Judge Patrick Bromley bugs out his eyes, raises the pitch of his voice an octave, and claims that this show really isn't just about nothing.
Our reviews of Seinfeld: Seasons One And Two (published May 18th, 2005), Seinfeld: Season Three (published June 8th, 2005), Seinfeld: Season Four (published August 22nd, 2005), Seinfeld: Season Five (published February 15th, 2006), Seinfeld: Season Seven (published November 13th, 2006), Seinfeld: Season Eight (published May 30th, 2007), and Seinfeld: The Complete Series (published November 6th, 2007) are also available.
Jerry: "Why Fusilli?"
Yes, I know it's always on. That's not the way to watch Seinfeld. This is the way to watch Seinfeld.
Facts of the Case
The 24 episodes that make up Seinfeld: Season Six break down as follows:
"The Big Salad"
"The Pledge Drive"
"The Chinese Woman"
"The Mom and Pop Store"
"The Label Maker"
"The Highlights of 100"
"The Kiss Hello"
"The Fusilli Jerry"
"The Diplomat's Club"
"The Face Painter"
Elaine: I will never understand people.
That short dialogue exchange, from episode 6.22, "The Diplomat's Club," is a perfect example of what makes Seinfeld so great: its total disdain for everyone and everything, especially its four hopeless central characters. These are people we love to be around and who couldn't want to be around us less.
It's difficult to find anything new to say about Seinfeld. Everyone knows it. Everyone quotes it (which reminds me—the next person that thinks it's hilarious to say "No soup for you!" is going to find him or herself on the business end of a window-throwing). It's a show that's grown far beyond the art form, exploding from the confines of the television set and becoming a cultural phenomenon. Well, I don't review cultural phenomena. I can't, other than to say "it deserves to be" or "it doesn't deserve to be." That leaves me to review the show on its merits, which, lucky for me, are considerable.
In that respect, allow me to say that Seinfeld is one of the five finest and funniest comedies ever produced by the medium (and one of the ten best shows of all time)—it rewrote the rules for the sitcom and changed the TV landscape for years to come. The self-described "show about nothing" isn't actually about nothing at all; that is, it's about Something. It's about the minutiae of the day to day—the little things we all dwell on and obsess over. It's what make the show so damned relatable; while we couldn't necessarily ever connect to the on-again, off-again romantic exploits of Friends's Ross and Rachel, we all know what it's like to be grossed out by the hygiene of someone we're dating (the toothbrush-share), or to be embarrassed about your own habits (watching Melrose Place), or to get caught in a lie (just about any plot involving George Costanza). It's Us we're watching—occasionally awful, cartoonish versions of Us—but Us nonetheless.
Season Six is where we begin to see indicators of the dark, dark places that the series would go to over the course of its last three seasons (the very next year, George's fiancée, Susan, would be killed off by envelope glue in what might be the show's finest moment). Consider another moment in the otherwise lackluster "Diplomat's Club" (I say lackluster despite the fact that I've now made two significant references to it): Jerry and Elaine are sitting at the funeral of their friend Gary Fogel—otherwise known as the man who lied about his cancer to get a toupee (and was killed in a car wreck while straightening it). The atmosphere is somber. Women are sobbing around them. Elaine can't stop talking about how she's not happy with her clothes. Women continue to sob. Elaine and Jerry keep talking about her clothes. Their total self-absorption and lack of sensitivity is the masterstroke of the series (and its co-creator, television's greatest and grouchiest misanthrope, Larry David): finding comedy in the darkest, coldest, meanest parts of human nature.
Seinfeld is the rare show that got better the longer it lasted. Though it would eventually become a bit too focused on the puzzle-box plot structure, the series still avoided the mid-run peaks (and subsequent valleys) that plagued The Simpsons or Friends—this one continued to top itself. Season Six finds the show in full stride: this is the season that first introduces us to Seinfeld mainstays Tim Whatley, Kenny Bania, David Puddy (the show's most inspired comic creation since Jerry Stiller's Frank Costanza), and J. Peterman. Where we learn that Kramer's first name is "Cosmo." Where George gets a toupee. Where Elaine works for and is tortured by her stuffy and eccentric British boss, Mr. Pitt. And, while not every episode is a winner, consider that it contains classics like "The Couch" and "The Soup" and "The Label Maker" and "The Fusilli Jerry."
I believe there's a reason that the gifted character actors on the show (Richards, Alexander, and Louis-Dreyfus) haven't really found success outside of Seinfeld: their performances on the series are so good, and they inhabit their characters so completely, that any traces of "acting" vanish. They are these characters, and it becomes impossible to see them any other way. Now, you can call me crazy, but I think Jerry Seinfeld is the funniest of the four actors that make up the core of the series—he's the best bad actor on television. What's better is that his performance is actually about bad acting; watch any moment that demands heightened emotion from him, watch his eyes bug and his voice get all high-pitched and whiny (even more so than usual, that is), and you'll basically see him throw up his hands and give up. It's as though he recognizes that even trying would be a waste of time, and approaches the role accordingly. It's a move that pays off; Seinfeld is able to carve himself a spot among situation comedy's most gifted ensemble, where he might have otherwise been caught up playing the straight man.
Sony's release of Seinfeld: Season Six is every bit as good as their previous Seinfeld sets, which, along with Fox's Simpsons DVD sets, are (disc for disc, show for show, extra for extra) possibly the best TV boxes in current release; that these sets were delayed as long as they were is now well worth it. The shows are presented in their original, full frame television format and have been spiffed up and restored to a healthy shine—it's the best Seinfeld has looked. The Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo track, while not exactly speaker-shattering, is absolutely appropriate for this series; I even like the way that the laugh track fills in the rear and side channels, helping to recreate the "studio audience" experience.
So, the shows look and sound great. That's nothing new—this is the sixth set of Seinfeld DVDs, and, in that regard, they're not much different from the previous five. How about the extras, then? Well, those aren't much different from the earlier sets either, but, then, when they've been as consistently spectacular as these supplements have been, why change it? Something about "if it ain't broke"…
My favorite of the extra features are the short "Inside Look" featurettes that accompany most of the episodes. They're just retrospective pieces, with writers and cast members and directors and guest stars recounting the experience of shooting the episode and the stories that inspired them (most of the ideas for shows came from the real-life experiences of the people working on them), but they pack in more content and face time than the audio commentaries. Maybe that's because the segments don't have to wait for the participants to stop laughing (Julia Louis-Dreyfus is the biggest culprit) or contain as much dead space as the commentaries, which are often reduced to the speakers sitting back and watching the episode. When they do speak up, it can be a joy and, more often than not, worth the wait.
The only extra feature that's really new to Season Six is something called "Sein-Imation," which is nothing more than scenes from the show reenacted by crudely pencil-drawn stick figures. It's a cute conceit, I suppose, but nothing more. Otherwise, we get the usual text commentaries, deleted scenes, bonus standup material, and bloopers (watching truly funny people make each other laugh is a lot more enjoyable than watching regular people). If I'm being casual about listing all that off, it's only because I'm used to it now—that shouldn't take away from the volume and quality of bonus content. Put another way, there's lots of it and it's all great.
Seinfeld is one of the funniest shows ever to air on television. Season Six is one of the best seasons of one of the funniest shows ever to air on television. The Seinfeld DVD releases are some of the best TV-on-DVD box sets available. The release of Seinfeld: Season Six is a great DVD collection of one of the best seasons of one of the funniest shows ever to air on television.
Not guilty. Get out!!
I don't know how to write out those goofy bass notes, but this is where they'd go.
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Scales of Justice
• Running With the Egg: Making a Seinfeld
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