If your family was anything like mine, there was one TV show in the 1990s that stood apart from the stale family dramas and programs depicting unrealistic expectations of adult friendship. I am of course talking about Seinfeld, the “show about nothing” that quickly became a water cooler gold mine, and a pillar of pop culture after first airing in 1989.
One over-arching theme of the series was the constant missteps and amusing tribulations of the dating lives of the four New Yorkers we all came to love: Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer. Far from romantic, Seinfeld was more of a lesson in what not to do than a guide to pursuing a successful and meaningful relationship. From the vault, here are a few lessons learned:
The “will they, won’t they, why do we care?”
One of the first sitcom stereotypes broken by Seinfeld was how the show’s writers dealt with the constant pressure from fans to push Jerry and Elaine into a romantic relationship. At the beginning of the series, it was explained that the pair had previously dated, but they were now just good friends.
However, by the end of Season 2, network executives and fans were anxious to see the witty banter and playfulness between the two culminate in romance. Jerry and Elaine discreetly consider the idea, while insisting that their friendship is very important and that nothing should change that. They simply want to take “this” (their friendship) and add “that” (sex); essentially asking if friends with benefits can work long-term. And in order to do so and maintain their friendship, they develop a set of rules, including no phone calls the next day, and that spending the night after having sex is optional.
While George is initially very impressed, he predicts that Jerry will get greedy and that there’s no way this arrangement will last. In a rare moment, George is right and after the rules fail them, Elaine proclaims that she wants “this,” “that” and “the other” (romance). Although they initially break up after the rules fail them, by the end of the episode Jerry and Elaine are together in every sense and at least temporarily seem to have “this, that and the other.” However, they are so nauseating about it that Kramer proclaims “you know, I liked you two a lot better when you weren’t a couple.” Apparently the fans and critics agreed because by the start of Season 3, there was no more mention of them dating.
Lesson learned: men and women can have a platonic friendship.
Setups occur multiple times on Seinfeld, always with hilariously disastrous results. Perhaps the most well-known instance of a setup occurs when Jerry and Elaine are discussing the fact that they each have a friend (George, and Elaine’s friend Cynthia) who has nearly given up on dating altogether – and Jerry and Elaine set them up.
Both George and Cynthia are hesitant at first, and when the idea is proposed to each of them, George is primarily concerned about the looks of his potential date (does her cheek have a pinkish hue, a must have), her personality, and finally, what she does for work. Cynthia however, immediately asks what George does for work and is disheartened to discover he is unemployed.
Despite initial chemistry between the two, Cynthia is…late (due to George using a defective condom given to him by Kramer), thus ending their courtship. George is set up again shortly after he begins wearing a toupee and therefore feeling more confident. He is ironically horrified to discover he is set up with a bald woman.
Jerry also sets Elaine up with one of his good friends, Phil Tuttola – who Jerry claims he respects more than most of his other friends, and could actually see Elaine dating. The two have a great first date, but as Elaine conveys to Jerry the next day, Phil “took it out” and thus ended her interest swiftly. Jerry is horrified and Elaine sarcastically inquires “got any other friends you want to set me up with?”
If these stories tell us anything, it is that often times, despite your good intentions, setting up friends does not always work out for the best – for anyone involved.
Other Random Observations
- Be aware of your dancing ability. If your moves are similar to “the little kicks and the thumbs” Elaine is so famous for, have a little self-awareness of how you’re coming across.
- Try to split costs evenly. No one person should have to pay for everything, yet don’t be cheap. Don’t skimp on things like wedding invitations. We all know how that turned out (RIP Susan Ross).
- Breaking up is difficult. You either have to go all-in and end a relationship like ripping off a band aid, or like trying to push over a coke machine, rock it back and forth a few times.
- Honesty is always best. Whether it be about your occupation, how bald you are, your living situation, whether you accidentally dropped your partner’s toothbrush in the toilet, yada, yada, yada.
These ere just a few of the takeaways from the disastrous love lives of our favorite New York comedian and his three closest friends. While they might not be the best role models in terms of striving for healthy relationships, their trials and tribulations are certainly relatable nearly 30 years later.