You might be a Seinfeld fan if:
- You've ever noted with disgust that someone "double dipped" a potato chip.
- You've shuddered when confronted by a "close talker."
- You can't eat a Junior Mint without also thinking about stomach surgery.
- You've been known to utter the phrase, "They're real, and they're spectacular."
- You've ever yadda, yadda, yaddaed.
If the answer to two or more of the above is in the affirmative, chances are you are a diehard Seinfeld fan – not that there's anything wrong with that -- and probably don't need a treatise on the hilarity of the NBC sitcom that was a pop culture touchstone throughout the 1990s. The series that introduced the world to a mind-boggling array of such curious (but dead-on) concepts as "man hands" and "makeup sex" starred Jerry Seinfeld as the titular character, Jason Alexander as George Costanza, Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Elaine Benes and Michael Richards as Cosmo Kramer. And if you didn't know that much already, well, congratulations on the successful space travel and welcome to Planet Earth.
Season 7, which aired from November of 1995 to May of 1996, contains its fair share of classic Seinfeld episodes. Even fair-weather fans likely know "The Soup Nazi," in which the troupe endures a fascist of a soup virtuoso who runs his eatery with an iron ladle (you've gotta love any show that can actually turn "No soup for you!" into a universal catchphrase). The season also boasted "The Sponge," in which Elaine hordes a case of her (then discontinued) favorite birth-control device, thereby forcing her to select only sexual partners who are "spongeworthy" material. Other noteworthy greats from the season include "The Cadillac," "The Wink" and "The Rye."
Perhaps the most controversial episode in Seinfeld history was Season 7's finale. In the morbidly funny deus ex machina of "The Invitations," George frees himself from the hell of impending marriage when fiancée Susan (Heidi Swedberg) dies from licking toxic adhesive glue on their wedding invitations. In a featurette on the DVD, Alexander proclaims the scene as the "coldest moment ever played on a television show." While that might be a stretch, it probably earns the distinction as the coldest moment on a TV sitcom.
Series creators Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David (whose last year with the series was the seventh season) fostered the perception that Seinfeld was "a show about nothing," but the reality was far different. As the commentaries and mini-documentaries on this four-disc set make clear, Seinfeld clicked with TV audiences precisely because it was about something -- with that something being life in all its absurdities, frustrations, resentments and inanities. Seinfeld, David and the slew of gifted writers were shrewd enough to exploit the petty thoughts and actions we all know, but don't easily own up to. It's no wonder, then, that the episodes routinely wove together multiple storylines that often stemmed from the real-life experience of one or more of the show's writers. This was the politics of daily life, whether it was about compartmentalizing interpersonal relationships ("Worlds colliding!") or just making sure that your contribution to a tip jar is duly appreciated.
Seinfeld soared for its brilliant writing, but the show also benefited from the impeccable chemistry of its four stars. Still, if Season 7 belonged to anyone, it was Alexander; his sputtering, neurotic George Costanza netted the season's ongoing story arc with his impulsive and ill-fated engagement to Susan Ross. Of course, Season 7 still offered wonderful ensemble work. Moreover, the season introduced a few recurring minor characters, such as fast-talking attorney Jackie Chiles (Phil Morris), a Johnnie Cochran clone; "braless wonder" Sue Ellen Mischke (Brenda Strong) and a gossipy rabbi (Bruce Mahler).
While Seinfeld wasn't known for a stream of guest stars (with the exception of some notables among Jerry's girlfriends), a few memorable actors pop up in Season 7, including Debra Messing, Janeane Garofalo, Kathy Griffin, Rob Schneider, Brad Garrett, Cary Elwes, Pat Cooper, Alexandra Wentworth and, in a blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameo, ex-Saturday Night Live cast member Ana Gasteyer.
Following are a list of the episodes contained in the DVD package, along with a brief synopsis and relevant supplemental material. All episodes feature an optional "Notes about Nothing," a sort of DVD version of VH1's defunct Pop-Up Video series. Mini-documentaries on specific episodes come under the heading Inside Look. Oh, and there is the usual smattering of deleted scenes.
As a result of the pact he made with Jerry to grow up, George proposes to Susan. A barking dog keeps Elaine up at night so she enlists Kramer and Newman to help her solve the problem.
Inside Look (4 minutes)
Deleted scene (1:31)
Jealous of George's engagement, Elaine seeks counsel from her rabbi neighbor, who isn't very good at keeping secrets. George panics about getting married and convinces Susan to postpone the wedding. Kramer tries to sneak his cup of coffee into a movie and suffers burns when it spills.
