Even though I use at least a few Seinfeld-derived quotes a day, mostly without realizing it, I still feel the show’s influence slipping away from cultural significance. We nicknamed our house Serenity Now…only a handful of our friends get the reference. Ordering a Big Salad at the diner at lunch? The concept is totally lost on the server. And I said ‘these pretzels are making me thirsty’ at a party last weekend, holding a piece of popcorn, and people started checking my pupils.
I have to face it — I’m getting old. My only hope is that Seinfeld will somehow find a renaissance among hipsters searching for vintage cuts on hulu. Until then, here’s the start of what will probably be a growing list of Seinfeld episodes that simply couldn’t be reproduced today, either because smartphones would negate the plot before it even started or because someone would be offended enough to create a boycott hashtag after viewing the previews.
5. The Little Jerry, 1997 ~ Kramer buys a chicken, later finds out it’s actually a rooster, and proceeds to enter him into a basement cock-fight organized by the owner of a nearby Bodega. While this story line would draw outrage from any present-day animal activist, a quick wiki search actually proves that not only did this episode fly with viewers (sorry), it was one of the most well-received of the entire series. The Mets even had their own Little Jerry Seinfeld for a while. If that’s not enough — the reason Kramer enters the fight is to have one of Jerry’s bad checks removed from the Bodega’s wall. Even if that did happen to me today…would I feel shame?
4. The Phone Message, 1991 ~ George thinks his new GF is blowing him off, leaves nasty messages on her answering machine, then recruits Jerry to help him switch out the tape in the machine before she hears it when he realizes he’s wrong. Pull the ‘preemptive bitchy voicemail’ move today, and you’re out of luck — the recipient is probably listening to it before you’ve even pressed ‘end call.’
3. The Chinese Woman, 1994 ~ Jerry talks to a woman on the phone named Donna Chang when her line is crossed with George’s. After finding out she’s actually Jewish, Jerry embarks on a crusade to get her to admit she likes to pretend to be Asian. In the wake of racial appropriation scandals like those of Rachel Dolezal — not to mention the 2016 Oscars— the plot and a lot of the one-liners would be DOA today, even without the starting premise of crossed land lines.
2. The Package, 1996 ~ Among other mixed plot lines, George has Kramer take ‘seductive’ photos of him to woo the woman who works at the one-hour-photo place, only to succeed in wooing her gay coworker instead. According to PetaPixel.com, there are only about 190 one-hour-photo stores left in the U.S., rendering the ‘one sexy photo on the roll’ move all but obsolete. Now, we’re relegated to sexting with the possibility of life-long embarrassment on the Internet.
1. The Puerto Rican Day, 1998 ~ The episode from the ninth and final season actually was pulled from syndication for a while, due to its central controversy: Kramer accidentally burning and stomping on the Puerto Rican flag. The gag would be viewed as in even poorer taste today than it was in ’98 under any circumstances, but Michael Richards also relegated himself to permanent racial-joke purgatory eight years after the episode aired. Even without that moment, though, the whole episode has a slightly racist undertone and an ongoing joke about The Poseidon Adventure… a cultural obsession of my youth that’s even farther away than Seinfeld.
If people are starting to think ‘No Soup for You’ is just a nervous tick of mine, I’ve no hope for Shelly Winters references.