Seinfeld Isn’t Really About Nothing

By Robert Scucci | Updated

Whenever I try to extol the virtues of Seinfeld to my friends who passionately hate the series (what’s the deal with that?), they always snap back by saying they don’t want to waste their time watching a “show about nothing.” I can’t blame them for making this assumption because Seinfeld was frequently referred to by the press as a show about nothing, and the phrase was coined during a Season 4 episode. While I can’t deny that the series’ perceived premise (or alleged lack thereof) was a great way to pique the interest of potential viewers during its initial run, it couldn’t be further from the truth.

Seinfeld Is About Horrible People


In my mind, Seinfeld isn’t about nothing but rather spends nine seasons exploring the consequences that its principal characters face due to their malignant narcissism. The entire series is about getting repeatedly hoisted by one’s own petard.

What’s more, unlike characters from other series who learn from their mistakes, Jerry, George, Elaine, and Kramer somehow become worse people as Seinfeld approaches its later seasons because they ignore whatever obvious life lessons are meant to make them reconsider their toxic behavior.

Seinfeld is appealing because viewers get to live vicariously through the actions of terrible people without actually having to face real-life consequences.

It’s About Nothing Came From An Episode

As for why Seinfeld is referred to as a show about nothing, we need to look back at the Season 4 episode entitled “The Pitch.” In this episode, Jerry and George are trying to pitch a TV pilot about Jerry’s life to NBC executives, and George has the brilliant idea of making a show about nothing. It goes without question that “The Pitch” is a playful callback to when Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David were pitching Seinfeld themselves, but Jerry Seinfeld maintains that the episode is mostly a work of fiction based very loosely on real events.

It’s ironic that Jerry Seinfeld himself was hoisted by his own petard and stigmatized for having a show about nothing, but we can all laugh about it now. That being said, let’s get into what Seinfeld is truly about, and I promise you that it’s not nothing.

The Contest Epitomizes Seinfeld

Throughout Seinfeld’s entire run, Jerry, George, Elaine, and Kramer constantly get into trouble because they only look out for themselves, even when together. One of the most iconic moments from the series that can illustrate this point can be found in a Season 4 episode called “The Contest,” in which the gang makes a bet to see who can go the longest without engaging in certain carnal pleasures. They’re all so devoted to winning the contest that they inadvertently sabotage their own respective romantic relationships in the process.

Most importantly, we need to talk about Seinfeld’s polarizing series finale, which confirms to me that the show is about narcissism and nothing else.

180 Episodes For A Punch Line

During the final scene, Jerry, George, Elaine, and Kramer are sitting in jail after being found guilty of breaking a good Samaritan law because they filmed somebody getting car-jacked and laughed at him instead of offering to help. Though they’re all facing a year-long jail sentence, Jerry points out to George that his second shirt button is in the wrong place, to which George replies, “haven’t we had this conversation before?”

Mirroring the first conversation that Jerry and George had during the pilot episode, the final line implies that after everything they’ve all been through, they’re all doomed to repeat the same behavior that got them in trouble in the first place. Though Seinfeld’s nine-season run can be interpreted as a 180-episode setup for a single punchline, I can confidently say that the “nothing” in between is so much more than just jokes about airplane food.