Seinfeld was the seminal sitcom of the 90’s. It changed the rules, it had characters that did not grow, that did not learn, and that were not nice. It was a show about “nothing” but of course we know that wasn’t true; often subtly and sometimes not so subtly it commented on racism, homophobia, interracial dating, date rape, etc… What keeps any sitcom important is that it still has to be funny and Seinfeld is funny. There are so many great episodes, so we ask the question: What are our top 3 Seinfeld episodes?
I’m a George Costanza guy, always have been. I can relate to him: neurotic, balding, overweight and often angry. Bad things happen to him, usually of his own doing. I feel his pain, so my favorite episodes usually have him front and center. I want every year to be the “Summer of George”. I want to celebrate Festivus. I want my porn star name to be Buck Naked and I want to sleep under my desk. Before I list my three I will leave you with one of my favorite George quotes: “The sea was angry that day, my friends – like an old man trying to send back soup in a deli.”
The Pool Guy – Season 7 episode 118
Like most episodes, I don’t love every storyline in this episode. Ramon the pool guy arc is just ok – there is a strange origin and controversy to this character and his on again off again Hispanic accent (if interested look up the story online). What makes this episode one of my favorites is the tour de force performances of Jason Alexander and Michael Richards. Alexander was nominated for seven Emmys and never won. He should have been handed one for this episode. Elaine befriends George’s fiance Susan, thanks to Jerry because Elaine doesn’t have any female friends. This is where George panics that his worlds are colliding and that independent George is dying. The rant at Jerry’s apartment is gold:
George: You see, right now, I have Relationship George, but there is also Independent George. That’s the George you know, the George you grew up with — Movie George, Coffee shop George, Liar George, Bawdy George.
Jerry: I, I love that George.
George: Me Too! And he’s dying Jerry! If Relationship George walks through this door, he will kill Independent George! A George, divided against itself, cannot stand!
But where he wins the Emmy is the reaction he has when he walks into the coffee shop to see Susan, Elaine, Jerry and Kramer sitting in their booth, it’s top-notch non-verbal acting. The Kramer story is great as well. His new phone number is one digit off from Movie Phone and he is getting a lot of wrong numbers. Kramer decides since he has the time that he will just answer those calls and try to help. It’s fun watching him try to make it work all the way to the climax when George has to call and Kramer can’t figure out the movie, and he says “Why don’t you just tell me the name of the movie you’ve selected.”
Bonus: The fake movie Chunnel.
MG: There are so many great episodes where the Jerry storyline is just mediocre, but the George and/or Kramer stuff makes it. That scene you reference where George walks into the coffee shop reminds me of you every time.
Tha Hamptons- Season 5 episode 85
In The Hamptons, we get one main plot. Elaine, Kramer, George, Jerry head to the Hamptons to visit their friends who have just had a baby. Jerry and George’s girlfriends(Rachel and Diane) also tag along. The baby in question is not attractive but the pediatrician that visits calls her breathtaking, which he also calls Elaine. Julia Louis-Dreyfus is fantastic trying to figure out what he meant by breathtaking. While George is away getting some Hampton tomatoes the gang see Diane with her top off. Jerry knows George will be upset but Kramer lets it out anyway. Kramer is the loose cannon friend that you never know what he is going to say or what kind of tact he employs – I have just such a friend. So now that the cat is out of the bag, George believes he should be able to see Jerry’s girlfriend naked. He tries and fails but then Rachel accidentally walks in on George changing after a dip in the pool and sees him “buck naked” which leads to George’s panic attack around “shrinkage”. This leads to some great dialogue on what happens to a man when “it” gets wet. Jane catches wind of what Rachel saw and decides to leave. In the climax of the episode, George gets back at Rachel by feeding lobster mixed with eggs to a Kosher Rachel. This is just a great episode that works well with everyone involved.
Bonus: Jerry’s girlfriend Rachel is the same from the episode where Jerry is caught making out to Schindler’s List and his longest lasting relationship in the 9 season run.
