There was an article in Jan 19 issue of New Yorker about Larry David that talks a bit about the origins of the show and the relationships of Jerry and the two Larry's (Larry David and Larry Charles) with the NBC powers. Here's a small excerpt that might be illuminating about the "nothingness" aspect of the show.
Larry David met Jerry Seinfeld around 1976. David had been doing standup for two years; Seinfeld was just starting out. “Our brains had a comedic connection,” Seinfeld says. “Larry was a guy open to discussing virtually any human dilemma, as long as it was something that not a lot of other people were interested in. I was exactly the same way. We weren’t interested in what was on the front page of the newspaper.” They became comedy friends, working on standup material together while walking through Central Park or sitting in a coffee shop, one helping the other if he was stuck with a bit.
Seven years younger than David, Seinfeld was boyish and charismatic, and by the late eighties he was touring steadily and making frequent appearances on the “Tonight Show” and “Late Night with David Letterman.” He reportedly earned up to twenty-five thousand dollars a weekend at comedy clubs. As the unflappable master of observational standup, Seinfeld had created a persona that was almost completely impersonal yet thoroughly engaging. Larry David pushed audiences away; Jerry Seinfeld seduced them.
In the fall of 1988, Seinfeld received the ultimate acknowledgment for a comic: NBC called, wanting to develop a show with him. “It didn’t seem like any fun to do it by myself,” he says. “So I told Larry about it.”
One night in late November, Seinfeld and David were going to share a cab back to the West Side from Catch a Rising Star but decided to stop and pick up some groceries first. “It was a Korean deli, and we were waiting to pay, and we started making fun of the products they kept by the register,” Seinfeld says. “You know, those fig bars in cellophane, without a label, that look like somebody made them in their basement?”
David turned to Seinfeld and said, “This is what the show should be—this is the kind of dialogue that we should do on the show.”
“The stuff that we would talk about was never on TV,” Seinfeld says. “The essence of the show, originally, was my desire to transplant the tone and subjects of my conversations with Larry to television. At first, the idea was to have two comedians walking around in New York, making fun of things, and in between you’d have standup bits.”
David and Seinfeld pitched the rough concept to NBC. The meeting, which was eventually immortalized in the “Seinfeld” episode that has Jerry and George pitching “a show about nothing” to NBC, was notably tense. Not only were David and Seinfeld pitching fig-bar conversations; they wanted to do a one-camera, documentary-style show. The NBC executives were not impressed; they told David and Seinfeld that they wanted a straight, three-camera sitcom.
The executives were particularly unimpressed with Larry David. He remembers Seinfeld’s looking askance at him while he protested the network’s aesthetic. “I said, ‘This is not the show.’ People looked at me like I was a little nuts—a lot of ‘Who is this guy?’ kind of looks.”
Still, the NBC executives saw something. “I guess they figured it was worth a pilot,” David said. “Well, they liked him enough that they figured it was worth a pilot. I think they would’ve gotten rid of me in a split second if they could’ve. They would have gotten rid of me without even thinking about it.”
As “Seinfeld”’s show-runner—the head writer and the person in charge of every detail of the series and the scripts—Larry David kept clashing with the forces of conventionality. “At the beginning, Jerry’s managers were always very concerned that Jerry come off well,” Larry Charles, the former supervising producer of “Seinfeld” and now an executive producer of “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” told me. We were sitting in Charles’s book-lined office, next to Larry David’s. “I drew a caricature of him on a board on a wall, with the caption ‘Must always smell like a rose.’”