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Tania is currently the Founder & Editor-in-Chief of The Hudsucker, and Senior Editor at the Nashville, Tennessee based PopCulture.com. With past writing and editing credits with Womanista, Quietly, the International Women's Media Foundation (IWMF) and NBC Newsvine, she is currently a member of Indianapolis based, Society of Professional Journalists — one of the oldest organizations in the U.S. that promotes and represents journalists. She is an avid Indianapolis Colts, Elvis Presley and baseball fan as well as a lover of pancakes and fine cheeses, film, and music. Tania is a Hoosier at heart with a passionate wanderlust for always traveling and giving back to those in her community. She is currently studying at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. Follow Tania on Twitter: @westlifebunny.

Man Hands, Butter Shaves and The Masters of Their Domain: Celebrating 25 Years of “Seinfeld”

{Image Credit: NBC/Getty Images}

As a nation winds down from celebrating the 4th of July this weekend, many will be lounging on the couch and celebrating a different occasion: the 25th anniversary of the premiere of one of the best half-hour comedies to ever grace television history. Arguably known as the most popular sitcom of all-time, Seinfeld—the ‘show about nothing’—originally premiered July 5, 1989 on NBC (known as The Seinfeld Chronicles). Through the everyday story-lines and quirky situations, audiences grew interested and absorbed in the tales by relating to the four offbeat main characters’ imperfections and eccentricities. Soon enough, the show catapulted to top spots on the Nielson ratings and would redefine the elements and clever charm of situational comedy for generations to come.

Personally, I’m a huge fan of Seinfeld and I have been for a few years now. I got into the show shortly after my best friend suggested I check out a few episodes because he knew I liked “smart comedies”. And I really do! The genius of a show like Seinfeld created by stand-up comedian, Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David is about just how much of real life can be incorporated into the theme of a show like this one, and still be about ‘nothing’. The theme of ‘nothing’ in many ways became comedy gold for Seinfeld and crew. Such a bold direction in comedy hasn’t been done again, but has set a precedent for more sophisticated comedy audiences and building comedic antiheroescharacters that could be unlikable, but are still well-loved and received by viewers.

{Image Credit: NBC/Getty Images}

Set in an apartment block in Manhattan’s Upper West Side in New York City, Jerry’s group of friends were small, but much adored by audiences. As someone who would question every bizarre tidbit about his own life, Jerry’s three best friends definitely complemented his observational character with their own personalities. George Costanza (Jason Alexander) was the sometimes angry, frustrated guy who tries too hard to prove himself and ended up being unlucky in the process; Elaine Benes (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) was the smart, flashy female book editor who stood up for herself, never afraid to speak her mind and dated quite a lot; and finally, Cosmo Kramer (Michael Richards) was the oddity of the buncha random, extremely eccentric and lanky goofball who would usually pop in when you least expect but actually still appreciate.

Another extremely notable member of the show was Newman, the chubby mailman and friend of Kramer, and arch nemesis of Jerry. There were countless other regulars who would appear from time to time, contributing to the quirky charm of the show like Uncle Leo (Len Lesser), Kenny Bania (Steve Hytner), Jackie Chiles (a parody of the famed attorney, Johnnie Cochran played by Phil Morris), Mr. & Mrs. Constanza (Jerry Stiller, Estelle Harris), David Puddy (Patrick Warburton) and J. Peterman (John O’Hurley).

Many episodes magnified everything and anything you can think ofthe agonizing pain of waiting for a table at a Chinese restaurant; trying to find your car in a parking lot; the greatness of babkas; or even visiting a friend’s new baby. The comedy wasn’t found solely in the plots, but rather the reactions. Seinfeld was able to present simple, everyday issues in every episode, with smart, social commentary as a vital component from each of the character’s lives. The beloved foursome were able to demonstrate their fundamental flaws each week, proving they’re definitely not perfect people but in being so, relatable people. It was the little things that showcased these attributes, like Jerry discovering his attractive date had “man hands”; or Elaine dumping her lover for his unwillingness to use exclamation points; or even George, who had cold-feet and second thoughts about marriage, breathing a huge sigh of relief when his fiancee died of a rare case of glue poisoning.

The show went beyond characterization and became iconic in its season-spanning story-lines with the occasional callback joke (jokes or lines referring to previous episodes). In the early 90s, networks frowned upon callbacks in fear they would isolate new viewers to the series. Seinfeld was one of the very first sitcoms to regularly use callbacks in their script. But because of the comedy and charm of the actors on the show, many audiences overlooked and disregarded the running gags causing viewership to grow each and every week till its series finale in May of 1998. It was a finale that garnered 76.3 million people as per Nielson’s ratings, and 108 million to NBC’s own inflated estimate. The Seinfeld finale still ranks as the sixth most-watched entertainment event of all time.

