Seinfeld: The Complete Series

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.


Seriously, what can be said to summarize this show? Is there any bipedal, carbon-based life form that is unfamiliar with the exploits of Jerry (Jerry Seinfeld), George (Jason Alexander), Elaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and Kramer (Michael Richards)?

Four New Yorkers, living utterly selfish, bizarre lives that feature Soup Nazis, parking lot prostitution, dog kidnapping, giant balls of oil, the seductive wiles of John F. Kennedy Jr., Mr. Marbles, poorly constructed rat hats, tasteless Chinese chewing gum, retirement community impeachment hearings, fur coats and European handbags for men, a fat-free yogurt conspiracy against Rudy Giuliani, an interminable wait at a Chinese restaurant, Calvin Klein’s industrial espionage, Festivus, wrongful nose-picking accusations and the scourge of shrinkage.

All of this and much, much more is represented here, with all nine seasons — dispatched over 33 discs — of the groundbreaking comedy that rewrote the rules of network half-hours and single-handedly revised the pop culture lexicon, presented in a gorgeous case and accompanied by the “Seinfeld Coffee Table Book.”

Yo-Yo Ma!

Is there any other show that is so omnipresent and easily and compulsively watchable as this one? Well, besides Saved by the Bell of course. The answer is no. Flick through the channels sometime after dinner and you’ll likely find a Seinfeld rerun, somewhere. And dollars to donuts there’s a good chance you’ll root yourself to the sofa and take it all in, no matter how many times you’ve seen that particular episode before. I am of course referring to myself when I use the second person, but I doubt I’m much different from the zillions of others out there who are enamored with this series.

Seinfeld moved the sitcom into startlingly original directions and very few subsequent comedies have been able to flirt with its brilliance (only Arrested Development and Curb Your Enthusiasm spring to my mind). Co-creator Larry David exerted his comedic firepower in hugely effective ways during his seven-season tenure at the helm of the show and was responsible for some of the most memorable moments in the series. When he left, Jerry took over as the creative driving force and while the tone of the show felt less rooted in the reality of David’s comedy — which often found its hilarity in the mundane — there were plenty of crowd-pleasing moments. When Jerry decided to end the series at Season 9, it went out at the absolute top, garnering 75 million viewers for the series finale.

This show earned its incredible popularity with consistently excellent stuff, sharp, gut-laugh-inducing writing, parallel storylines ranging from the sublime to the surreal and top-shelf, Emmy-soaked acting. The truth is, there was rarely a clunker in the lifetime of Seinfeld. During the time of the approaching series finale, I recalled reading a quote from someone who lauded the series because “you could always count on laughing.” Simple and precise: you will watch this show and you will laugh like everyone else, and if you don’t laugh, it’s probably because of a problem you have.

Fine, maybe that’s a bit too harsh. The show in fact started out a little slow, the writers and actors still feeling out the characters and the premises, and those early episodes are a far cry from the awesomeness that would follow. Then you’ve got the series finale, one of the most hyped television programs in history, which reeled in nearly one-third of the population of the United States. Unfortunately, it was a massive disappointment, clunky, filled with empty cameos, overly self-referential and lacking all signs of the wit and humor that had characterized the episodes before it. More or a surprise considering Larry David himself wrote it. But aside from these missteps — and the occasional off storyline — Seinfeld stands tall as a near-flawless excursion into TV comic greatness.

The Complete Series features all eight volumes that have been released separately (Volume One included shortened Seasons One and Two), packaged together in a handsome all-black with gold lettering. Along with the DVDs is The Coffee Table Book, exclusive to the set, which contains photos, quotes, synopses and trivia from each episode. It’s a nifty bonus. But where is the built-in coaster?

Back to the discs, shows are transferred nice and clean in their native full-frame aspect ratio, supplemented by a 2.0 stereo mix that does its job. A perfectly suitable technical presentation.

But it’s the bonus material that really shines. Each season contains the following:

A different, robust featurette, focusing on some aspect of the show accompanies each season. They’re universally well-done and interesting, offering deep and entertaining insight into the production of the series.

Inside Looks
These behind-the-scenes segments look at the birth pangs and execution of selected episodes, featuring interviews with cast and crew.

In the Vault: Deleted Scenes
The excised moments, clipped before broadcast. There’s lots of good stuff here.

Not That There’s Anything Wrong With That: Bloopers
Some of the best gag reels I’ve seen. Lengthy and hilarious, these moments show a) how it easy it is to lose it when you’re working on one of the funniest shows ever conceived and b) Julia Louis-Dreyfus is a giggler.

Yada-Yada-Yada: Commentaries
Selected episodes receive commentary from the stars and writers and offer even more background to the creation of the series. Plus, they’re often very entertaining.

These animated shorts set against classic scenes from the series, are fun, but disposable add-ons.

Notes About Nothing
A trivia track that pops up during the episodes.

Master of His Domain
Stand-up comedy from Jerry, which is, of course, funny.

Sponsored by Vandelay Industries
Original promotional NBC material.

The Verdict

Not guilty. High five!


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