Sony // 1996 // 541 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // November 13th, 2006
"Now see, this is what the holidays are all about. Three buddies,
sitting around, chewing gum."
-- Kramer, "The Gum"
The show that has been permanently branded into American pop culture mythos returns with its seventh season, a noteworthy installment because of the ensuing departure of co-creator Larry David and the funniest damn episode of the series run: "The Gum..."
...well at least in my opinion. Season seven represents the swan song for Larry David, the primary creative driving force behind the show and the series' most prolific writer. He would later go on to direct a movie that nobody watched, return to pen the disappointing Seinfeld finale and ultimately deliver another television show that resides alongside Seinfeld as an inspired and hilarious take on "nothing" (that would be, of course, Curb Your Enthusiasm). But what a season to go out on.
This set includes a ton of gags that the show has become known for: the Soup Nazi, the lo-flow shower heads, "the pact," fast-moving pulp, the Maestro's diabolical scheme to keep Jerry out of Tuscany, the effeminate armoire bandits, Morty's impeachment, the rye-on-a-hook, Kramer's transformation into a pimp, the great bottle deposit run of 1996, and toxic envelopes.
Twenty-four episodes on four discs:
* "The Engagement"
* "The Postponement"
* "The Maestro"
* "The Wink"
* "The Hot Tub"
* "The Soup Nazi"
* "The Secret Code"
* "The Pool Guy"
* "The Sponge"
* "The Gum"
* "The Rye"
* "The Caddy"
* "The Seven"
* "The Cadillac (Parts 1 and 2)"
* "The Shower Head"
* "The Doll"
* "The Friars Club"
* "The Wig Master"
* "The Calzone"
* "The Bottle Deposit (Parts 1 and 2)"
* "The Wait Out"
* "The Invitations"
As I ponder this review, I am reminded of something Chief Justice Mike Jackson mentioned on a Seinfeld-themed thread in the Jury Room, "Seinfeld is such a good show because no matter the season there are so many classic episodes and personal favorites" or something to that effect (apologies for a butchered paraphrasing). Anyway, that point is well taken. Save for the early, early episodes, when Larry and Jerry were testing the waters, it's hard to find a season devoid of at least a handful of iconic shows. For me, this season holds some of my most beloved. And while I'm sure you may have different preferences, I thought I'd lay out the ones I liked. Oh, and, the nutshell review: awesome set, just like the installments prior, packed with extras, and featuring the shows looking better than broadcast-quality. Anyway, on with my picks:
* "The Gum"
The most and hardest laughs per capita than any other episode in my opinion. And for a show as consistently funny and inventive as Seinfeld that's saying a lot. The Seinfeld playbook, of course, traces four separate character arcs in the course of its 24 minute runtime, and, in my opinion, only a few shows manage to absolutely knock each story out of the park. "The Gum" is one of those. Kramer (Michael Richards) struggles to balance his new involvement in renovating the Alex Theater with caring for pal Lloyd Braun's delicate psyche; George (Jason Alexander) desperately tries to convince an acquaintance he is, in fact, not insane; Elaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) can't seem to keep her top on; and Jerry (Jerry Seinfeld) is forced to wear glasses and buy disgusting Chinese gum by the kiloton. So many great moments in this episode: the fiery demise of the "Jon" Voigt car, Kramer choking down an antiquated hot dog, Elaine's plunging v-neck, George's royal get-up, and, the best of all, Jerry's fishbowl spectacles. Man, I know it's not subversive wit and all, but the sight of Jerry with those gigantic spectacles gets me laughing every frickin' time.
* "The Rye"
Another classic that goes for the cheap laugh, but lands it. A gassy horse? That's gold, Jerry, gold. The unconscionable rye bread mugging is gravy. And that capsule review was one big mixed metaphor.
* "The Pulp"
Kramer and George's storylines are the gems here, with George dealing with the results of high-speed pulp and Kramer picking a fight with a sick kid. This show represented that kind of carte blanche Seinfeld was able to get away with as far as taboos and envelope-pushing. I agree with Jerry Seinfeld, when he mentioned the scene in "The Junior Mint" where Jerry talked about watching the doctors "slice this fat bastard up," as a turning point in the show. The barriers were down, the show had earned it, and now everything was up for grabs, including Kramer's fleecing of a terminally ill child. The show, in my opinion, would reach its apex in this regard with the season finale, Susan's fateful encounter with poisonous envelope glue, which is essentially shrugged off by George.
Those are only a few of the shows that stood out for me, though there isn't a broken episode in the bunch. Like the ultimate comfort food, Seinfeld and this season in particular delivers a relentlessly rewatchable experience. Content-wise I don't know what else to say but this: I've probably seen every episode in this season at least 10 times, yet it's still a must-own set which I'll watch another 10 times.
As can be expected with these Sony releases, the presentation is top-tier, from the great sound and video (full frame) treatment to the bounty of extras. Selected episodes feature commentaries by the actors, writers and directors, which are always interesting. The "Inside Looks" offer meaty behind-the-scenes commentary by the cast and crew (again, it's stunning to hear how many of these out-there plotlines were grounded in someone's real-life experiences). Two featurettes: "Queen of the Castle: The Elaine Benes Story" gives Julia Louis-Dreyfus much-deserved attention for her pinpoint comedic talents, and "Larry David's Farewell," where David comes clean about why he decided to leave the most popular TV show on the planet. Rounding out the batch: the always-great blooper reel, deleted scenes, Jerry's standup material, "Notes About Nothing" pop-up trivia and "Sein-Imation" animated retellings of classic scenes.
There's nothing more to say. The pristine DVD treatment of one of the funniest shows ever devised. This season is my personal favorite.
Not guilty. Just stay away from the glue.
Review content copyright © 2006 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Top 100 Films: #81
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (French)
Running Time: 541 Minutes
Release Year: 1996
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Cast and Crew Commentaries
* "Queen of the Castle: The Elaine Benes Story"
* "Larry David's Farewell"
* Inside Looks
* Deleted Scenes
* Stand-up Material
* "Notes About Nothing"