You might be a Seinfeld fan if:
- You've ever noted with disgust that someone "double dipped" a potato chip.
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.Disc 1
"The Hot Tub"
"The Soup Nazi"
"The Secret Code"
"The Pool Guy"
"The Cadillac, Parts 1 & 2"
"The Shower Head"
"The Friars Club"
"The Wig Master"
"The Bottle Deposit, Parts 1 & 2"
"The Wait Out"
A thick cardboard sleeve holds the four DVDs that comprise the volume. All come in plastic slimcases.The Video:
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 Audio:
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.Final Thoughts:
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.