To me, Seinfeld can basically be broken into three parts – seasons one and two where the series is just finding itself, seasons three through seven in which absolutely everything clicks due to the cast’s great on-screen rapport and the genius of Larry David, and the last two seasons after Larry David’s departure in which the focus shifted somewhat from a satirical look at the uglier side of human nature to zany comedy. Usually every episode was a stand-alone. In fact, some of the early episodes are so stand-alone as to have the audience wonder what happened. In season two’s “The Deal”, Elaine and Jerry decide to try combining their current friendship (“this”) with their past by sleeping together (“that”). As George portends though, it is pretty much impossible to mix “this and that” without eventually losing both. The end of the episode shows Jerry and Elaine pretty much settling into “this that and the other” – a romantic relationship – and then the series just drops the subject like the whole episode never happened.
Occasionally Seinfeld would have a story arc of sorts. For example, in season four the show poked fun at network television executives and their decision-making process when George and Jerry wind up pitching the idea for “a TV show about nothing” to NBC. The two offer up what is essentially the script of the widely acclaimed Seinfeld episode “The Chinese Restaurant”. The network suits are unimpressed. As an alternative George and Jerry present a ridiculous plot in which a judge sentences someone who has hit Jerry’s car to be his butler. This time the suits are bowled over. Seinfeld also truly had a gift for entertaining while pushing the audience to the brink of offense. “The Bubble Boy” presents the audience with a rude and obnoxious individual as the victim of an immune deficiency disease versus the patient angels that usually play this role. “The Outing” introduced the phrase “not that there’s anything wrong with that” into American pop culture and also smartly satirized political correctness. “The Junior Mint” shows George in familiar form when he pleads with Jerry not to intervene to save an artist’s life because it would devalue the artist’s paintings he has purchased in anticipation of that same artist’s death.
The show is often absurd, and though it seems impossible that such a group of self-absorbed people could carry on even the pretense of a multi-year friendship, something about it is oddly familiar to most of us. That is at least partly because of the great interaction between the main characters in which they have both comic and straight-man duties depending on the situation, making their relationships seem real although exaggerated.
As far as the details on the set, it is a 32-disc, two-volume set offering all 180 episodes of the show along with “The Official Coffee Table Book,” a 226-page, bound anthology filled with photos, quotes, trivia from every episode, and personal reflections from Jerry. The collectible book also includes a bonus disc featuring “The Roundtable,” an hour-long round table discussion among the four cast and creator Larry David reminiscing about the award-winning show’s run on air.
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This box set (and by the way the TV show behind it) deserves every star it can possibly get. Offering us the long view on “Seinfeld,” from day one to day last, it allows us to see the scope of this greatest of all television shows, transmogrifying itself from Jerry-In-Red-Sweatpants at the beginning to Jerry-In-Lear-Jet at the end, like the old drawing of Darwin’s “ape-caveman-upright man” progression.
And we see that the ape era wasn’t so bad, after all; in fact, looked at as part of the show’s evolution, the first two seasons, while the writers and actors were finding their voices, were the truest period of all for the show. Scrambling (sometimes raging) to find something, ANYthing to make a show about, Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld plumbed the best of their depths, offering a crash course in late-20th century survival of the un-fittest. Even at its 4th-season artistic zenith, the show would never be this real.
With the whole thing here in one place, we can even see that there are periods to this show as with any longterm work. The first period (Seasons 1-2) is the most grounded in reality; the second period (Seasons 3-5) is the most artistically rich, where the show has truly found its niche and explores it like a kid in a Toys R Us with an unlimited charge account; the third period (Seasons 6-7) is the wheels-are-off-the-wagon period, where anything goes as long as it’s funny, no idea is too insane; the fourth and final period (Seasons 8-9) is just as anything-goes but it gets just a bit too manic at times, and you occasionally lose the suspension of disbelief you need to enjoy any work of fiction. Still, there is no “bad” season of this show, and no single episode is completely devoid of that brilliant “Seinfeld” wit that made this one of the most popular television shows of all time.
But scope is not all this set offers. It offers, simply, EVERYTHING. Confident that you have every episode at your fingertips, you can flip through the set for a show like you’d flip through the Bible for a quote (that’s not going too far, is it?). Pick “The Red Dot,” then pick “The Limo,” then pick “The Puffy Shirt,” then pick “The Finale.” On and on it goes, until you’ve seen so many you forget which ones you’ve seen and you start again. It’s all there. And all the extras from all the box sets, from the feature-length documentary on the creation of the show to the great “Inside Looks” and the (frankly kind of useless) commentaries.
New for this box set is a Seinfeld Coffee Table Book, which is kind of the trivia-rich “Notes About Nothing” segments rolled into a single volume. Also included is an hour-long special recorded in 2007 featuring the original four cast members and Larry David watching and commenting on various clips from the show’s nine-year run. It’s fun and interesting, but it probably won’t be watched more than once or twice. The “Inside Looks” are better for tidbits and insight into the show’s workings. Finally, the packaging simply couldn’t be better: tight, durable, compact. As always, they’ve cared enough to think of everything.
I love this show, I can watch it again and again, and it bugs me every time I hear people (even Seinfeld and co. themselves) talking about the characters as unredeemable or even vaguely sociopathic. The characters in “Seinfeld” are not anything like that. I think this misinterpretation, which is widespread even among the show’s fans, is the fault of the actors and producers themselves, who have famously said that “Seinfeld” is a “no-learning, no-hugging” show. They themselves sold the characters as unredeemable; but the fact is that the 4-way friendship portrayed in this show is the strongest friendship ever portrayed on television. To me, that’s what makes “Seinfeld” so great. What that show is REALLY about is people living in a massive, overwhelming urban environment (which, in our society of computers and malls and digital cable is everyone, even those living in small towns) who create and maintain a small outpost of human closeness, of love, in the face of that industrial anonymity we all feel closing in every day. That’s certainly why I react to it, and why I’ve watched it so often. Not just the dialogue and the unorthodox structure of the show, which is brilliant, and not just the dead-on satire of modern American culture, but the relationships. “Seinfeld” is deeper than it ever sold itself.
All in all the complete box set is everything you could ask for, assuming you already like “Seinfeld.” If you don’t, come on, you’re not plunking down two hundred bucks for this thing anyway.
I decided I wanted to get this set, at least think about it. Come to find a 4 star rating for this box set. I was surprised, since I feel this is a 5 star series. I thought, perhaps the set is defective or not done right or something, so I read the reviews, only to find out an otherwise 5 star average is brought down because of idiotic winers complaining about having bought the whole series for more already or something. I’m glad to see some others who have noticed this nonsense, so I’ll add my two cents as well… If you purchased all of the series separately, I would think you would rate this 4 or 5 stars. Giving it one star because you somehow feel cheated is idiotic and unjust. That has nothing to do with a review of this set.
As others have pointed out, you pays your money, you takes your choice. You got to watch these as they came out. Are you sincerely surprised that the price is less now for the whole series? Wake up! Nearly every DVD I know of is most expensive when it comes out (excluding sales). You see, in a free market society, when you sell something, you set your price at market value. As demand subsides, you lower the price. I think it’s called free enterprise, and is the basis of American marketing.
I bought Star wars when it first came out, and now that it’s been re-released as a box set, do I give it one star because it’s less than I paid? No! That makes absoulutely no sense. There’s no reason this box set should be any less than 5 stars, so I had to add my 5 stars to counter these idiots. What a bunch of winers! Review the set next time, not your decision!