Commentary with Alexander and Louis-Dreyfus
Elaine dates Kramer's friend, "the Maestro." Jerry becomes obsessed when "the Maestro" tells him there's nothing available to rent in Tuscany. Jackie Chiles represents Kramer in his lawsuit against the coffee company.
Inside Look (4:20)
Jerry's healthy eating habits backfire when his grapefruit squirts into George's eye. George's involuntary winking leads to trouble at the Yankees.
"The Hot Tub"
Elaine hosts Jean-Paul for the New York City marathon. He has a history of oversleeping, so Jerry fixates on ensuring he's up in time for the race. Kramer installs a hot tub in his living room.
Deleted scenes (2:17)
"The Soup Nazi"
The gang discovers an amazing soup stand run by a dictatorial chef. Jerry must decide between his girlfriend, "Schmoopie," and the soup. Elaine buys an antique armoire from a guy on the street and asks Kramer to watch it until she's able to move into her apartment.
Commentary with Seinfeld, director Andy Ackerman and writer Spike Fersten
Inside Look (7:30)
"The Secret Code"
George refuses to give Susan his ATM code. Elaine is attracted to a man because he doesn't remember meeting her. Jerry abandons George with Peterman, who drags him to see his dying Mama. Kramer gets an emergency band scanner to keep tabs on the local police and fire departments.
Commentary with writers Alec Berg and Jeff Schaffer
Inside Look (2:19)
"The Pool Guy"
Elaine realizes she has no female friends and makes an effort to get to know Susan, causing George's worlds to collide. The annoying pool guy from Jerry's health club won't leave him alone. Kramer's new phone number is one digit off from Moviefone and he decides to offer his own movie-info service to those who mistakenly call him.
Commentary with Seinfeld, Ackerman and writer David Mandel
Inside Look (5:35)
Elaine panics when she learns her favorite birth-control device is going off the market. She now must determine if her boyfriend is "spongeworthy." Jerry dates a woman whose number he got off an AIDS Walk list. Kramer refuses to wear the red ribbon of the AIDS Walk and suffers the consequences.
Commentary with writer Peter Mehlman
Kramer participates in the revitalization of the Alex Theatre. He encourages his friends to be sensitive to Lloyd Braun, who recently had a mental breakdown. Jerry winds up wearing glasses and buying a lot of Chinese gum just to convince Lloyd he's not crazy. George's "Jon Voight car" catches fire.
Commentary with writers Tom Gammill and Max Pross
Inside Look (3:42)
George's parents bring a marble rye to dinner with Susan's parents, which they don't serve with the meal. Frank takes it with him, leaving George and Jerry the task of sneaking a loaf back into the Ross' apartment. Kramer uses his "hansom cab" to help return the bread.
Inside Look (7:17)
Deleted scene (46 seconds)
Elaine's nemesis, Sue Ellen Mischke, "the braless wonder," causes her great stress. George's abandoned car in the Yankee parking lot leads George Steinbrenner to think he's dead. Contrary to Jackie Chiles' legal counsel, Kramer's golf caddy offers advice both on the green and in the courtroom.
Inside Look (2:08)
Deleted scene (1:27)
George announces that he wants to name his first child Seven and loses it when Susan's cousin decides to use the name. Elaine buys a bike but hurts her neck when it falls off the shelf onto her. Jerry's girlfriend wears the same dress every time he sees her.
Deleted scene (30 seconds)
"The Cadillac, Parts 1 & 2"
When Jerry buys his father a new Cadillac, it leads to trouble for the Seinfelds at their Florida condominium. Through a friend, Elaine sets George up with Marisa Tomei. Kramer turns the tables on the cable guy.
Inside Look (3:25)
"The Shower Head"
Elaine tests positive for opium and loses her job at the Peterman company. George convinces his parents to move to Florida but they squabble with the Seinfelds, leaving everyone in misery. Jerry's building changes all the shower heads to low-flow.
Commentary with Alexander and Dreyfus
George discovers that Susan has a doll that looks exactly like his mother. Susan's college roommate, Sally Weaver, screws up the bit that Jerry had planned for his appearance on the Charles Grodin Show. Frank turns George's childhood room into a billiards parlor.
Commentary with writers Gammill and Pross
Deleted scene (50 seconds)
"The Friars Club"
Jerry tries to join the famed Friars Club but fears he'll never be admitted after the crested blazer disappears at the Flying Sandos Brothers performance. A new Peterman employee with selective hearing bothers Elaine. Kramer tries out Leonardo da Vinci's sleep habits, but they cause him trouble with his Mafia girlfriend.
