The famous "show about nothing," NBC's Seinfeld is regarded by many fans as the best network sitcom of the 1990s; some go farther than that, hailing it as the best sitcom ever. The series grew from the free-association monologues of comedian Jerry Seinfeld, who in partnership with producer Larry David launched the program in a limited-run format beginning May 31, 1990. Slowly but surely, the series developed a rabid fan following, and by the time the 1993-1994 season rolled around, Seinfeld was America's third most popular program, reaching the number one slot the following year and never dropping below second place for the duration of its run. The eponymous star played "himself," a young, unmarried comedian named Jerry Seinfeld who lived in a medium-sized apartment (well stocked with breakfast cereals) in midtown Manhattan. However, we seldom saw Jerry at work. Most of the time, he hung out with his three best friends: the obnoxiously neurotic and self-absorbed George Costanza (Jason Alexander), who lived with his parents, Estelle and Frank (Estelle Harris, Jerry Stiller), who was for several years employed in the office of New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner (who never appeared on-camera), and who spent much of his spare time kvetching over his miserable love life; Cosmo Kramer (Michael Richards), wild-eyed, wild-haired entrepreneur, whose many get-rich-quick schemes had a tendency to backfire disastrously; and Elaine Benes (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), Jerry's onetime girlfriend, who worked in the publishing industry and was ever on the lookout for a male companion who was truly "sponge-worthy."
A number of memorable supporting characters wandered through the series, including Jerry's acerbic uncle Leo (Len Lesser); his overbearing parents, Helen (Liz Sheridan) and Morty (played first by Phil Bruns, then by Barney Martin); corpulent bête noire, Newman the mail carrier (Wayne Knight); Elaine's lapdog boyfriend David Puddy (Patrick Warburton), her ubiquitous stalker Crazy Joe (Peter Crombie), and her eccentric employer J. Peterman (John O'Hurley); George's fiancée, Susan Biddle Ross (Heidi Swedberg), who in one of the series' most perverse comic twists died on the eve of the marriage after licking too many cheap wedding-invitation envelopes; Kramer's Cochranesque attorney, Jackie Chiles (Phil Morris), and his little-person crony Mickey Abbott (Danny Woodburn); and ulcerated NBC network executive Russell Dalrimple (Bob Balaban), to whom Jerry pitched his series proposal concerning (you guessed it!) a "show about nothing."
It is doubtful that any one sitcom has ever yielded as many memorable catchphrases as Seinfeld. Even non-devotees of the series cannot help but smile knowingly at the invocation of such bon mots as "Not that there's anything wrong with that," "It rhymes with a female body part," "Maybe the dingo ate your baby," "They're real -- and they're spectacular," and the deathless "Are you master of your own domain?" Even those episodes that did not bring forth the above-mentioned catchphrases are forever etched in the collective consciousness of the American viewing public: who could forget the plot convolutions connected with "The Bubble Boy," "The Soup Nazi," "The Puffy Shirt," "The Pez Dispenser," and the classic "backwards" episode, "The Betrayal"? Seinfeld's final first-run episode, telecast May 14, 1998, was the ne plus ultra in the "show about nothing" genre, in which the entire cast faced a stiff jail turn for literally doing nothing -- that is, they neglected to go to the aid of a mugging victim, and in consequence were charged with "criminal indifference"! ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi