Friday, August 20, 2004

'Seinfeld' on DVD: Something out of nothing

—Originally published 8.20.04

I am so pumped, you have no idea. Then again, maybe you do.

Yes, it's true, it's true -- six years after its now-infamous final episode, "Seinfeld" is coming to DVD Nov. 23 -- the first three seasons, anyway, with more to follow.

What a welcome sight they will be.

Myself and millions of other fans have been patiently waiting for these babies for years. Six TV seasons are a long time to go without Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer. Larry David's "Curb Your Enthusiasm" was a nice appetizer, but now the main course is ready.

Tom Cherones, who directed nearly every episode of the first five seasons, told me this week the DVD sets will be a veritable "treasure hunt" of extras; USA Today reported bonus material will run an amazing 24 hours between the two sets. We're talking gag reels (yes!), deleted scenes (Cherones said there were seven additional minutes of footage shot for each show), new cast and crew interviews ... the works.

But even if you never click over to a single special feature, the shows themselves are more than worth the money. To whet your appetite, here are the 10 best episodes from Seasons 1-3:

• "The Pony Remark," Jan. 30, 1991 -- An instant classic. Jerry and Elaine attend a dinner party for Jerry's older relative, Manya (Rozsika Halmos), where they unwittingly insult her and (possibly) cause her death by criticizing people who had ponies as children. Jerry is left with the pleading defense, "Who figures an immigrant is gonna have a pony?"

• "The Deal," May 2, 1991 -- Jerry and Elaine again, this time on the couch in his apartment. They try to set up a series of rules where they can still enjoy their friendship ("this") and have sex ("that"). Everybody shines in this episode.

• "The Chinese Restaurant," May 23, 1991 -- Often referred to as the prototype for the "show about nothing" formula, this brilliant entry finds Jerry, Elaine and George struggling to obtain a table for dinner. In one of my favorite "Seinfeld" lines, George tells Elaine, "For 50 bucks? I'd stick my face in their soup and blow."

• "The Pen," Oct. 2, 1991 -- Although it's side-splittingly funny throughout, this episode deserves a spot on this list simply for Elaine's Marlon Brando scream of "STELLLAAAAAA!!!!!" while hopped up on painkillers.

• "The Library," Oct. 16, 1991 -- A great guest appearance from Philip Baker Hall as Mr. Bookman, the librarian, who's tracking Jerry down for his long-overdue "Tropic of Cancer." The best part, though, is the discussion on wedgies and discovery of George's high-school nickname: "Can't Stand Ya'!"

• "The Cafe," Nov. 6, 1991 -- Introducing Pakistani restaurant owner Babu (Brian George), Jerry is proven to be a "very bad man" after a failed attempt to help the immigrant improve his business. Meanwhile, George enlists Elaine's help in cheating on an IQ test, which leads him later to utter this great line: "Oh, hello, Professor!"

• "The Alternate Side," Dec. 4, 1991 -- A classic for just one line: "These pretzels are making me thirsty!" George takes centerstage as he frantically tries to park cars outside Jerry's apartment, inadvertently screwing up filming of a Woody Allen movie.

• "The Pez Dispenser," Jan. 15, 1992 -- One of the funniest scene sequences of the entire series finds Jerry cracking silent jokes with his candy holder -- much to George's dismay. We also get a new entry in the "Seinfeld" Lexicon: "Hand," or, to have power and influence in a relationship.

• "The Fix-Up," Feb. 5, 1992 -- Winner of an Emmy for Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series, Jerry and Elaine make the mistake of trying to set George up with a friend of Elaine's. Throw in a faulty batch of condoms provided by Kramer, and you've got a hilarious disaster waiting to happen.

• "The Boyfriend," Feb. 12, 1992 -- While this is commonly (and correctly) billed as the best one-hour "Seinfeld" episode, it is also one of the series' finest shows, period. Classic moments include Jerry's infatuation with New York Mets legend Keith Hernandez, a brilliant "JFK" spoof about "The Magic Loogie," and George running out of the bathroom shouting "Vandelay Industries! Say Vandelay!" -- with his pants around his ankles.

The scary thing is, all these came before the series even hit its stride.

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