To celebrate the show’s 25th anniversary, in no particular order, here are 16 of my personal favorite moments:

The Merv Griffin Show

Originally aired: November 6, 1997 | This is a hilarious episode and one that always gets me. Jerry is fascinated with his girlfriend-of-the-moment Celia’s old toy collection but she won’t let him near it. Making it his mission to play with those toys, he schemes and gets George to help him. The two of them treat her to a dinner of turkey and wine, followed by a boring home movie of George’s trip to Michigan. Soon the wine and tryptophan from the turkey cause her to doze off, and once asleep, the two grown men happily play with her toys, later inviting Elaine to join in on the fun.

The Puffy Shirt

Originally aired: September 23, 1993 | Everyone’s experienced a “low-talker” every now and thensomeone who speaks so softly that they are often not understood. It’s an unfortunate circumstance because you don’t want to embarrass them or ask them to repeat themselves, so you nod your head and agree with them. In this case, Jerry has unknowingly agreed to wear a puffy shirt (“like the pirates used to wear”) to promote a benefit for Goodwill. Despite it being for charity, Jerry has his complaints—”But I don’t want to be a pirate!”

The Stall

Originally aired: January 6, 1994 | We’ve all been there before: sitting in a stall and discovering to our horror that there is no more toilet paper and you are unable to…wipe. Seinfeld raised the bar of bathroom humor on this, bringing to light the reality of a situation that has probably happened a million times in real life—at least I know it has to some friends of mine. While in a public restroom, Elaine asks the woman in the next stall to “spare a square”. In what might be the most selfish moment in television history, the woman (who we later discover to be Jerry’s girlfriend) denies Elaine a “square” and walks out. It’s sad, hilarious, and real. What do you honestly do in a situation like that?

The Contest

Originally aired: November 18, 1992 |  This particular episode was considered to be one of the best Seinfeld episodes, as it won several awards and positive reviews from the critics for a topic that is taboo, yet covered some controversial subject matter in an inoffensive manner. In the episode, George tells his three best friends that his mother “caught him” in the act of self-pleasuring. The conversation soon results in George, Jerry, Elaine, and Kramer entering into a contest to determine who can go for the longest period of time without pleasuring themselves. The Emmy-award winning script by creator Larry David introduced to audiences the brilliant euphemism, “‘master of my domain” to our modern day dictionary, helping the series to truly become must-see television. Without spoiling too much, none of them really win (who has really?), but the competition did give meaning to the act of abstaining from self-pleasure and restraining oneself against any desires—contest or not. This particular episode has a hilarious callback found in “The Puffy Shirt” where we learn George becomes a hand model and hears of another hand model who become deeply infatuated with himself as no woman “could match the beauty of his own hand”, ultimately becoming his one true love.” Clearly, he was not the master of his domain.

The Deal

Originally aired: May 2, 1991 | This was another interesting episode dealing with sex. The entire episode focuses on a deal between Jerry and Elaine who decide to have a purely physical relationship, while setting some ground rules. However, as their newly defined “relationship” begins to progress, they experience difficulties maintaining their original friendship. The concept that Jerry and Elaine dabbled in is what we know today as “friends with benefits”. There’s a genius in the science of “this” (the solid friendship) and “that” (the sex). However, “the other” creeps in, tipping over the fine balance when Elaine realizes she wants the whole package from Jerry: this, that, and the other (the relationship). In reality, that sort of thing just simply does not work in any facet and like George puts it, “It’s impossible. It can’t be done. Thousands of years people have been trying to have their cake and eat it too. So all of a sudden the two of you are going to come along and do it. Where do you get the ego? No one can do it. It can’t be done.” While Seinfeld tried warning future generations nearly 20 years ago of the detrimental dynamic, where did this thinking come from? Perhaps such boldness swept in when many were conditioned to honestly believe they could have everything and not jeopardize that which they hold dearly.

The Smelly Car

Originally aired: April 15, 1993 | We’ve all smelled someone (or something) that stinks and it’s always an experience, isn’t it? I have a set of fabric blinds that came with our house and let me tell you, I can still smell our previous owners in them despite the amount of Febreze used. After Jerry and Elaine go out to dinner, they discover a strong smell of body odor in Jerry’s BMW which they have assumed was left by the valet driver who parked the car. The smell remains and affects both Jerry and Elaine’s day-to-day lives with the two of them going to extreme and costly measures to rid the stench. It’s really a smell that even “Superman would be helpless against.” And as Jerry tells George, “There should be a B.O. squad that patrols the city like a ‘Smell Gestapo’. To sniff ’em out, strip ’em down, and wash them with a big, soapy brush.”

