Seinfeld stood out from the many family and group sitcoms of its time. None of the principal Seinfeld characters were related by family or work connections but remained distinctively close friends throughout the seasons. The episodes of most sitcoms like Family Ties, Who’s the Boss? and Full House revolve around a central theme or contrived comic situations, whereas many episodes of Seinfeld focused on minutiae, such as waiting in line at the movies, going out for dinner, buying a suit and dealing with the petty injustices of life. The view presented in Seinfeld is arguably consistent with the philosophy of nihilism, the idea that life is meaningless.
Tom’s Restaurant, a diner at 112th Street and Broadway, in Manhattan, was used as the exterior image of Monk’s Cafe in the show.
The main characters and many recurring characters were mainly based on Seinfeld’s and David’s real-life acquaintances. Two of the most prominent recurring characters were based on well-known people: Jacopo Peterman of the J. Peterman catalog (based on John Peterman), and George Steinbrenner, the owner of the New York Yankees. Many others characters were introduced as more writers gets involved with Seinfeld. As such the prominent guest stars includes the Soup Nazi and Jackie Chiles based on Johnnie Cochran.
With nearly every Seinfeld episode, the main characters’ unique storyline is different from the conventions of a normal sitcom. A story thread is presented at the beginning of each episode, which involves the characters in separate and seemingly unrelated situations. Rapid scene-shifts between storylines bring the stories together toward the end of the episode. Despite the separate plot strands, the narratives reveal the creators’ “consistent efforts to maintain the intimacy” amongst the small cast of characters.
The show kept a strong sense of continuity—characters and plots from past episodes were frequently referenced or expanded upon. Occasionally, story arcs spanned multiple episodes and even entire seasons. For example, Jerry’s girlfriend appears in “The Stake Out” and he ends the relationship when things do not work out in “The Stock Tip”. Other examples were Kramer getting his jacket back and Elaine heading the “Peterman catalog”. Larry David, the show’s head writer and executive producer for the first seven seasons, was praised for keeping a close eye on minor details and making sure the main characters’ lives remained consistent and believable. Curb Your Enthusiasm—David’s later comedy series—further expanded on this idea by following a specific theme for all but one season in the series.
The most important difference between Seinfeld and other sitcoms prior to this is that the principal characters never learned their moral lessons throughout the seasons. In effect, they were indifferent to the outside world and could be callous towards their guest characters and relatives, indeed sometimes towards each other; a mantra of the show’s producers was: “No hugging, no learning.”This leads to very few happy endings, except when they come at someone else’s expense. More often in every episode, situations resolved with characters getting a justly deserved “comeuppance”.