Classic shows from eras gone by such as The Dick Van Dyke or I Love Lucy were the foundation of situation comedies; episodes centered around a challenge that the main character had to face somewhat farcically, if not with incredible timing and gimmicks. In the 90s a new kind of comedy was on the rise; audiences laughing about nothing.
Seinfeld was far from social issue storylines that often came to light on The Golden Girls in the eighties, or romantic flings of its modern NBC neighbor Friends (no criticism towards either show). There were puffy shirts, pretzels that made them thirsty, buffer zones from parents, and poisonous envelopes. One episode was devoted to the ensemble waiting to get a table at a restaurant. Another took place in a parking garage as the characters got lost, tried to find each other, and the car. It was a different kind of sitcom, and one that I think made so many other comedies and dramas follow in its footsteps.
Essentially, perhaps its biggest mark on television is that it was a show about nothing; four characters Jerry, George, Kramer and Elaine who faced their jobs, broke up with dates left and right, and were simply friends talking and doing almost nadda, and yada yada yada. In honor of the 25th anniversary of Seinfeld, below are my favorite episodes.
"The Contest"It was one of the most talked about episodes ever - and for good reason. George is found gratifying himself by his mother, causing herself to injure her back from the shock. Breaking the news to his friends, George declares to cease these personal practices, which brings upon a challenge for the four friends - to go a whole week without doing that, in so many words. Each character is faced with tempting partners making it hard to remain master of their domain. The contest of what the characters are challenging each other to go without is not exactly for mature audiences - their use of innuendos makes it one of the best written episodes where a show doesn't have to give everything away to be entertaining.
Favorite moment: Elaine describing her run-in with John F. Kennedy Jr.
"The Soup Nazi"Jerry is stuck between a soup and a girlfriend when a local eatery starts selling the best soup in town. The chef is known as "the Soup Nazi" runs his over-the-counter shop with a string of harsh rules and restrictions - ones where the slightest alteration can have you banned. With his usual cheapness, George ends up alienating the owner while Kramer befriends him as only the gangling wanderer can. Elaine manages to take down the whole establishment when coming into the possession of the Soup Nazi's former antique armoire. The episode that has everyone repeating "NO SOUP FOR YOU" was actually based off a real cafe at the time.
Favorite moment: One potential customer deviates from the required ordering regiment
"The Subway"Seinfeld put itself on the map of making the best of everyday observations time and time again, and second to the next episode on this list, The Subway might be a good example. The gang rides a subway to different destinations, so its episode simply shows their hilarious separate adventures. Jerry makes friends with a nude Mets fan, George gets scammed by a thieving businesswoman, Elaine gets stuck on the way to a lesbian wedding, and Kramer cashes in on some serious horseracing. For an everyday task like riding the subway, this episode manages to be hilarious about something so ordinary.
Favorite Moment: Elaine rants as the crowded subway comes to a halt
"The Chinese Restaurant"Seinfeld took the mundane and made it hilarious; who hasn't had a night out like this where all you want is something to eat and the problems just roll on in? On their way to a special screening of Plan 9 from Outerspace, everyone is desperate and hungry at the Chinese restaurant. The group (sans Kramer) are trying to get a table but it keeps taking five, ten minutes to be seated. So much comes to ahead with such a seemingly simple premise: Jerry recognizes a woman but can't remember her name, Elaine is absolutely starving for something to eat, and George is trying to get through to his girlfriend. Everything is not so easy just getting some Chinese food.
Favorite Moment: George loses his resolve with a civilized society
"The Marine Biologist"George (a.k.a. Art Vandalay) always wished to play an architect, but when an old high school flame runs into Jerry, he is cast a marine biologist. This is the always job-hunting cheapskate George we're talking about here. Somehow he manages to pull it off - until a timely date on a beach blows his cover. Perhaps one of the best show monologues in history, is it a shame to say that I know the whole thing by heart? Jason Alexander's speech is superb and the added twist to his tale makes it all the more funny. Indeed, it is definitely "a hole in one" episode.
Favorite Moment: The final monologue
"The Opera"Unbeknownst to both Elaine and Jerry they are dealing with the same psychopath. An unhinged old friend of Kramer and Jerry's has sworn to put the kibosh on them, while Elaine is dating the apparent threat. Going out for a night at a Pagliaci opera brings unfitting tuxedos from the closet, scalping for tickets, and oh yeah, Crazy Joe Davola. One of the best aspects Seinfeld was the talented selection of supporting actors they had who could take on characters like Joe, and make them funny, awkward, and peculiar as the main cast. Certainly his role is small but definitely one of their series' best mini-characters.
Favorite Moment: Elaine realizes she's dating someone a bit on the edge
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