“What seems beautiful to me, what I would like to write, is a book about nothing, a book dependent on nothing external, which would be held together by the internal strength of its style.”
That’s a quote from revered 19th century French novelist Gustave Flaubert, but it could just as easily serve as a mission statement for “Seinfeld,” the 1990s television comedy that radically and defiantly re-wrote the rules of the modern sitcom. Ardent and casual fans alike refer to “Seinfeld” as “the show about nothing” —it’s a series founded on trivial minutiae, questionable social blunders and a commitment to questioning every tiny, seemingly insignificant facet of modern life. A show about nothing shouldn’t be mistaken for a show where nothing goes on: “Seinfeld” remains perhaps the definitive sitcom statement of its time, continually upending every standard of traditional T.V. by adhering to co-creator Larry David’s famous “no hugs, no learning” policy that ensured the central quartet of Jerry, Kramer, Elaine and George would never experience remorse for their actions or grow fundamentally as people.
The Nerdwriter’s video essay “Seinfeld: What Nothing Really Means” explores this in fascinating detail.” Though “Seinfeld” holds up surprisingly well today, it’s easy to forget just how revolutionary this show was when it was first on the air: it was the only network comedy brave enough to spend its entire thirty-minute time slot with its characters as they waited to be seated at a Chinese restaurant. “Seinfeld” was also one of the first shows to reject the milquetoast vision of American life that was heavily present in sitcoms of the 1970’s, making it perhaps the most transgressive and influential show of its kind since Norman Lear’s “All in the Family.” It’s funny (and somewhat understandable) to think that the “show about nothing” began as little more than a mere joke shared between two longtime friends David and Jerry Seinfeld, but when you’re talking about the minds who brought the Puffy Shirt into the realm of popular conversation, it turns out that nothing means quite a lot.
Take a trip back to Jerry’s apartment and watch the video below.