I’ll Have What They’re Having: Sitcom’s Favorite Coffee Spots

Coffee is a hot commodity on television, just like it is in real life. I thought it would be fun to stop by a few of my favorite coffee shops and learn a bit more about them. Often there is more brewing in these spots than the beans. Plots are developed; love is found and lost; and many of the world’s, at least the sitcom’s world, problems are tackled. We’re taking a tour of my top five spots for enjoying a great cup of coffee and getting to know some of the locals.

Photo: rulesofengagement.wikia.com

Number 5: Island Diner on Rules of Engagement

The Island Diner ‘s façade is actually the Ritz Diner in New York City. Using photoshop, the sign was changed and the street sign on the corner switched from “E62 St.” to “W62 St.” The diner is almost another character on the show; it is featured in every single episode of the series.

“Mr. Fix It” Ñ Russell (David Spade, left) tells Jeff (Patrick Warburton, right) that he is interested by a woman he is text dating because she laughs at all his text messages, on the second season premiere of RULES OF ENGAGEMENT, Monday, Sept. 24 (9:30-10:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Photo: Michael Yarish/CBS ©2007 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Photo: CBS Broadcasting Inc.

The entire gang might show up at the diner on any given evening: Jeff and Audrey (Patrick Warburton and Megyn Price) have been married for quite some time. Their friends Adam and Jennifer (Oliver Hudson and Bianca Kajilich) are newly engaged. Russell (David Spade) is their single friend, barely tolerated by Audrey and Jennifer since his mind never drifts far from his next female conquest. His assistant Timmy (Adhir Kalyan) eventually joins the group as well, usually because he’s catering to some whim of Russell’s. The group deals with love and life.

The cast may be sassy but Doreen (Diane Sellers), their usual waitress, is even sassier.

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The biggest challenge at the Diner is Audrey trying to keep Jeff’s meals healthier than he would like.

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Number 4: Monk’s Café on Seinfeld

Monk’s Café is also a real place in New York called Tom’s Restaurant, located at 112th and Broadway. They changed the name to Monk, because Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David had a poster of the jazz great Thelonious Monk in their office and they used it for the name.

Like many of our characters’ favorite hang-out spots, the atmosphere is not what reels you in. Coordinating plaid walls and matching curtains, leather seats, and a mauve counter are not what you think of in a contemporary café. The interior shots of the restaurant were filmed in the sound stage.

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Many nights you’ll find Jerry, George, Kramer, and Elaine (Jerry Seinfeld, Jason Alexander, Michael Richards, and Julia Louis Dreyfus) catching up on life. Larry (Lawrence Mandley) is the cook and the owner during most of the seasons of the series. Ruthie Cohen (Ruth Cohen) is the cashier who probably knows more about these four than anyone else.

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In the pilot, there was a smaller restaurant called Pete’s and the waitress was named Claire but that all changed with the first regular episode.

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Number 3: Luke’s Diner on Gilmore Girls

The diner is the best place for a meal in Stars Hollow.

You’ll want to get there early because there are only about ten tables in the restaurant. Owned by Luke Danes (Scott Patterson), the service is not always consistent. In addition to Luke, you may order from his nephew Jess (Milo Ventimiglia) or Rory’s friend Lane (Keiko Agena). Luke also lives upstairs; he inherited the business from his father. It was previously a hardware store, and Luke’s apartment was the office. He has a strict “No cell phones” policy.

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Lorelai and Rory (Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel) show up here on almost every episode. They often meet to discuss an awkward or uncomfortable topic. Luke supplies much of their coffee needs. Luckily, refills are always free.

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After the show ended, Gilmore Girls coffee did not. Patterson started his own coffee brand, Scotty P’s Big Mug Coffee. He said he was obsessed with quality coffee. “It’s the thing I look forward to every morning and throughout the day and throughout the evening and throughout the middle of the night.”

You can also find a variety of Gilmore Girls coffee on Boca Java. Their choices include Sookie’s Gourmet Blend, Luke’s No Nonsense Special, Mrs. Kim Approved Dark Roast, Oy with the Snickerpoodles Already, Stars Hollow Autumn Festival, Stars Hollow Winter Festival, and Taylor Doose’s Town Meeting.

