportant information. 

Needless to say, I am excited to have Seinfeld on Netflix. 

My family used to have to schedule recordings of the show on our DVR to watch it, and we even resorted to buying the whole series on DVD, but now I am glad that I can watch episodes that I may have missed or want to watch again. My family and I have been watching the show at least since I entered middle school, and it has only gotten funnier as I get older and understand the humor of it.

There is no doubt that Seinfeld influenced a massive number of viewers, and now it has the opportunity to influence even more as a rising generation of digital users navigate Netflix.