On this day: Seinfeld airs for the first time

May 31 1990: A cult comedy is born

By Jennifer Lipman, May 25, 2011

Regularly topping those "best shows of all time" polls, Seinfeld, which ran from 1990 to 1998, was very much a Jewish comedy.

Audiences spent nine seasons watching actor Jerry Seinfeld play a geeky and neurotic Manhattan singleton contemplating life, love and pretty much anything with his friends Elaine, George and Kramer.

A critical and popular success, Jerry Seinfeld, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jason Alexander and Michael Richards were household names around the world for much of the decade.

Legend has that when Seinfeld and Larry David came up with the idea, they were told it was "too Jewish" by uncertain producers. Despite reservations, four episodes were ordered by US network NBC – and audiences loved it.

Although only two characters were written as Jewish, Jewish themes remained in evidence throughout the show, from a Polish aunt taking offence when Seinfeld unwittingly criticised ponies (she had one in 'the old country') to psychopathic mohels and the famous Soup Nazi.

After 170 episodes, the Seinfeld era came to an end. In November 2009 the cast reunited on television for the first time in a special finale episode of Larry David's Curb Your Enthusiasm.

What the JC said: Beginning this morning [American Jews] will no longer live in a country whose favourite entertainment is to turn on the TV and watch a New York Jews sit around schmoozing dyspeptically with his friends…In a nation hooked on TV Jerry Seinfeld is simply the biggest thing going…and unlike Berle and Benny, he didn't change his name…Viewers choose shows, so the programmers believe, based on whom they'd most like to invite into their living rooms. Right now, that's Jerry Seinfeld.

See more from the JC archives here.

Last updated: 9:12am, May 31 2011