Years ago, I took a viewing plunge that would last nearly a year. I added the first disc of Seinfeld season 1 to the Netflix queue, and then, I began to re-watch the entire series. I enjoyed revisiting the hilarious scenarios that made Seinfeld one of the most unique and popular sitcoms to date.
As I watched, I realized that a number of common phrases were launched on this “show about nothing.” Terms like double dipping, close talking, and re-gifting all had their fifteen minutes of fame on the show, and they stuck with us because they named social quirks that had not yet been so wonderfully defined.
And I marveled at the burst of technological changes that have emerged in the span of one generation. This is because so many of those changes are simply not in the show. . . The fact that Seinfeld could craft entire episodes around the use of answering machines and pay phones — and for that matter, feature the frequent use of Jerry’s enormous, cordless landline phone — spoke to how different life was a few decades ago.
Every bit of this was enjoyable, but most of all, I found myself reflecting upon the moments behind the scenes, particularly upon the creation of the sitcom itself and the relationships that made it possible. The Netflix discs all have interviews with the cast, directors, and writers throughout the series. As I watched these episodes, I also watched the creators find their stride in defining the identity and tone of the show, and I watched the friendships grow deeper.
At the beginning, it was intriguing to watch Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David practically fall into this opportunity, not knowing where it would take them. In a humorous way during one of the first interviews, Larry David talks about the very non-humorous emotional meltdown he had when he realized that the show they pitched would actually be aired. He would actually have to write thirteen episodes for the first season. He didn’t think he could do it. Little did he know that he was sitting on a creative project which would become much larger than himself. Within that larger framework, he would find his own writing voice.
As I watched these early interviews, I pondered how we human beings frequently desire to be a part of creating something larger. I could feel that pull upon myself too. We all want to belong to something bigger than anything we can create alone.
I especially enjoyed watching the finale of the series. I had not seen that final episode since the evening it actually aired, and it was was wonderful to revisit it. Along with the last episodes themselves, the final interviews were just as intriguing and meaningful as the ones at the beginning. One story in particular will stick with me for a long time.
The four primary cast members all had a ritual of gathering together backstage before the taping every episode. When they gathered together for that moment on the date of the last live taping, Jerry Seinfeld said something quite lovely. Jason Alexander said that Jerry was rarely sentimental, but on that date, with tears in his eyes, he created a wonderful moment as they stood backstage and held hands. Jerry said,
“I want to say something. For the rest of our lives, when anyone thinks of one of us, they will think of all four of us.”
I love those words. He added, “And I can’t think of three people I’d rather have that be true of.” He was right. When we think of any of them, we do think of all of them.
This ending brought me back to my initial reflections at the beginning of the series. We all want to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. Sometimes we stumble upon such an opportunity, only to add ourselves with our identities, dreams, and voices. Other times, we create such opportunities intentionally through the friendships that surround us.
Seinfeld certainly made cultural changes to our world. If we follow the example of its makers and allow ourselves to create alongside others, our personal worlds just might get bigger, too.