As you know if you've read my
reviews of Seasons
1 and 2 and Season
3, Seinfeld is my all-time favorite comedy series. In
fact, I'll go boldly out on a limb and say that it's the best comedy
television series, ever. Other shows have emulated it, but none have
captured the genius of this show about "nothing," with its
fantastic writing, consistently hilarious situations, and
unforgettable comic characters. Jerry Seinfeld, George Costanza,
Elaine Benes, and of course the inimitable Kramer, are an ensemble of
characters who clicked from the very beginning, and now that the
series has fully hit its stride, Season 4 is full of pure comedic
gold from start to finish.
Season 4 is "classic Seinfeld"
through and through, but oddly enough, it actually starts off in a
highly atypical manner. Though the show's funniest moments all
revolve around Jerry, George, Kramer, and Elaine in their daily lives
in New York, Season 4 opens with the two-part "The Trip,"
featuring Jerry and George flying to Los Angeles to look for Kramer
(who, as viewers will remember, took off for Hollywood at the end of
Season 3). But this is Seinfeld, and though the "away"
opening isn't quite as strong as the "home" episodes, that
just means it's an ordinary level of funny, rather than extremely
funny. After all, we've got George fretting about getting a no-tuck
on his hotel bed... Kramer suspected of being a serial killer...
Jerry appearing on the Tonight Show while George has "great
conversations" with the stars backstage... and plenty of other
odd occurrences presented through the wacky perspective of the
Season 4 is unusual for its time in
that it features a complete story arc, and even more than that, it's
amusingly self-referential: Jerry is approached with the idea that
he'll have a show on NBC, and he and George come up with the idea for
a sitcom about "nothing," featuring Jerry as himself, and
with the other characters based on his friends. "The Pitch"
and "The Ticket" get this story arc off to a good start
(for the viewers, that is) as Jerry and George discover the
liabilities involved in letting George handle the business
negotiations for the pilot. Things do keep moving along, with a lot
of ups and downs, so that many of the fourth season's episodes play
around with the trials and tribulations involved in getting a pilot
episode made by a couple of guys with no experience, wrapping up in
the season finale, "The Pilot."
When the only way we could watch
Seinfeld was in out-of-sequence re-runs, we could only
appreciate the episodes for their (ample) stand-alone merit; the
charm of those ongoing storylines got lost in the shuffle to a
certain extent. Now that the DVD set neatly sorts the episodes back
into their original broadcast order once again, it's very apparent
how cleverly the whole season is constructed. In addition to the
two-part episodes and the episodes dealing with the main story arc,
many of the episodes throughout the season make use of references or
plot events from earlier episodes. It all ends up working very well,
as it helps build up our sense of Seinfeld as taking place in
a world that's rich with coincidence and curious characters, and it
gives the writers more leeway to play with the wacky situations
they've come up with.
The cast of recurring secondary
characters also builds: not only do we again see Jerry's parents and
Uncle Leo, but we meet George's new girlfriend Susan, as well as
meeting George's parents for the first time. (Longtime fans will be
interested to know that the DVD includes both versions of "The
Handicap Spot," where Mr. Costanza appears for the first time:
we get both the original version, with John Randolph in the role, and
the re-shot syndicated version, with Jerry Stiller in the role that
he'd then continue playing.)
Here in Season 4, with three
successful seasons under its belt, Seinfeld is deservedly
self-confident; how else could it get away with a story arc that
basically lampoons television in general and the production of new
television series in particular? But its confidence also shines
through in the way that the whole approach of Season 3 is taken to a
new level in Season 4. The interwoven storylines that I associate so
strongly with Seinfeld are in full form here. Every episode has more
than one plot line going on, with the story switching back and forth
as the episode proceeds. It's what makes a single half-hour of
Seinfeld feel like it has more wacky events and great comedy
packed in than in a whole hour of another sitcom.
All the episodes here are great fun,
and in fact it's getting harder to select just a few to highlight as
stand-outs. Who can forget "The Bubble Boy," in which Jerry
and George visit the title character on their way to a holiday in the
mountains? "The Contest," with its plot centering around
the group's challenge to see who can go the longest without doing
"you know," is not only a fan favorite, but also an award
winner, as it took home an Emmy for Best Comedy, Writing, and
Supporting Actor (for Michael Richards) and a Director's Guild of
America award for director Tom Cherones. "The Pick" counts among the most memorable episodes, with its
sub-plot involving Elaine's nipple-showing Christmas card. "The
Implant" is another favorite, with Jerry trying to figure out if
his girlfriend's breasts are, or are not, too good to be true, while
George gets in trouble for double-dipping chips at a wake. And who
can forget "The Junior Mint," with a girlfriend whose name
Jerry has forgotten, an ex-boyfriend whom Elaine is interested in now
that he's thin, and, of course, the amazing effects of one misplaced
little Junior Mint? But really, it's impossible to capture the appeal
of a Seinfeld episode with a plot summary. If you're a fan of
the show, you know exactly what I mean... and if you've been living
under a rock somewhere and haven't watched Seinfeld, now would
be a really good time to start.