Photo: drinks.seriouseats.com

Number 2: Café Nervosa on Frasier

The inspiration for Café Nervosa is Elliott Bay Café, located in Pioneer Square’s Globe Building. Café Nervosa is supposed to be located at the corner of Third and Pike. The real business at that location is, of course, a Starbucks.

This quaint café was set in Seattle and the atmosphere had a Pacific Northwest vibe to it. You would be comfortable settling in with a good book.

Photo: frasier.fandom.com

Frasier (Kelsey Grammer) was often neurotic and a bit high strung but you can’t blame it on the coffee.  Many of the cast members met here for lunch or coffee. It was located across the street from the radio station, KACL and we get to know the staff very well.

Eric (Dean Erickson) was the barista for season one. He was the front man for a garage band and dated Daphne (Jane Leeves) for a time. Another server was Rick (Todd Babcock) who had a fling with Roz (Peri Gilpin). Eventually he left for Paris and better espresso. Thad typically gets Niles’ (David Hyde Pierce) order wrong, causing much frustration. Kit (Jessica Cauffiel) is a blonde waitress who also dated Niles and took a spin class with Roz. James (James Oliver) was a bit of an unfriendly barista.

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One episode, “My Coffee with Niles,” was set entirely within the café.

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Number 1: Central Perk on Friends

Central Perk was not based on a real café, but it did have a real address. Two years after the show was done, Joey Campanero bought a building at 90 Bedford St. and turned it into a restaurant called The Little Owl. Later, he found out his restaurant is the same space Central Perk was supposed to be. Both businesses are neighborhood hangouts.

Originally, the friends were going to meet at a restaurant instead of a coffee shop. At the time the series started, people didn’t spend time sitting in cafes much. The network thought it would be better to meet at a restaurant. The show’s creators held out for the coffee place, and the network relented only if the beige sofa became orange. The creators not only wanted the café to be a set; it was really more of a character. The show was originally titled “Insomnia Café” and was about six friends who hang out in the coffee house. NBC changed the title to “Friends Like Us” which then became “Six of One” and Friends shortly before it aired.

Almost every episode of Friends began or ended with coffee. Monica (Courteney Cox) reconnects with Rachel (Jennifer Aniston) here before her wedding. For a time, both Joey (Matt LeBlanc) and Rachel work at the coffee shop. Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow) entertained there with her song, “Smelly Cat”.

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Somehow the friends always managed to get a seat on the orange couch. The writers actually placed a “Reserved” sign on the table later which you can see if you look closely. The café looks like what you think the coffee place this group would hang out in would. In the episode, “The One with Rachel’s Sister,” we learn a muffin and espresso is $4.50, a coffee and scone is $4.25, a double latte is $2.75, and herbal tea is $1.25.

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Gunther (James Michael Tyler) is a permanent member of the show, working at Central Perk and in love with Rachel. He never really becomes part of the group, but he is invited to some of their parties and get togethers. Tyler got the part because he was the only extra who knew how to use an espresso machine, and he does not get a speaking line until episode 33.

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I would be happy grabbing a cup of coffee at any of these fine establishments. I admit I would be less likely to hang out at the Island Diner or Luke’s Diner. At Luke’s I’d be too conspicuous. You would most likely find me writing at Café Nervosa or over in the corner at Central Perk. Although these would all be fun spots, I’m happy to keep supporting my local neighborhood shops. If you’re ever in the area, I’ll give a shout out to 4:30 AM Coffee House in Chippewa Falls, WI; The Goat Coffee House in Eau Claire, WI; and SHIFT Cyclery & Coffee Bar in Eau Claire, WI. If I’m there when you stop by, I’ll treat you to a cup of coffee.

Photo: idea.lego.com/projects

Jeopardy: What is My Favorite Game Show?

 

Three games shows have been around for a majority of my life: The Price is Right, Wheel of Fortune, and Jeopardy. As a fan, I think most viewers fall in one of the three camps. I am definitely in the Jeopardy camp.

