When the Albany legislature appears to do nothing, legislators sometimes quote William Shakespeare and claim that the legislative session is all “much ado about nothing.” The television sitcom Seinfeld was popular in the 1990s, featuring a New York comic and essentially being “a show about nothing” (as the show described itself). By at least 1998, the unproductive Albany legislature was accused of holding “Seinfeld sessions” where nothing got done.
The term “Seinfeld session” has been applied to legislatures in such states as Connecticut, Florida, Iowa, Oregon, and Texas as well as New York.
Seinfeld is an Emmy Award-winning American situation comedy that originally aired on NBC from July 5, 1989 to May 14, 1998, lasting nine seasons. Many of its catchphrases have entered into the popular culture lexicon. The show led the Arthur Nielsen Media Research Ratings in its sixth and ninth seasons and finished among the top two (along with NBC’s ER) every year from 1994 to 1998. In 2002, TV Guide named Seinfeld as the greatest American television program of all time. A 2006 sitcom industry poll conducted by the United Kingdom’s Channel 4 voted Seinfeld as the third best sitcom ever, ranking behind Frasier and Fawlty Towers.
The eponymous series was created by Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld, with the latter starring as a fictionalized version of himself. Set predominantly in an apartment block on New York City’s Upper West Side (but shot mostly in Los Angeles, California), the show features a host of Jerry’s friends and acquaintances, which include George Costanza, Elaine Benes and Cosmo Kramer.
Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David pitched Seinfeld as a “show about nothing,” similar to the self-parodying “show within a show” of Season 4 episodes “The Pilot, Part 1” and “Part 2”. Seinfeld stood out from the typical family- or coworker-driven TV sitcoms of its time. None of the principal Seinfeld characters were related by blood or worked together. The episodes of most sitcoms revolve around a central theme or contrived comic situations, whereas most episodes of Seinfeld focused on the minutiae of daily life, such as waiting in line at the movies, going out for dinner, buying a suit, and coping with the petty injustices of life. Some viewers hold the belief that the world view presented in Seinfeld is somewhat consistent with the philosophy of nihilism, the view that life is pointless.
New York (NY) Times
For Albany Bills, the Year That Wasn’t
By RICHARD PEREZ-PENA
Published: June 23, 1998
All year, legislators, lobbyists and advocates complained about how little seemed to be getting done here.
It was not their imagination.
The 1998 legislative session, which ended on Friday, set a modern record for the fewest bills passed by both the State Senate and the Assembly.
The two houses passed and sent to the Governor just 671 bills during the five and one-half months that the Legislature was in session. Most years during this century, the number has been more than 1,000.
This year’s figure was the lowest in at least 88 years, according to records compiled in The New York Red Book, the state’s annual official record of people and events in state government. The previous low in that period was in 1914, when 722 bills were passed by both houses.
‘’It really was the ‘Seinfeld’ session; it’s all about nothing,’’ said Blair Horner, the New York Public Interest Group’s legislative director. ‘’It doesn’t surprise me, given the poisoned atmosphere.’’
16 March 2001,
House Minority Leader Dick Myers, D-Iowa City, called this “the Seinfeld session - a session about nothing.”
South Florida Business Journal
Friday, April 11, 2003
A ‘Seinfeld’ session
Plodding would seem to be an accurate word to describe the Legislature as it hits Day 39 of its 60-day Session About Nothing.
3 May 2007, Houston (TX) Chronicle, “Legislative Highlights”:
Yada, yada, yada: One lawmaker has called this legislative term “the Seinfeld session.” Because like the “show about nothing,” Scott Hochberg, D-Houston, ...
Sunday, January 27, 2008
The Oregonian Staff
They’re already calling it the “Seinfeld session” in some circles, a nod to the TV sitcom that was all about nothing in particular.
Just look at the agenda for an upcoming meeting of the Oregon Legislature. A bill to ban sales of unsafe toys? A bill to honor the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes baseball team? A school garden pilot program?
As Seinfeld’s wacky neighbor, Kramer, liked to say, “Giddyup!”
Hartford (CT) Courant
A Way To Save Session
May 4, 2008
Lobbyist Patrick Sullivan calls this year’s General Assembly “the Seinfeld Session” in honor of the television series about nothing. The genial, crafty Sullivan should know; he’s been a Capitol fixture longer than some statuary.
It’s true this legislature exudes no deep sense of purpose. As it winds down, bills that once got a lot of hype are nearly without hope: A major ethics bill bounces between chambers; the major crime bill may get whacked by the governor; last year’s budget will go untouched.
If the session ends up being about nothing, its ratings will be a lot lower than Seinfeld’s.
New York (NY) Sun
New York Sun Editorial
May 29, 2008
With three weeks to go in the legislative session in Albany, it looks like lawmakers will wrap things up without, save for the budget, passing a single piece of significant legislation. Each week, lawmakers journey to the capital and find themselves in a land of inertia. On the Assembly floor, Jose Rivera fills the void fiddling with his camcorder and reviewing his home video collection. Others hone their BrickBreaker skills on their BlackBerries or swivel their chairs around and have a palaver with their seatmates. One bemused legislator called this year the “Seinfeld Session”; just like the sitcom, it’s about nothing.
New York City • Government/Law/Politics/Military • (0) Comments • Friday, May 30, 2008 • Permalink