Friday, March 26, 2004

DVD: The choice of a 'Seinfeld' generation

—Originally published 3.26.04

I'm in love, and its initials are D-V-D.

Seriously, what's not to like about these little discs? This is the best invention since frozen pizza.

Although they debuted in 1997, I didn't buy my DVD player until 2001 -- and it's already out of date. Nevertheless, when wandering the movie aisles at Best Buy, I can't help myself. In less than three years, I own more DVDs than I could hope to watch in any reasonable amount of time. Several on the shelf aren't even unwrapped; even more were opened simply to check out the packaging but have yet to actually make it into the player.

Still, it's nice knowing they're there.

For those of you (like one of my unfortunate colleagues) who haven't yet seen the light, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? You can buy a player now for $30. Thirty bucks! For the cost of a nice meal, you can open the door to a realm of unparalleled home theater delight. Plus, the price of individual discs is dropping all the time, as stores use them as loss-leaders to sucker you into buying other things like surround-sound systems (a must) and widescreen televisions. It's to the point where I'd rather buy a DVD than rent one (hence the unwatched movies).

Besides the obvious high quality picture and sound DVDs provide, several other bonus features are essential for any film fan. Most important are the audio commentaries, which typically allow any mix of directors, producers, writers and actors to discuss their film while watching it, then lay that track over top of the film's dialogue.

I can't remember ever watching a movie all the way through with the commentary on. However, I constantly flip over to the track when I come to a point in a film I don't understand; usually, there's an explanation.

For instance, while watching "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl" a couple months ago, I backed the movie up after it ended to catch the screenwriters' thoughts on the final few scenes. I was pleasantly surprised to listen as they continued to talk well on into the credits about all the back story they came up with in their heads that obviously didn't make it into the movie. It provided yet another reason why "Pirates" was a rare Hollywood creature -- an action/adventure movie with character depth.

Thus I am drooling over the insights to be gained from the eventual DVD release of television's greatest sitcom -- "Seinfeld," of course. Can you imagine what those tracks would sound like, provided the finicky cast actually records a few?

Now that the original "Star Wars" trilogy is slated to hit DVD this fall, I would argue "Seinfeld" is the most-anticipated release in the entire industry without an official in-store date. (There is an online DVD petition -- if you'd like to add your name to the 34,000 already on the list, go to

The last I heard, talk about "Seinfeld" on DVD was still nebulous, sometime before Christmas this year. There's no official word, though, which doesn't surprise me considering how anal Jerry probably is about the entire procedure. Plus, Jason Alexander (who played George Costanza) and Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Elaine Benes) said they may not participate because they're unhappy with their slice of the merchandising pie. I just hope it doesn't take 10 years to get nine seasons out on DVD.

When/if they do hit the shelves, here's a few features I'm hoping to see:

• Audio commentaries, obviously, for at least a few of the best episodes. I don't see them discussing every show, like the cast and crew of "The Simpsons" did for the first three seasons of that glorious series.

• A gag reel. If you've seen the highlight shows, at the end there are just a few bloopers and they are hysterical. I could watch an entire disc of outtakes, but that's probably outside the realm of possibilities.

• Deleted/alternate scenes. By now, I know the shows so well, it would be nice to see what wasn't included.

Speaking of, that's another great example of why I'm dying for "Seinfeld" on DVD: I cannot stand watching the episodes in syndication. Have you ever noticed the shows are trimmed? In order to jam in a few more commercials, several lines/jokes are edited out of each and every episode. My tapes from the initial NBC airings are wearing out, so I need the originals preserved for posterity.

(Another plus for DVD owners, by the way -- durability. As long as you don't treat them like drink coasters, these discs will last a long, long, long time.)

For those (like me) with an impatient hankering for "Seinfeld" on DVD, I offer up the next best thing: The first season of Larry David's "Curb your Enthusiasm," available in a Best Buy near you. David is the co-creator of "Seinfeld" who left after Season 8 (much to the show's detriment). He now has a show on HBO.

The series follows David, playing himself, as he loafs from one bad situation into another -- usually caused by his big mouth. The show is mostly improvisation, and it really does feel like a really, really funny documentary of the oddball's life.

While not as good as "Seinfeld" (some of the setups are a tad too predictable), "Enthusiasm" has several spots of absolute hilarity. David just can't help being funny -- to look at him is to laugh. Plus, there are "Seinfeld" references all over the place, including a guest spot by Louis-Dreyfus.

Just remember, however, this is HBO, not NBC. There are no euphemisms like "master of his domain" -- "Enthusiasm" is definitely TV-MA. The first season is relatively tame on the whole, but one episode ("Porno Gil") relishes a little too much in the pay-cable network's "artistic freedom."

Consider yourself warned.

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