Seinfeld: Season 4
October 1, 2005
Starring: Jerry Seinfeld, Jason Alexander, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Michael Richards, Wayne Knight, Estelle Harris, Heidi Swedberg, Jerry Stiller, Website: Seinfeld: Season 4 Official Website,
The fourth season of Seinfeld is, arguably, when the show really hit its stride creatively. The show about nothing decided to make fun of the concept by having Jerry (Seinfeld) and George (Alexander) write and then pitch a TV show where nothing happens. It is a self reflexive comment on what makes Seinfeld work so well: its ingenious concept. Every episode has the characters simply hanging out at a local diner, in Jerry’s apartment or in some other equally ordinary setting. They are settings and situations that anyone can relate to and has universal appeal.
However, setting the show in New York City gives it a specific cultural and geographical point of reference. Anyone who has lived there will pick up on the numerous inside jokes and references inherent to being in the city which adds another layer to the show.
The repartee between the four cast members is flawless and their dialogue exchanges have a real snap and pop to them thanks to the solid writing from the likes of Larry David and Larry Charles. The four characters play well off each other and by season four their technique had been refined to perfection. George is the annoying neurotic hypochondriac, Kramer (Richards) is the gonzo free spirit who marches to the beat of a decidedly offbeat drummer, Elaine (Louis-Dreyfus) is the pushy one while Jerry is the glue that holds it all together. Unlike most sitcoms of the time, no effort was made to have these four people come across as likable. They lie, are insensitive and self-absorbed people and we laugh at how these traits result in comedic mishaps towards them.
One of the defining episodes of the season (and of the show’s entire run) is “The Contest,” where Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer bet each other to see who can go the longest without masturbating. It’s amazing that an episode like this was even allowed to air on mainstream TV but they pull it off with clever writing that never actually mentions the word and yet it is always perfectly clear what they are talking about. This is a great example of dealing with a touchy, taboo subject in a subtle way.
Seinfeld is at its best when it deals with everyday things, like taking a flight, as in “The Airport,” where Jerry goes to first class while Elaine is stuck in coach and then exaggerate the situations for maximum comic effect. “The Movie” features a situation most of us have been in as the foursome agree to meet up at the movies and repeatedly miss each other. Again, these are situations we can all relate to and laugh at.
The show also got confident and popular enough that they were in a position to push the envelope. “The Outing” deals with being gay as Jerry and George are mistakenly outed only for them to strenuously deny it at every opportunity, spawning the now famous phrase, “Not that there’s anything wrong with that.” A pre-Desperate Housewives Teri Hatcher makes a memorable appearance in “The Implant” as Elaine and Jerry try to find out if her character’s breasts are real or not, which builds to the episode’s classic punchline, as she tells him, “They’re real and they’re spectacular.”
You have to love a show that has the comedic chutzpah to base an entire episode around a Junior Mint candy or the lingering smell of B.O. in Jerry’s new car. They are absurd concepts that are ultimately grounded in real situations and this is part of what makes the show so brilliant.
Fans of the show are in for a real treat as this box set is jam-packed with extras that involve the participation of the four lead actors and several supporting cast members (including Wayne Knight, Jerry Stiller, and many others), crew and executives. Each disc features audio commentaries (with the four main actors, and key crew members like Larry Charles), deleted scenes, “making of” featurettes (that provide fascinating behind-the-scenes stories) and subtitles that can be played over every episode dispensing trivia and production notes.
On the first DVD, there is “The Breakthrough Season,” a 19-minute retrospective featurette on how Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David decided to push the envelope of the show with this season. David decided to create an ambitious multi-episode arc that not only commented on the concept of the show but also take some potshots at the network. This is an excellent look at the season with all four cast members participating in brand new interviews.
“Regis and Kathie Lee Parody” features the two daytime talk show hosts commenting on the episode where Jerry and George pitch their show about nothing and then they show a clip that satirizes their typically mindless repartee.
The second disc features a blooper reel that runs an impressive 21 minutes of blown lines that are flubbed or forgotten. There are also countless moments when someone does or says something funny that causes a blown line.
“Master of his Domain” features footage of Seinfeld’s stand-up comedy routines that play at the beginning and ending of episodes. This is the material that never made the final cut and is pretty good stuff.
On the third disc are vintage promotional ads for the show hyping its move to Thursday nights after Cheers.