Take it from me: Seinfeld is
a great show. And Season 4 is a great set of Seinfeld
episodes. Just to refresh your memory, here's a list of all the
episodes from Season 4. All are the full-length original versions,
not the shorter syndicated versions. The episodes with commentary
tracks are listed in bold.
Season 4 (1992-1993)
- The Trip: Part 1 (writer Larry Charles)
- The Trip: Part 2 (writer
- The Pitch / The Ticket
- The Wallet
- The Watch
- The Bubble Boy
- The Cheever Letters (Julia
Louis-Dreyfus, Jason Alexander, and Michael Richard)
- The Opera
- The Virgin
- The Contest (Jerry
- The Airport (writer Larry
- The Pick
- The Movie
- The Visa
- The Shoes
- The Outing (Julia
Louis-Dreyfus, Jason Alexander, and Michael Richard)
- The Old Man
- The Implant (writer Peter
- The Junior Mint (Jerry
- The Smelly Car
- The Handicap Spot
- The Pilot: Part 1 (production
designer Tom Azzori and director/producer Tom Cherones)
- The Pilot: Part 2 (production
designer Tom Azzori and director/producer Tom Cherones)
Seinfeld: Season 4 is
packaged in the same style as the earlier seasons. The episodes are
spread across four DVDs, each in an ultra-slim plastic keepcase
inside a glossy paperboard slipcase, which in turn has a slipcover.
Seinfeld: Season 4 appears in
its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio, and it continues to look excellent
in its DVD transfer. It's not perfect, as there's some grain here and
there (particularly in a few outdoor shots) but overall it's a nicely
crisp and clean transfer. Colors look great, and overall it has a
fresh and natural appearance.
The Dolby 2.0 soundtrack provides a
clean and pleasing listening experience. The dialogue is always crisp
and clear, and the musical score and laugh track are always nicely
balanced with the other audio elements. The overall sound is natural
and clean. French and Spanish dubbed tracks are also provided, as are
English, Spanish, French, and Portuguese subtitles.
Seinfeld fans are treated to
a thorough special-features treatment in Season 4. Here's a breakdown
"The Breakout Season," a
19-minute featurette, gets things rolling by giving background
information on Season 4, and the new ideas behind it; we hear from a
variety of people involved, including NBC representatives, the
creators, and cast members, so it's quite interesting. Also included
here is a 5-minute parody of Regis and Kathie Lee.
Writer Larry Charles provides a
commentary track for both parts of "The Trip." We also get
the text "Notes About Nothing" feature for all the episodes
on this disc. "Inside Look" mini-featurettes, which give
additional insights and background information about specific
episodes, appear for "The Trip" and "The Pitch / The
Ticket." To wrap things up for this disc, we also get deleted
scenes for "The Trip" and "The Wallet."
The distinctive content on this disc
starts out with a substantial 21-minute set of bloopers and outtakes
for Season 4. A "Master of His Domain" segment also adds in
about eight minutes of previously unseen stand-up comedy material
from Jerry Seinfeld.
Two episodes get commentaries on
this disc: "The Cheever Letters" with Julia Louis-Dreyfus,
Jason Alexander, and Michael Richard, and "The Contest"
with Jerry Seinfeld. "Notes About Nothing" are also
included for all the episodes.
There are plenty of "Inside
Looks" here, as we get the scoop on "The Bubble Boy,"
"The Cheever Letters," "The Opera," and "The
Contest." Deleted scenes are also included for "The Cheever
Letters," "The Contest," and "The Virgin."
The special features section here
starts out with an assortment of minor features: NBC promos, 1992
Olympic promos, and a photo gallery.
Moving on to more substantial
extras, we get a commentary on "The Airport" by writer
Larry Charles, and one for "The Outing" with Julia
Louis-Dreyfus, Jason Alexander, and Michael Richard. "Notes
About Nothing" are also included for all episodes.
Deleted scenes are included for "The
Airport," "The Pick," "The Movie," and "The
Outing." On top of that, we also get an alternate ending for
The special feature that's unique to
Disc 4 is an introduction by Jason Alexander to "The Handicap
Spot," which in itself is a bit of an extra: the DVD includes
both the original version, with John Randolph in the role, and the
re-shot syndicated version, with Jerry Stiller as Mr. Costanza.
Commentary tracks are provided for
four episodes here. "The Implant" has writer Peter Mehlman;
"The Junior Mint" features Jerry Seinfeld; and both parts
of "The Pilot" have a commentary by production designer Tom
Azzori and director/producer Tom Cherones.
We get "Inside Looks" for
"The Old Man," "The Implant," "The Smelly
Car," and "The Handicap Spot." Deleted scenes are
provided for "The Old Man" and "The Handicap Spot,"
and we also get an alternate ending for "The Old Man."
What more could Seinfeld fans
ask for? We've got a knockout season of classic Seinfeld comedy, a
great transfer, and a generous helping of interesting special
features that add to the already top-notch replayability of this
great set. Why are you still reading this when you could be watching
Seinfeld on DVD? If you're a devoted fan already, you know you
want this set, and if you've been a casual viewer, seeing the
episodes in their unedited, broadcast-order glory could very well win
you over to becoming a die-hard Seinfeld enthusiast. Any way
you look at it, this set gets a "DVDTalk Collector Series"