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Seinfeld - Season 8
Seinfeld almost didn't have
an eighth season, due to the departure of Larry David, who had been
the co-creator and executive producer of Seinfeld as well as a
major writer for the show. With such a major change, could Seinfeld
continue on the shoulders of Jerry Seinfeld alone? The answer
(fortunately for fans) turned out to be a resounding "yes!"
Though Season 8 was actually intended to be the show's final season
(hence the symbolism of the little checkered flag behind the Seinfeld
logo), it worked so well that Seinfeld & co. would end up doing
one more season to wrap it up.
With Jerry Seinfeld completely at
the helm of Season 8, Seinfeld continues on strong. As I was
watching this eighth season, I couldn't help but be impressed at how
consistently funny this show is. The series has moved from
strength to strength ever since the opening seasons, due to the
combination of a stellar cast and outstanding comedy writing. There's
a telling observation in the special features for Season 8 that
speaks to the success of Seinfeld: Jerry Seinfeld deliberately
chose a cast who were all better actors than he was; he was willing
to take on the role of straight man whenever the scene demanded it;
and he worked to give the funniest material to the character who
could make it work the best... not reserving it for himself. Though
Seinfeld has as its title just one name, it's really an
ensemble effort, as the episodes in Season 8 continue to demonstrate.
Most of what's notable about Season
8 is that it's equally as good as the preceding seasons. The writing
is just as laugh-out-loud funny, the situations are just as
delightful in their combination of the ordinary and the absurd, and
the actors are just as good in their sharp comedic timing. The main
change that we see in Season 8 is the complete disappearance of the
stand-up clips at the start of the episode; the stories have
organically grown to demand every available moment of on-screen time.
(Remember back in the early days when there'd be stand-up at the end
of the episode as well?) Instead, we jump right into the lives of the
characters, either in a stand-alone humorous segment or something
that gets a story thread moving. The change feels just right: in the
previous seasons, it was always the stories in the world of Seinfeld
that were the funniest, not the comedy routines, good though they
Since the quality of the writing
has, if anything, gotten stronger in this season, the result is that
more Seinfeld is also
Season 8 continues the characteristic Seinfeld experience of
watching an episode and saying "Oh! So that's the episode
with... (fill in the blank)!" There's only one title for each
episode, but perhaps more than any other season, each half-hour show
is a package deal full of classic Seinfeld moments. Take "The
Chicken Roaster," for example. Not only does it have the
hilarious story thread of the title, but it's also the episode with
Elaine's struggle to justify the expense-account purchase of a sable
hat, and George's trick for getting a second date by leaving
something behind at his date's apartment. ("Cos-tan-za.")
"The Pothole" ostensibly focuses on George's lost keys,
but it's also the one with Jerry's girlfriend using a toothbrush that
had fallen into a toilet, and Elaine trying to get Chinese food
delivered outside its delivery zone.
That's not to say that the episodes
feel exactly the same as in previous seasons. There is, I think, an
increased sense of playfulness, with the plots sometimes tinged with
more absurdity than we saw in earlier seasons. It's totally
consistent with the Seinfeld style, though, which is
predicated on the absurdity of daily life to begin with.
One of the characteristics of the
funniest episodes in Season 8 is a playful self-referential comedy.
"The Bizarro Jerry" is probably one of the best all-time
Seinfeld episodes, at least if you are a Seinfeld fan: it does
a brilliant job of playing with the audience's own familiarity with
Seinfeld's characters, premises, and jokes. Then there's "The
Chicken Roaster," with the incursion of Kenny Rogers Roasters
transforming Jerry into Kramer and Kramer into Jerry. Seinfeld also
has a lot of fun playing with references to movies, and to the
conventions of film and television in general, whether it's a
wordless chase scene between Jerry and Newman that plays on the
typical police-story pursuit, or "The English Patient,"
with its riff on the characters' reactions to the Oscar-winning film.
The entire film industry gets skewered with the story thread about
bootleg videos in "The Little Kicks."
The working lives of the characters
continue to provide ample material for comedy: Elaine's work with the
J. Peterman catalog gives her some of the funniest material she's had
in the show (including the Urban Sombrero), while George's
involvement with the Yankees as well as with the Susan Ross
Foundation is a font of great material. In "The Foundation,"
who can forget George's tape-recorder-in-the-briefcase trick?
(recording the famous "squink.") Then there are the
just-plain-classic episodes. "The Yada Yada." ("You
yada-yada'ed sex?!?") "The Muffin Tops" (and
the corresponding muffin stumps).