The Back Story of Jeopardy

The original Jeopardy was created by Merv Griffin in 1964. On the site, mervgriffinabc.blogspot, a story is included where Merv explains how Jeopoardy was created: “My wife Julann just came up with the idea one day . . . She noted that there had not been a successful “question and answer” game on the air since the quiz show scandals. Why not do a switch and give the answers to the contestants and let them come up with the question? . . . I loved the idea, went straight to NBC with the idea, and they bought it without even looking at a pilot show.”

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It was hosted by Art Fleming and ran until 1975. While Jeopardy’s format of giving contestants the answers and requiring them to provide the answer is unique, it was not the first tv game show to do that.  Television Quiz, airing in 1941-1942, also used this structure.

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A nighttime syndicated show was on in the evenings from 1974-1975. Don Pardo was the announcer for both the original and the nighttime show. John Harlan was hired as the announcer for a show titled The All-New Jeopardy which aired in October 1978 and ended in March 1979.

In September of 1984, the current version hosted by Alex Trebek (whose real name is George), began and continues today. Johnny Gilbert has partnered with Alex as announcer during the show’s run. The current version has produced more than 7000 episodes, just in case you wanted to watch them before you audition. Five shows are taped a day for 46 days. That would be a fun job to have with lots of time to recharge every year.

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Photo: johnnygilbert.tv

When I was in college in the mid-1980s, I remember listening to a radio show on Sunday nights from St. Louis that Art Fleming hosted and, as I remember it, it was very similar to Jeopardy.

Jeopardy has won a record-setting 34 Emmys. It also won the Peabody Award in 2011 for “decades of consistently encouraging, celebrating and rewarding knowledge of this, that and the other.” It has won several other awards including the Writers Guild of America Award in 2014.

The Rules of the Game

While there have been a few changes to the Jeopardy format over the years, the game has remained basically the same. Three contestants answer questions. Whoever buzzes in first is allowed to answer. Until 1985 contestants could answer as soon as the clue was revealed. In September of 1985, it was required that the contestant not hit the buzzer until the clue is read. The Jeopardy round has a clue where the contestant can bet an amount of their money, or up to $1000 if they have less than that amount. In the Double Jeopardy round, there are two clues available and players can bet up to $2000 or the amount of money they have.

A contestant chooses from categories of clues. Each of the clues vertically increases in monetary value. The second round, Double Jeopardy, features six new categories of clues. Clue values are doubled from the Jeopardy round.

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The Final Jeopardy round features a single clue. Contestants write their wagers using a light pen to write on an electronic display on their lectern. The contestants have 30 seconds to write their responses, while the show’s iconic “Think!” music plays in the background. In the event that either the display or the pen malfunctions, contestants can use an index card and a marker to manually write their response and wager.

The contestant with the highest score at the end of the round is that day’s winner. If all three contestants finish with $0, no one returns as champion for the next show. The second and third place winners receive a small amount of money.  The top scorer(s) in each game retains the value of the winnings in cash and return to play in the next day’s show. If there is a tie, both players can come back the next day.

Seven times a show has ended with no winner. Three new contestants then show up the next day.

The Clue Crew

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Photo: maximumfun.org

In 2001, the Clue Crew was formed. They travel around the world to tape clues. More than 5000 people applied for the three positions. The current crew is comprised of Sarah Whitcomb, Joe Cannon, and Kelly Miyahara. The team has been to more than 280 cities, including all 50 states and 44 other countries.

The Writers

Nine writers and five researchers create the categories and clues for Jeopardy.

You’ve Probably Hummed the Theme Even if You Don’t Watch the Show

Since the debut of Jeopardy in 1964, several different songs and arrangements have served as the theme music for the show, most of which were composed by Griffin. The main theme for the original Jeopardy series was “Take Ten” composed by Griffin’s wife Julann. The best-known theme song on Jeopardy is “Think!” originally composed by Griffin under the title “A Time for Tony”, as a lullaby for his son. “Think!” has always been used for the 30-second period in Final Jeopardy when the contestants write down their responses, and since the syndicated version debuted in 1984, a rendition of that tune has been used as the main theme song.

