Opinion Piece – Low-Talkers, Man Hands and the Accidental Influence of Seinfeld

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The iconic Monks Diner of Seinfeld

Piece compiled by Jordan and Eddie on 09/12/2016

Over the course of a 9 year run from 1989 to 1998, TV comedy Seinfeld became a phenomenon that continues to be rediscovered by its long-time fans and discovered by a whole new generation of TV watchers, happily partaking in the simple joys of sweet, comedy-centric nothingness.

The brainchild of comedians Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David, Seinfeld’s reputation precedes it in many ways, but what makes this once-in-a-lifetime TV experience even more of a cultural touchstone is the influence it had, and still has on the industry today.

Tapping into what would’ve at first glance seemed a risky proposition, Seinfeld’s ability to conjure up entire episodes and situations about, well, not much really, that still felt full to the brim of observations, idiosyncrasies and reasons why we should all do the exact opposite of George, was truly ground-breaking.

Taking a look back at a show we’ve both got a strong affiliation for, we wanted to examine the huge impact the show has made on films and Hollywood as a whole.

Happy reading and happy watching.

Jordan’s Thoughts

The genius of Seinfeld is in its normalisation of quirks, traits and taboos through the conversations and interactions of its insular, slightly narcissistic quartet of friends.

Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David didn’t invent the concepts of ‘male un-bonding,’ low talkers and volatile eatery owners, but rather they labelled and highlighted them, before creating entire episodes centred around Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer navigating them while ensuring that at the end of each one, nothing has changed and nobody has learned. This concept of group dynamics and co-dependency remaining intact has filtered through to most well-received TV comedies playing today, with none quite able to capture the natural chemistry (or, in the case of Elaine, often much-vented rage) of a show that ran for 9 seasons, but continues its run in the hearts and minds of its fans.

For much of the ‘90’s, the spirit of independent filmmaking was also found in the types of conversations and observations that Seinfeld brought to prime-time, with Kevin Smith (Clerks, Chasing Amy) leading a wave of new directors making movies about nothing. It’s common to examine the influence that Dante and Randal’s Quick Stop conversations had on Generation X America, or rather, how it is reflective of its audience, but fewer would consider that a show, seemingly far removed and less lewd (excluding arguably its finest episode in ‘The Contest’), with its effortless brand of humour born from an ingenious collection of personalities had paved the way for its success.

Jerry, the sitcom within the show of Season 4, demonstrated how things could’ve been, had the creators of TVs finest hour not been given creative control. I’m not sure anything can be created with the intention for it be influential, so now, 18 years on from its finale, we can appreciate the accidental influence that Seinfeld has had on film and television, and still find joy in puffy shirts, marine biologists and coffee table books about coffee tables.

Eddie’s Thoughts

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I don’t believe there’d be many out there in our great big world that would care to deny the influence Seinfeld has had on our entertainment industry, whether or not they found the adventures and non-events of Jerry, Ellaine, George and Kramer constantly engaging or frustratingly bereft of narrative heft.

As a child of the 90’s it took me until my later years to fully appreciate Seinfeld’s true genius, but once it had been made known to me, this comedy masterpiece (that to this day remains one of the most watched shows in the world) became a personal favourite just as many others would so fondly name it as.

As my appreciation for film and TV increased as the years wore on, it became abundantly clear to me just how important and influential Seinfeld was to not only the small screen but the big screen. It’s not as though it was the first use of the medium to focus more on characters and their everyday (sometimes mundane) lives but it showed that a show or story about “nothing” could not only work, but become something truly special.

After Seinfeld’s initial inception in 1989, beloved 90’s films like Slacker, Dazed and Confused, The Big Lebowski and even one of cinema’s biggest players in Pulp Fiction all feel slightly indebted to the style Seinfeld mastered, and as the years went on I’m sure in some form or another praised filmmakers like the Coen Brothers (Inside Llewyn Davis, A Serious Man) and Alexander Payne (Sideways, The Descendants) whose style lends itself to tracing the everyday lives of its protagonists, found solace in the show that provided so many moments of comedy gold, characterization genius and writing that set a new standard in what audiences have now become accustomed to.

The full measure of Seinfeld’s influence on the entertainment industry and even pop-culture can never truly be measured, nor can the sparking of ideas it no doubt created on those working in the industry and making the films and TV we have laid before us at present time, but for a show about nothing, featuring a collection of loveable, flawed and often self-centred characters, Seinfeld’s lasting success is something we can continue to savour for the years to come.

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Seinfeld is now streaming in full on Australian subscription service Stan – click HERE to sign up today and enjoy a great range of TV and film!

What does Seinfeld mean to you? Got a favourite episode or moment? We’d love to hear from you in the comment section below!

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2 responses to “Opinion Piece – Low-Talkers, Man Hands and the Accidental Influence of Seinfeld

  1. I just love Seinfeld. The number of references to the show that pop up in my mind on a daily basis according to the situations I see is uncanny. I have a friend who is also a fan and whenever I go out with him there is always a moment when I say “Oh boy, that is just like that Seinfeld episode” moment.

    I definitely agree on the show’s unique qualities and its influence. However, I will admit it sort of worries me how younger generations seem to mostly not know about it or disregard it.

    At least here in Brazil, I have mentioned Seinfeld to some of my students (who were in the 16-18 range when that conversation happened) and they mostly prefer Friends, something that utterly shocks me because I find that show to be completely dull (no offense to those who love it). Maybe it has got something to do with Seinfeld’s political incorrectness (I remember Jerry stealing a marbled rye bread from an old lady, for example) and its cynicism.

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