Writing this review just makes me
realize, once again, that it's basically impossible to describe what
makes Seinfeld so funny. If you've seen the episodes, you'll
be saying to yourself, "Oh, yeah! That one! Yeah, that one was
hilarious!" but if you aren't a Seinfeld fan (poor
deprived soul) then you'll probably be wondering "what is
supposed to be so funny about that?" See, that's the brilliance
of Seinfeld. Most comedy shows take premises that have obvious
potential for humor, and run with them (whether successfully or not).
Seinfeld takes "nothing," the minutia of daily life,
and makes it funny.
All the episodes are the full-length
network versions, not the trimmed syndicated versions. Yay.
Season 8 is packaged as the other
seasons, with the four DVDs in ultra-slim keepcases inside a
slipcase, with an outer slipcase on top.
The episodes look great, as they
have for the past seasons. The image is clean, clear, and
natural-looking, with lively colors and well-handled contrast.
There's occasionally a touch of grain in the outdoor shots, but the
other material looks consistently clean. It would be impossible to go
back to watching miscellaneous episodes caught on TV, after seeing
such a nice transfer available on DVD. The episodes appear in their
original aspect ratio of 1.33:1.
The Dolby 2.0 audio sounds great:
the actors' voices are always natural-sounding, with a nice clarity
and distinctness to the track. That's particularly important in a
show that relies a lot on verbal humor: even an almost-sotto-voce
remark like Kramer's description of Elaine's dancing in "The
Little Kicks" ("... you stink!...") is captured just
right. The laugh tracks are handled well, and are appropriately
balanced with the rest of the track. A dubbed French 2.0 track is
included, as are English closed captions and subtitles in French,
Spanish, and Portuguese.
As usual, there's a generous serving
of special features for Seinfeld fans.
Disc 1 starts with "Jerry
Seinfeld: Submarine Captain," a 23-minute documentary featurette
that takes a look at Jerry Seinfeld (the actor, not the character)
and how he pulled the show together. It's an interesting piece that
includes interview segments with the other cast members, writers, and
other people involved with the show. We get 17 minutes of "Inside
Looks" and two brief deleted scenes (about 2 minutes).
Disc 2 includes "The Del Boca
Vista Express," a "Sein-imation" animation of a short
Seinfeld stand-up routine, 18 minutes of "Inside Looks,"
and three deleted scenes (2 minutes).
Disc 3 has a "Sein-imation"
of "Pinky Toe's Wild Ride," 15 minutes of "Inside
Looks," and four deleted scenes (5 minutes)
Disc 4's main special feature is a
24-minute blooper reel, which goes to show how much effort is
involved in keeping a straight face with the material; it also
includes 26 minutes of "Inside Looks" and five deleted
scenes (7 minutes)
All four discs have the option of
"Notes about Nothing" (text pop-ups during the episode) for
all the episodes. We also get commentaries for many of the episodes
"The Bizarro Jerry": David
"The Little Kicks": Julia
Louis-Dreyfus, Jason Alexander, and Spike Feresten (writer)
"The Fatigues": Gregg
Kavet and Andy Robin (writers)
"The Checks": Tom Gammell
and Max Pross (writers and consulting producers)
"The Chicken Roaster" has
two commentaries: one with Jeff Schaffer and Alec Berg (writers), and
the other with Jerry Seinfeld and Andy Ackerman
"The Abstinence": Jerry
Seinfeld, Andy Ackerman (producer) and Steve Koren (writer)
"The Comeback": Andy Robin
and Gregg Kavet (writers)
"The Susie": David Mandel
"The Pothole": Jerry
Seinfeld, Andy Ackerman (producer), and Dan O'Keefe (director and
"The Nap": Andy Robin and
Gregg Kavet (writers)
"The Yada Yada": Julia
Louis-Dreyfus, Jason Alexander, and Peter Mehlman (writer)
"The Muffin Tops": Julia
Louis-Dreyfus, Jason Alexander, and Spike Feresten (writer)
"The Summer of George":
Alec Berg and Jeff Schaffer (writers)
It's Seinfeld. It's my
favorite comedy series of all time, and, I would argue, the best
comedy series ever. What's not to like? Season 8 has a
slightly more absurdist flavor than the earlier seasons, which to my
mind is a natural progression of some of the funniest elements that
have developed as the series grew. It's a season that's a real treat
for fans, giving us a chance to really enjoy the humor of
self-reference as well as the hilarious stories about the "nothing"
of daily life. I can't think of any possible reason not to rate this
season up there with the last few, and give it a resounding DVD Talk
Collector's Series recommendation.