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Even Game Shows Have Spin-offs

In addition to the daily show, three other versions of Jeopardy have been created: Rock & Roll Jeopardy which was on VH1, Jep! which was on the Game Show Network, and Sports Jeopardy! hosted by Dan Patrick.

More Than Fifteen Minutes of Fame

Ken Jennings holds the record for the longest appearance on Jeopardy, June 2 – November 30, 2004. He won $2,520,700.  Many people have studied Jennings’ streak and determined that due to filming fatigue, no one is likely to break his record.

The highest earner is Brad Rutter who won $4,355,102 between his first appearances and his tournaments. Roger Craig has the all-time record for a single day of winning. In 2010, he won $77,000.

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Julia Collins who was on in 2014 holds the record for female both for number of games and total winnings. She won $429,100.

Another famous contestant is buzz kill Arthur Chu. He was the first contestant to consistently skip around the board trying to find the daily doubles. Since Chu’s appearance, many contestants have jumped around the board instead of trying to run the categories from top to bottom. Often the categories can be understood better if contestants pick them in order. Personally, I admit that I did hold a grudge against Chu for many years for “ruining” Jeopardy.

Watson, I Presume

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The IBM Challenge aired February 14–16, 2011, and featured IBM’s Watson computer facing off against Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter in a two-game match played over three shows. Watson won both the first game and the overall match to win the grand prize of $1 million, which IBM divided between two charities (World Vision International and World Community Grid). Jennings, who won $300,000 for second place, and Rutter, who won the $200,000 third-place prize, both pledged to donate half of their winnings to charity.

Tournaments

During the most recent version of Jeopardy, various tournaments have been held annually. Currently, there is a Tournament of Champions featuring the top fifteen winners from the past year, The Teen Tournament, The College Championship, Celebrity Jeopardy, and the Teachers Tournament.

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Portrayals and Parodies

Jeopardy has been part of several television shows and movies over the years. In 1988, a show titled “Mama on Jeopardy” featured Thelma Harper (Mama’s Family) competing on the show when Iola was rejected. She doesn’t know many answers but starts to make a comeback and is able to move into Final Jeopardy. She ends up in second place but wins a trip to Hawaii for herself and her ungrateful family.

In 1990, an episode titled “What Is . . . Cliff Clavin?” aired on Cheers. Cliff appears on Jeopardy and wins $22,000, way more money than his competitors have. However, for Final Jeopardy, Cliff bets everything. The answer is “Archibald Leach, Bernard Schwartz, and Lucille LeSueur” and the correct question is “What are the real names of Cary Grant, Tony Curtis, and Joan Crawford,” but Cliff’s answer is “Who are three people who have never been in my kitchen” and he ends up with no money.

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In 1992 on the Golden Girls in “Questions and Answers,” Dorothy auditions but is rejected because they don’t think she’s likable enough for the viewers to root for her. She has a dream that night where she does appear, competing against Rose and neighbor Charlie.

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Perhaps the most famous show to host Jeopardy was Saturday Night Live with their version.

Happy New Year

In honor of its 35th anniversary, Jeopardy is holding a special All-Star tournament this year. Six teams will compete in February during a two-week period. Some of our favorite contestants will be part of the celebration. Captains were chosen and they each drafted their own team. Captains include Buzzy Cohen, Colby Burnett, Julia Collins, Austin Rogers, Ken Jennings, and Brad Rutter. This should be a fun couple of weeks.

I admit these three were my favorite contestants during a tournament. This was a fun couple days. One of my favorite moments was during the introduction of the contestants when they portrayed See No Evil, Hear No Evil,  Speak No Evil. (Buzzy Cohen, Alex Trebek, Alan Lin, Austin Rogers)

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Will You Marry Me?