MG: This is one of the classics that people love to reference – up there with The Contest and Soup Nazi. It was rare that a show took place entirely away from their apartments. I always appreciated that, for the most part, they stayed away from “stunts” like setting the show in exotic places or casting celebrities (although the 2-parter where Kramer goes to California was almost the “jumping the shark” point for the series.)
The Merv Griffin Show – Season 9 episode 6
My last choice is probably not as well known, it was an episode from the final season and it’s surreal and just plain nuts. Kramer finds some chairs in a dumpster from the old 70’s era Merv Griffin show and rebuilds the set in his apartment minus cameras and an audience. While this is going on Jerry is dating Celia who has an amazing vintage toy collection that she will not let him touch. So he drugs her with headache medicine that causes drowsiness and when she falls asleep he plays with her toys. He continues to do this night after night by feeding her wine and turkey and eventually has George and Elaine come over to play as well. While this is happening George is accidentally killing pigeons and injuring a squirrel and Elaine is dealing with a sidler (one who sidles). Intermittently they visit Kramer who acts like he is hosting a talk show, asking questions, taking station breaks, and later on having Newman as his sidekick. Things get out of control when Kramer is questioning Jerry about the toys and he admits to drugging Celia, while Kramer has her waiting off camera to surprise Jerry. Somehow animal expert Jim Fowler is on the show with a hawk and asks where the camera is. George shows up with a wounded squirrel which the hawk attacks and ruins the set. I love that Kramer has inexplicably changed the concept to “Scandals and Animals”. It’s so good and may be the most surreal episode they ever produced between the Merv Griffin show concept and Jerry as an allegorical date rapist.
Bonus: Jerry’s apartment is never seen and a lot of the action takes place in Kramer’s apartment, which is a first for the show.
MG: As the show ended, there was a perception that its last season was one of its weakest, but I no longer feel this is true. There were a lot of funny, wacky plots in this season – many with Kramer. The George storyline in this is a bit weak, but I do like the part where the veterinarian says they have to send away for tiny medical instruments to do surgery on the squirrel, and George is so pained to have to pay for them.
The 2-part finale notwithstanding, when I look back on the run of Seinfeld they truly went out on a high note. When I go back over the episode list, there are so many great ones from seasons 7, 8, & 9. Michael Richards had nailed down Kramer’s comedic timing at this point, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus had now infused her character with a little more sarcastic bite as well. So here are my top 3 which all come from the last 3 seasons:
The Caddy – Season 7 Episode 12
Besides the writing and acting, the show had an incredible line-up of supporting and guest actors. This particular episode was like a “greatest hits” of supporting characters, including Johnnie Cochran knock-off Jackie Chiles, the “braless wonder” Sue Ellen Mischke, Larry David’s voice of George Steinbrenner, Wilhelm, J. Peterman, Susan, George’s parents, and others. This comedy of errors starts with Elaine’s snarky gift of a bra for Sue Ellen, which leads to Jerry and Kramer getting distracted and crashing George’s car, and ends up in the courtroom where Kramer’s “caddy” Stan provides some ill advice that ruins Jackie Chiles’ payday. Spoofing on the OJ trial, Kramer’s caddy wants Sue Ellen to try the bra on, despite Chiles’ vehement opposition, and of course, it won’t fit over her clothes. “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit.” Another classic moment from this episode is when Steinbrenner, thinking George is dead, visits George’s parents to give the bad news, and Frank berates Steinbrenner for his bad moves with the Yankees. Later, George delays telling his parents he’s actually alive, saying “They could use a break!”
Bonus: Jackie Chiles, played by Phil Morris, would reluctantly take on Kramer as a client three more times: against a coffee shop franchise when Kramer spills hot coffee on himself, against the tobacco companies when binge smoking makes Kramer’s face “hideous”, and in the finale when all four are on trial for failing to help a stranger.
