Since I didn't post last night, I'll post twice tonight to make up for it. I thought it'd be fun to revisit an old favourite of mine, a show that still holds its own against any current television sitcom. Truth be told, I don't watch nearly as much t.v. as I did in the past. I haven't given many shows a chance, so I can't state with any confidence whether the overall quality of television has diminished, though my interest in it certainly has. Throughout the past year, the only shows I followed with any regularity were Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Sopranos, and South Park, all of which have experienced declines in quality in recent years.
As far as the list is concerned, there's no concrete criteria I used to make my selections. Any list of this sort will be highly subjective, and this one is no exception. To me, the show experienced a drastic decline in its final two seasons, both of which occurred after Larry David's departure from the show. The golden years, in my opinion, occurred from seasons 3-5, when every week featured a fresh, innovative premise and consistently great writing.
Each selection will be accompanied by a brief comment, often unrelated to why I even chose it in the first place. Enjoy!
10. The Opera
First aired: 4 Nov. 1992
I seem to be in the minority on this one, but I very much enjoyed this episode. It seems like the plot is much more clever than in the newer episodes, and the conversations between Jerry and Elaine are among the best the show has ever produced. This is also the only episode that includes the loveable Harry Fong.
9. The Parking Garage
First aired: 30 Oct. 1991
This could be the one episode that best illustrates why this is considered to be a show about nothing. The characters spend the entire episode in a parking garage searching for Kramer's car, with only their dialogue to entertain us.
8. The Invitations
First aired: 16 May 1996
In many way this episode illustrates the downfall of Seinfeld. It's much more absurd and dark than earlier episodes. However, it offers great insight into why George is one of the most compelling characters to ever grace t.v. It's also Larry David's final episode, which, in my view, signalled the show's demise.
7. The Outing
First aired: 11 Feb. 1993
Yet another masterpiece from season 4. The concept is funny in itself, but it also brings to light a question that has been haunting viewers for years: How is a tall, thin, neat, middle-aged man like Jerry not gay?
6. The Hamptons
First aired: 12 May 1994
"You've gotta see the baby". "I was in the pool! I was in the pool!!" I really enjoyed this episode from start to finish. It illustrates the writers' ability to use euphemisms and circumlocutions to the show's advantage. The montage of Kramer at the beach was also comical, and I was very impressed with George's ability to make scrambled eggs.
5. The Junior Mint
First aired: 18 May 1993
The Junior Mint is somewhat absurd and unbelievable, but the writers managed, unlike in subsequent years, to work not only work around that, but use it to their advantage. As an aside, this episode apparently sparked a lawsuit from an employee of the Miller Brewing Company. The employee claims that this company allegedly used the following incident as an excuse to fire him: He discussed this episode with a female co-worker. She didn't pick up the reference, so he proceeded to provide a photocopy of a definition of the body part in question. That's in reference, of course, the storyline about Jerry's girlfriend, whose name rhymes with a body part that exclusively belongs to females.
4. The Opposite
First aired: 19 May 1994
George finally wins! The first episode in which everything goes right for George. He gets a girlfriend, a job with the Yankees, and lunch that doesn't contain any tuna. Interestingly, an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm is very similar to this ("Shaq," episode 18). Seinfeld always seems to cap off a season with a great episode. Other than seasons two and nine, every season finale one of that season's best episodes.
3. The Chinese Restaurant
First aired: 23 May 1991
It may be a little high on the list, but I find that it warrants its lofy position. Kramer doesn't appear in this episode, so we get to see a lot more interaction between Jerry, George and Elaine. Like the Parking Garage (#9 on this list), this episode centers around a commonplace event that would otherwise be uninteresting. It's an everyday situation that could happen to anyone, and Seinfeld finds a way to perfectly illustrate it.
2. The Soup Nazi
First aired: 2 Nov. 1995
One of the most popular episodes, its high ranking seems somewhat cliched. However, it's quite deserving, in my view. The couple that steals Elaine's armoire from Kramer are some of the best minor characters the show has ever produced, and the soup stand concept is funny in itself.
1. The Contest
First aired: 18 Nov. 1992
At the time this aired, it stretched the boundaries of television in a very clever and comical way. In recent years that was achieved by having airing shows in which midgets were married and a 130-pound Japanese man ate 53 1/2 hot dogs in 12 minutes. Television was much simpler then.
The idea for "The Contest" is magnificent and entirely unique. The manner in which the writers tip toed around using offensive words produced more humour than explicitly using the would-be censored words. Finally, without this episode it's likely that none of us would have ever partook in a similar contest ourselves, and society is better for it.