The hit ‘90s sitcom continues to be among the most watched syndicated shows on TV. Fans and experts explain why.
On May 14, 1998, an estimated 76 million people tuned in for the final two episodes of the long-running sitcom "Seinfeld.''
It’s been 10 years since the finale aired, in which Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer wound up in jail for violating the "Good Samaritan law,'' yet even now fans can’t seem to get enough of the "show about nothing.''
According to Nielsen Media Research, "Seinfeld'' remains one of the top-10 syndicated programs on television. And if you ask fans, there’s still good reason to keep up with the antics of Jerry and company.
"Every time you see a rerun, you laugh as much as when you saw it the first time,'' said Cheri Coburn, 35, of Quincy, Mass.
Martie Cook, assistant professor of visual and media arts at Emerson College in Boston, credits the show’s continuing popularity for having capitalized on universal themes -- the things people often experience in their own lives.
"It’s interesting, I think, that it sells itself as a comedy about doing nothing, but if you look at it and dissect it, it’s always about something,'' Cook said.
While most sitcoms relied on contrived plots, "Seinfeld'' made its claim to fame by focusing on the more menial parts of life, like waiting in line at the movies.
"The humor in the show is something we can all relate to,'' said Cheryl Farhat, 42, of Duxbury, Mass. "So you’re laughing at the show but also laughing at yourself at the same time.''
Fueling the comedy was the show’s offbeat cast, whom Cook acknowledged as being extremely well-defined and funny in their individual ways. She offered the theory that while the characters were sometimes referred to as superficial, they in many ways represent "our darker sides.''
"How many of us have ever seen a really ugly baby and society says you have to say that baby’s cute,'' Cook said. "But on ‘Seinfeld,’ the characters will say, ‘That’s a really ugly baby!'''
And even without the help of reruns, "Seinfeld'' has propelled a number of terms and catchphrases into everyday use, from the fictional holiday "Festivus for the rest of us'' to "master of your domain,'' as used in an episode when the foursome held a contest to see who could go the longest without doing you know what.
"They’re in everyday conversation now,'' said Kristen Norton, 45, of Cohasset, Mass.
These days, many from the show’s cast and crew have made successful ventures onto the small and silver screens. "Seinfeld'' co-creator Larry David went on to create and star in the HBO sitcom "Curb Your Enthusiasm.'' Jerry Seinfeld penned the script for and lent his voice to the recent "Bee Movie,'' while Julia Louis-Dreyfus took home an Emmy for lead actress in the CBS sitcom "The New Adventures of Old Christine.'' In her acceptance speech, Louis-Dreyfus acknowledged the supposed "Seinfeld curse'' said to have plagued its former cast, beaming, "curse this, baby.''
But fans won’t be shy to admit their nostalgia for the hit sitcom.
"I think only ‘The Office’ is comparable,'' Norton said.
Still, the "Seinfeld'' legacy lives on.
"I don’t think it can ever be repeated,'' Cook said. "‘Seinfeld’ has a stamp all its own.''
Reach Kyle Sutton at email@example.com.