The Hamptons

Originally aired: May 12, 1994 | There have been a ton of episodes that have contributed to the modern lexicon, but this episode in particular brought new meaning to the word, ‘shrinkage’. George is caught in an emasculating moment when he is seen naked by Jerry’s girlfriend and tries his hardest to explain that he had just gotten out of the cold water and is a victim of penile shrinkage: “I was in the pool!” Poor George. In a laugh-out-loud hilarious moment from the episode, Jerry and George ask Elaine if she knows about ‘shrinkage’ and unaware of the phenomenon, she says, “I don’t know how you guys walk around with those things,” and leaves the room.

The Soup Nazi

Originally aired: November 2, 1995 | One of the most memorable lines in television might just be, “No soup for you!” Every scene in this episode is perfect and the cast is in top form. A soup place opens up and has everyone in the city raving about it. Unfortunately the owner is a “Soup Nazi” and has implemented a regimented ordering process. The Soup Nazi disturbs the peace as he bans Elaine from the shop after she breaks order; kicks out George because he asked for bread in a very sad, New Yorker, Oliver Twist sort of fashion; and forces Jerry to choose soup over his new girlfriend.

The Dealership

Originally aired: January 8, 1998 | This episode always has me in stitches and might just be one of my absolute favorites! As Jerry plans to buy a car, he brings George, Kramer and Elaine to help him make a decision and get a discount from Elaine’s boyfriend, David Puddy. While Kramer takes a car for an endless test drive, Elaine breaks up with David, forcing Jerry to set them back up, while a hungry George seeks out something to eat and must settle for a vending machine Twix candy bar. However, George meets with the most misfortune for the day as he can’t seem to get a break or even his Twix bar from the vending machine, pushing him to go to great lengths just to get the chocolate bar. A moment of hilarity comes from George as he screams out “Twix!”, parodying Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

The Bizarro Jerry

Originally aired: October 3, 1996 | Have you ever thought, “Wow, that guy is so gorgeous but he has feminine hands”? Well, it’s happened to me on more than one occasion. And it’s a real thing that a lot of us might have pet peeves about. In the episode, “The Bizzaro Jerry”, Jerry goes on a date with an extremely attractive woman whose only flaw is that she has “man hands”—meaning her hands are large and coarse like a grown man’s. It doesn’t sit well with Jerry even if he wishes otherwise.

The Raincoats

Originally aired: April 28, 1994 | I’ve yet to experience a close-talker in my life, partially because if anyone gets into my personal space, I will literally punch them out. That being said, I’m sure close talkers are extremely pleasant people like in the case of Aaron—Elaine’s boyfriend. Aaron has a highly quirky way of speaking with people and will walk right up to them with his face mere inches from theirs. While this annoys Jerry and Elaine, the two of them dump Aaron on Mr. and Mrs. Seinfeld who don’t seem to mind that someone like Aaron is cramping into their ‘comfort zone’. A funny moment in the episode has Aaron parodying Schindler’s List and ponders (similarly to Oscar Schindler) how he could have done so much more to give Mr. and Mrs. Seinfeld a more fun stay in Manhattan. As he tries to get inside the plane, his close-taking is a big disadvantage as is then apprehended by security.

The Butter Shave

Originally aired: September 25, 1997 | I absolutely love Kramer. He is such a fun, smart and oddly random character. I don’t think TV has seen anyone quite like him since Seinfeld. In the episode, Kramer discovers the beauty benefits of butter (yes, butter!) and uses it as shaving cream. He finds out his skin feels so good with butter and decides to spread it all over his body. Unfortunately, he falls asleep as he lies out in the sun and begins to basically cook. Meanwhile, Newman who recently read the cannibalism-themed story Alive, finds the smell of a buttered Kramer incredibly appetizing and in a disturbed state, sees Kramer’s head on a turkey while at the diner. Yummy…?!