Commentary with writer Mandel
Inside Look (8:05)
Deleted scenes (3:49)
Alternate ending (1 minute)
"The Wig Master"
Susan invites her friend, a Broadway show wig master, to stay with them. George finds a cheap parking lot but realizes that prostitutes use the cars to conduct their business. Kramer convinces the wig master to loan him the show's Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
Inside Look (1:53)
Deleted scenes (2:15)
George introduces Steinbrenner to calzones but gets banned from the restaurant when he's caught with his hand in the tip jar. Jerry points out that Elaine's boyfriend is dating her without technically asking her out. Kramer enjoys wearing clothes fresh out of the oven.
Commentary with Seinfeld, Ackerman and writers Berg and Schaffer
Inside Look (2:05)
"The Bottle Deposit, Parts 1 & 2"
Elaine purchases John F. Kennedy's golf clubs for Peterman at an auction by outbidding her rival, Sue Ellen Mischke. Jerry's mechanic accuses him of being a bad owner and car-naps the vehicle with the golf clubs still in the backseat. Kramer and Newman find the missing link to their Michigan bottle deposit scheme and set out to make their millions.
Inside Look (5:23)
"The Wait Out"
George makes a remark that breaks up a married couple. Jerry and Elaine pounce as they've been waiting out the relationship for years. Kramer slips into a pair of tight jeans and can't get out.
As his wedding nears, George picks the cheapest invitations in the shop. A woman just like Jerry saves his life, and he proposes marriage to her. Kramer disputes his bank over their offer of $100 if they don't greet you with a "hello."
Inside Look (8:40)
Deleted scenes (3:30)
A thick cardboard sleeve holds the four DVDs that comprise the volume. All come in plastic slimcases.
Presented in its full-frame 1.33:1 aspect ratio, the picture quality is clear and fresh and devoid of washed-out colors. In short, the image is excellent.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 audio track is rock solid for what it is -- a TV sitcom that revolves around snappy dialogue. Audio tracks are in English and French.
Subtitles are available in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese. Subtitles on commentaries are available in Spanish and Portuguese; subtitles in Notes About Nothing are available in English, Spanish and Portuguese.
Seinfeld fans, take heart; this box set has healthy portions of supplemental material. The main bonus features include 14 Inside Look documentaries that provide brief retrospectives on selected episodes. The bulk of them, which feature cast and crew interviews, are informative and entertaining.
The DVDs also boast 10 commentaries. The quality of the tracks varies. While the noticeable absence of Larry David and Michael Richards is disappointing, Seinfeld and the writers have a nice rapport and provide some great fun. Oddly, the commentaries by Alexander and Louis-Dreyfus seem comparatively stilted, although Alexander proves to be a mighty robust laugher. All the episodes have Notes about Nothing, while nine episodes come with deleted scenes.
The best featurette here is easily Queen of the Castle: The Elaine Benes Story. The 16-minute piece is a terrific valentine to the comic genius of Julia Louis-Dreyfus and the often-overlooked part she played in making Seinfeld a success.
Larry David fans (a group that includes your reviewer) will appreciate two featurettes. The seven-minute, 49-second Larry David's Farewell spotlights the Seinfeld co-creator reflecting on his final year with the show. Where's Larry? Seinfeld's Secret Guest Star is a seven-minute, 10-second compilation of David's frequent Seinfeld cameos throughout the years, with his most notable being as the voice of Yankees owner George Steinbrenner.
Some quality standup comedy is on tap with Master of His Domain (Exclusive Stand-Up Material). The eight-minute, 39-second collection of clips showcases Jerry Seinfeld's comedy act he used to begin most episodes.
A fun but exhausting blooper reel, Not That There's Anything Wrong with That, clocks in at 21 minutes, 13 seconds. Whew. That's a lotta bloopers.
TV aficionados who remember Comedy Central's defunct Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist, will be familiar with the concept behind Sein-Imation. In two vignettes (culled from Seinfeld episodes) titled "Dr. Cosmo on Marriage & Family" and "George & the Whale," crudely animated characters on notebook paper give literal shape to Seinfeld shtick. It's mildly amusing, but hardly essential.
C'mon, let's get serious. If your blackened heart still beats for what is arguably the best TV comedy of all time, don't you need the season that gave the world "The Soup Nazi," "The Sponge" and the twisted death of Susan Ross? Along with some wonderful retrospectives, commentaries and a rip-snortin' ode to Louis-Dreyfus, this Seinfeld box set should prove irresistible for any self-respecting fan.