One of the contestants in 2018 was Michael Pascuzzi. When it came time for Alex to talk with the contestants after the first commercial break, he announced he had no information on his card about Pascuzzi. So, Alex told him to say whatever he wanted. He then proposed to his girlfriend, Maria Shafer, who was in the audience. She must also be a fan, because not only did she say yes, she answered “What is yes.”

 

To Be-ard or Not to Be-ard

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Photo: dailymail.co.uk

Of course one of the most asked questions at the beginning of each fall season is will Alex have the mustache or not. This year, Alex took it a step further. He began the year with a full beard in addition to the mustache and let viewers decide whether it was a keeper or gotta go. Spoiler alert: You will only see the beard for a few shows.

 

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So, You Want to Be on the Show

Auditioning for the current version of the show begins with a written exam, comprising fifty questions in total. This exam is administered online periodically, as well as being offered at regional contestant search events. If you have considered auditioning for Jeopardy, here is what you should know. I took these paragraphs directly from the Jeopardy site:

“First, you must take and pass the online test. If you pass the test and meet the minimum eligibility requirements, you will be placed into a random selection process for an invitation to an audition. Assuming you perform well at the audition, you will be placed into the contestant pool and could be invited to compete up to 18 months from your audition date. Making it to an audition is not a guarantee of being invited to compete on the show.

There is no fee to take any of the tests, but any costs you incur in connection with the test are your responsibility. Likewise, if you are invited to participate in an in-person audition, all costs (including, but not limited to, accommodations, meals, transportation and parking) must come at your own expense.

If you pass the test and do well at your audition, you will be placed in a pool of potential contestants for 18 months after your audition date. But attending an audition and being put in the pool does not guarantee that you will be invited to appear on the show. If you are selected to compete on the show, our contestant coordinators will contact you with full details. Prospective contestants are notified about a month in advance of their tape date.”

What is My Favorite Jeopardy Story?

Some of the most entertaining parts of Jeopardy are when Alex talks to the contestants. I remember one woman who was in Yellowstone and while the rest of the family was taking a class about what to do if bears show up, her mom was alone at the campsite with several bears. One lady said she and her mom learned Swedish because they loved Abba songs. One guy said he met his wife because she came over and introduced herself. Later he found out, she did that because she thought he was very smart and talking about philosophy because she heard him discussing Plato. He had to inform her they were discussing play-doh, nothing enlightening. One poor girl said her parents got pregnant late in life and could not decide on a name. Her mom asked her bridge club for suggestions. She ended up taking the first letter from each of their names and calling her daughter “Pidge.”

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One of my favorite facts about Jeopardy was discovered on a Seinfeld episode of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, but it has also been discussed on the show.  Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner get together every night for dinner to watch Jeopardy. Watching an episode with them is definitely on my bucket list.

There are a lot of shows that made me sad when they left the air, but when Jeopardy is cancelled, I will go into a major withdrawal. Like so many Jeopardy fans, it’s a multi-generational interest. my son Brice and daughter-in-law Melanie and I share many texts about watching Jeopardy shows and how we feel about categories or contestants. For my entire life I’ve counted on people dying, paying taxes, and watching Jeopardy. I can give up the first two, but the last one is gonna be a challenge!

 

What’s Going On? Nothing. Then It Must Be Seinfeld.

August 13 is International Left Handers Day. Looking at classic television shows, there are plenty of famous left handers to celebrate including Pierce Brosnan from Remington Steel, Lisa Kudrow from Friends, Sarah Jessica Parker from Square Pegs, Goldie Hawn from Laugh In, Bruce Willis from Moonlighting, Mary Kate Olsen from Full House, Drew Carey from The Drew Carey Show and Whose Line Is It Anyway?, Tim Allen from Home Improvement and Last Man Standing, and Ed O’Neill from Married . . . with Children and Modern Family.

Any of these actors would be worth writing a blog on, but today we are going to concentrate on a show that featured two left handers: Jerry Seinfeld and Jason Alexander. Seinfeld celebrated the continuing misadventures of neurotic New York City stand-up comedian Jerry Seinfeld and his equally neurotic New York City friends.