The Caddy

Originally aired: January 25, 1996 | This is a scenario that is ageless: beautiful woman walks down the street and causes men to become severely distracted so much so that they cause accidents. They hit trees, poles, anything! But it was worth it. Or was it? In the episode “The Caddy”, Elaine bumps into her old high school friend-turned nemesis, Sue Ellen Mischke. Sue Ellen is now the heiress of the Oh Henry! candy fortune and a “braless wonder”. After Elaine gifts her with a bra, Sue Ellen decides to only wear the bra and starts wearing it as a top. Because of this, Jerry and Kramer get into a car accident after they are distracted by the bra-totting Sue Ellen. The two eventually take Sue Ellen to court and it plays out like the OJ Simpson trial when she is told to wear her bra over the clothes, much to Kramer’s attorney’s chagrin: “A bra’s gotta fit right up a person’s skin, like a glove!” Following the trial, Elaine’s gift idea for Sue Ellen fashionably backfires after she discovers her female coworkers start wearing their bras without tops as well, making Elaine all the more miserable.

The Rye

Originally aired: January 4, 1996 | This is a classic episode and one that is notably known as Jerry Seinfeld’s favorite. The hilarity of this episode and its writing is found in the simple staple of bread. Not any bread—but marbled rye bread. Much of the plot revolves around a loaf of rye bread, with its appearance and disappearance that impacted each of the characters till the very end of Seinfeld. As a domino effect of events taking place, Jerry by any means must have that loaf of marble rye bread, so what does he do? He steals the rye from an an elderly woman (played by the adorable and talented, late Frances Bay) because she got the last one. It’s a hilarious moment and the line Jerry spews is comedic genius. Some may argue that this particular episode of Seinfeld employed a fart joke but throughout the nine seasons of the show, Seinfeld explored many avenues of humor—this one fart joke was an appropriate one at that because it played well with the events. That being said, the untimely fart came from the horse that Kramer fed Beef-A-Reeno to and in many ways, is a natural and unstoppable force.

The Fatigues

Originally aired: October 31, 1996 | I always laugh at loud at this episode because you got to love Jerry Stiller as Frank Costanza. He’s angry, obnoxious, and hilarious. Frank’s someone who makes his own rules and they’re effective ones at that. As Kramer runs a Jewish singles night, he realizes he can’t actually cook genuine Jewish cuisine and asks for Frank’s help. Because he hasn’t cooked for anyone since the Korean War, Frank refuses and shares his unfortunate tale in a flashback. Upon cooking for his fellow troops, Frank got in over his head and “over-seasoned”, causing everyone to get food poisoning, and sending 16 of his men to the latrines that night. Highly traumatized because of it, Frank vowed to never cook again. The flashback is an extremely funny one because it’s exaggerated by composer Samuel Barber’s “Adagio For Strings”–a track famously heard in the film, Platoon. Soon enough, Frank does help Kramer out…and though time may pass, memory never fades.

The Stand-In

Originally aired: February 24, 1994 | We’ve all been set up by our friends, haven’t we? Fortunately, this hasn’t happened to a lot of us—or at least I’m hoping. With Elaine’s best interests at heart, Jerry sets her up with his friend, Phil Totola who he says “is one of the greatest guys.” Elaine agrees and goes out with Phil, clearly having a good evening with him. As they are in the car, talking and sharing laughs, Elaine is taken aback when Phil suddenly takes “it” out. Yes. IT. OUT. When Elaine shares the story with Jerry and Kramer, they’re both shocked and confused. Kramer speculates on “it” being taken out and tells Elaine, “Maybe it needed some air. You know, sometimes they need air. They can’t breathe in there. It’s inhuman.”

* * * * *

The show is still today one of the most watched programs in syndication and is a favorite among audiences. Seinfeld has coined various phrases and words over the years as well, contributing to the English language (“re-gift”, “yada, yada, yada”) and American way of life. What I love most about the show is not just the characters or the humor—it’s the smart and fresh look at life that it provides with clever social commentary through its writing. The show is so masterfully written that you really cannot help but laugh out loud at every segment. I don’t think there has ever been an episode of Seinfeld that I haven’t laughed at. When my best friend suggested I watch it, it was because he knew I would appreciate the realism and honesty of a show and its writing like this one. What Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld first brought to audiences 25 years ago was a beautiful and fresh look at our modern culture and society. Because of that, the show is especially original, one-of-a-kind, and pertinent to today’s culture. It can be a case study into the human condition, social norms, natural born curiosities or language (“Seinlanguage”).

It’s a timeless show that may have claimed to be about nothing—but in the end, it really changed everything and well,you know the rest…yada, yada, yada.

What are some of your favorite episodes? Share with us in the comments below!

Seinfeld can be seen everyday in syndication, check local listings for showtimes. For more information on Seinfeld, visit their official website. And follow Jerry, Jason, and Julia on Twitter: @JerrySeinfeld, @IJasonAlexander, and @OfficialJLD!

Connect with Tania Hussain on Twitter and Google+!

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