DJ: This is a good one, one of my favorite quotes from this whole series comes from the great Jerry Stiller as George’s father Frank Costanza, “Jerry, it’s Frank Costanza, Mr. Steinbrenner is here, George is dead, call me back!”
The Muffin Tops – Season 8 Episode 21
Seinfeld was great at dropping in cultural references/spoofs and also for referencing things from earlier episodes. This is another densely plotted storyline chock full of great supporting turns. It’s amazing that the show’s writers could fit more plot in 25 minutes than many feature films. The Big Four all have distinct storylines that cross into each other: George pretends to be a tourist to impress a woman, Jerry starts shaving his chest hair, Elaine starts a “muffin top” business with her ex-boss Mr. Lippman, and the best one is Kramer starts the “real Peterman” reality bus tour. At one point, Kramer tells Jerry his chest hair will grow in thicker if he keeps shaving it, which Jerry calls an “old wives tale”. Kramer responds with “Is it?!” and opens his robe to a horrified Jerry. After debating over whether to have an “!” in the store name, Elaine convinces Lippman to bake the whole muffin, sell just the top, and throw away the “stump”. Homeless advocate “Rebecca DeMornay” (a returning character) berates Elaine and Lippman for passing off their muffin stumps as fitting food for the homeless. The final bus ride at the end, featuring the back loaded up with bags of muffin stumps, Jerry and his girlfriend eating pizza bagels made with cinnamon-raisin bagels and a donut, Jerry scratching wildly from his stubble growth, and disgruntled passengers vomiting, is a classic Kramer fiasco.
Bonus: The show ends with Newman, acted with nice comic timing by Wayne Knight, arriving as a “cleaner” for the muffin tops, spoofing the mob clean-up man Harvey Keitel played in Pulp Fiction and Point of No Return (while also referencing the “cleaner” in La Femme Nikita).
DJ: I love that they spoof almost real time the real Kenny Kramer’s Seinfeld tour. It’s reality turned into a show, reality profits off the show and then the show spoofs that, just awesome stuff.
The Serenity Now – Season 9 Episode 3
I admire Jerry Seinfeld’s wit and creativity in making this show a massive success, but if we’re being honest, when it comes to laughs, he was more of a straight man than a consistent comedic force. But give him credit for letting the supporting actors get some of the best laughs, and there’s no better example of this than Jerry Stiller’s hilarious portrayal of George’s father Frank Costanza. In this episode, Frank’s stress-control method of shouting “Serenity Now!” inspires Kramer to follow the same mantra. Kramer’s installation of a screen door on his apartment leads to his fantasy of having a front porch in the hallway (or in Anytown, USA, as he calls it). Meanwhile, George takes on Lloyd Braun in a computer selling contest for his father’s new garage-based computer sales business, and Elaine is pursued by Jewish boys and later men, including a rabbi, due to her “shiksa-appeal”. Jerry, with the weaker storyline, uncovers his emotional side leading to an ill-fated marriage proposal to Elaine. In the end, Kramer’s ongoing war with the “neighborhood kids” and his associated bottling of anger, leads to him destroying all of George’s “sold” computers being stored in Kramer’s apartment. We also learn that Lloyd Braun’s phone was never hooked up, and he leaves the Costanza garage with my favorite line: “Serenity now….insanity later.”
Bonus: in 1997, Jerry Stiller was nominated for an Emmy for playing Frank Costanza in various episodes. He did not win, however, ridiculously losing to Mel Brook’s guest stint on Mad about You.
DJ: I just posted “Serenity Now” last week on Facebook so I still use this phrase. Mel Brooks – sorry I saw that episode – it was Mel Brooks doing Mel Brooks and it was a guest starring role. Stiller was awesome, love him in Seinfeld and love him in King of Queens. He is my favorite Stiller. His rage as George’s father is unbridled and raw. I am glad we picked these episdoes, the honorable mentions and probably the more famous ones we left off, The Outing, Bubble Boy, Festivus, The Soup Nazi, and The Contest.