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This show, always defined as being about nothing, was on for nine years, producing 173 episodes. The show featured one of the most unique concepts for a sitcom.  Like Burns and Allen, Jerry Seinfeld stars as himself, a comedian. He and three of his closest friends live in New York City and we get to listen in to their conversations, adventures, and boring daily chores. Each of the main characters has his or her own quirky traits.

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Debuting in 1989, the show was created by Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David. The characters were based on people they knew. Jerry’s best friend was George Costanza (Jason Alexander). His ex-girlfriend and now close friend Elaine Benes (Julia Louis Dreyfus) was often stopping by his apartment to discuss life. Cosmo Kramer (Michael Richards), known as “Kramer,” lived across the hall from Jerry.

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Jerry is usually the calm in the storm in the group, handing out advice and being the voice of reason. He is a germaphobe and a neat freak. He always has a box or two of cereal on top of his refrigerator and we often see him eating it. He also loves the Mets. Jerry was an Abbot and Costello fan in real life and if you watch the show closely, you will see many references to the show and the actors.

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George has been Jerry’s friend since high school. He has a lot of poor traits including being cheap, a liar, and often petty. He often uses an alias, Art Vandelay, as part of his elaborate lies. However, he is loyal to Jerry.  Other actors considered for the role were Danny DeVito, Nathan Lane, David Alan Grier, Kevin Dunn, and Brad Hall.

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Elaine is trying to find Mr. Right but has to date a lot of Mr. Wrongs to get there. She is sometimes to honest for her own good. She has several jobs during the course of the series. Dreyfus beat out Rosie O’Donnell, Patricia Heaton, Mariska Hargitay, Jessica Lundy, Amy Yasbeck, and Megan Mullally for the role.

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Kramer is his wacky neighbor. He wears vintage clothes and is a bit naïve, but intelligent and caring.  As Kramer (Michael Richards) became more popular, his entrance applause grew so prolonged, that the cast complained it was ruining the pacing of their scenes. Directors subsequently asked the audience not to applaud so much when Kramer entered.

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Another recurring character on the show is Newman played by Wayne Knight. Newman lives in the same apartment building as Jerry. He’s a mailman. He bonds with Kramer but doesn’t like Jerry at all.

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Many episodes are based on real life experiences of Seinfeld and David.  Characters and plots from past shows are often referenced or expanded on. Like real life friends who have inside jokes, several themes reappear. Plots are often everyday activities. In one show, Jerry, George, and Elaine spend the episode waiting for a table at a Chinese restaurant.

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Like Friends, it truly was an ensemble cast. While the audience loved Kramer, each of the characters was equally important. In a May 14, 2018 Variety story, authored by Scott Huver, who was reflecting on the popularity of the show, Jason was discussing the last episode. His quote sums up how crucial they all were: “And he (Jerry) said this really beautiful thing. He said, ‘For the rest of our lives when anybody thinks of one of us, they will think of the four of us, and I can’t think of any people that I would rather have that be true of.’ And as we all began to weep over the fact that Jerry had said that, that’s when they started calling our names and we had to go out and pretend that everything’s just hunky dory.”

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Unlike many other shows, Seinfeld was slow to gain a fan following. In season four, they finally it the top 30.  However, the show ranked number one for its entire final year.

Jerry Seinfeld received five Emmy Award nominations for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series, but never won. The show was nominated for Outstanding Comedy Series from 1992-1998 but only won the Emmy in 1993.

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Jerry Seinfeld turned down an offer from NBC that would have made him one hundred ten million dollars for a tenth season of the show.  There was talk this past year about a Seinfeld revival. After watching Will and Grace’s revival, I’m not sure that’s a good idea. Rarely do revivals live up to their predecessor’s quality.

The finale was viewed by 76 million people. Many fans found the show offensive. The entire group of friends are taken to jail for violating the Good Samaritan law in Massachusetts. They watch an overweight man being robbed and instead of getting help, they mock him.

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None of the friends did the right thing, but perhaps Seinfeld and Alexander can be excused since they were left-handed. Finales are tough especially for a much-beloved show and this one did not do the show justice. In my opinion, it deserved a more creative going away party.