30 years ago today, on July 5th, 1989, television history was made when the first episode of Seinfeld aired. It went on to run for 180 episodes across 9 seasons and produced some of the best television we’ve ever seen. So today, we’re paying tribute and looking back at our favorite episodes. When you’re done checking out our choices, leave us a comment and tell us what YOU’RE favorite episode was!
Season 2, Episode 7
Revenge is a dish best served cold, and there is a lot of revenge in this episode. Jerry accidentally leaves $1500 in his laundry bag when he drops it off at the cleaners, and when he can’t find it when he gets home with his laundry, he assumes the laundry man stole it. Jerry and Kramer go confront him, only to find the owner very uncooperative. Kramer then convinces Jerry that he needs to get even, and cooks up a scheme to settle the score by dumping a bag of concrete into one of his washing machines. In typical Kramer fashion, nothing is ever as easy as it sounds, and Michael Richards puts on a virtuoso performance while trying to get the concrete in the machine. This one scene, in particular, is one of my favorites of the entire series.
But Jerry and Kramer aren’t the only ones looking for revenge in this episode. George quits his real estate job, and then immediately regrets when he realizes he isn’t really qualified for any other line of work. Watching him sit in Jerry’s living room and run down a list of jobs he’d like to have, such as sports broadcaster, history professor, and other such jobs, with Jerry shooting down every one of them is borderline laugh-out-loud funny. So George decides to just go back to work as if nothing happened, but his boss is quick to point out that he quit and has to get out. Before George leaves though, his boss belittles him in front of everyone and sets George on a path of revenge. He pulls Elaine in to help distract his boss at a party so he can “slip him a Mickey”. After which, his boss has a change of heart and hires George back. Hilarity ensues as George tries to get the drink back from him before he drinks it. Unfortunately for his boss, he makes yet another embarrassing remark about George in front of everyone, to which George replies, “Drink up!”.
This single episode is one of the many shining examples of the hilarity of the series, and another in a long list of episodes that makes Seinfeld my favorite television show of all time.
“The Little Kicks”
Season 8, Episode 4
There were few shows as absurd as Seinfeld when it hit its stride in prime time as part of NBC Must See TV in the mid-90s. From Soup Nazis to The Bro aka The Bra For Men or Kramer getting The Merv Griffin Show set in his apartment, each episode promised a steady stream of unpredictable, yet hilarious nonsense.
I didn’t start recording the show on VHS until Season 8, but there was no shortage of laughs, even that far into the series run. As a result, the episode that has always stood in my mind is called “The Little Kicks” which weaves some bonkers threads together as only Seinfeld could.
The title refers to the spastic gyrations Elaine busts out a company party, which George refers to as “a full body dry heave set to music”. Also in the mix is George dating one of Elaine’s employees, who only likes him because having her boss forbid the relationship turns George into the bad boy. But it’s the 3rd plot point that fills me with absolute delight.
Jerry gets talked into getting Kramer’s gruff associate, Brody a ticket to the premiere of a movie called Death Blow, only to have the guy whip out a camcorder and start filming the flick from the audience. When Brody gets a stomachache midway through, Jerry is forced at gunpoint to finish the bootleg recording.
The results please Brody, who praises Jerry’s artistry and soon Seinfeld sees himself as the Orson Welles of bootleg movies, demanding multi-cam setups and headsets to communicate with a team of bootleggers. The 90s camcorder tech, the idea of actually going to the movies and even selling bootleg VHS tapes is so of the era I just can’t get enough.
The final bit of hilarity comes as George begins losing his dangerous credibility with his new fling, so he decides to borrow some from Jerry’s new gig. Constanza’s desperate declaration of, “I’m a Bootlegger! Bootlegging a movie, baby!” is one of my favorite lines in television history and a piece of dialogue I repeat to myself in quiet moments, just to get a chuckle. The fact that it still has me laughing means “The Little Kicks” will always be my favorite episode of Seinfeld.
Season 7, Episode 10
Though it was originally touted as “a show about nothing,” the creators made it clear, even in the early years, that even NOTHING is something. And while there isn’t much intricate plotting involved with say, waiting for a table at a Chinese restaurant or searching futilely for your car in a parking garage, it was still something. As the seasons progressed, though, the episodes definitely became about SOMETHING-something and not just, you know, something.
That’s why I’m going with Season 7’s “The Gum” as my dark-horse favorite episode pick. While there are no generation-defining sayings (“not that there’s anything wrong with that”) or words that worked their way from Friday morning’s break-room conversations into the broad American lexicon (shrinkage, yadda yadda yadda), it is a perfect example of late-era Seinfeld.
While it was almost grotesquely absurd (Jerry wearing Coke-bottle lens glasses so Lloyd Braun won’t feel insane, Kramer eating an ancient hot dog, George with the $20 bill), it also did what Seinfeld did better than any other show, ever: it tied everything together in a spiderweb of impossibilities that somehow, almost, *kind-of* manage to be plausible. Elaine complains about the florist who in turn has to disconnect his hose which means that later, he can’t put out George’s flaming car; George’s friend Deena not-so-ridiculously thinking he’s crazy after he:
- Isn’t recognized by a bespectacled Jerry (“don’t you see? He’s doing it to fool LLOYD BRAUN!”)
- Yells at the Monk’s cashier for stealing his $20 as she rides by him on a horse in the park. (“I’m telling you, that cashier is riding horses on my money.”)
- Gets spotted walking down the street dressed as Henry VIII. (“I got it from the Institute. The Institute!”)
Plus, I’ll never not laugh at Kramer’s observation as he sits with Jerry and Lloyd in Jerry’s apartment: “Now see, this is what the holidays are all about. Three buddies, sitting around, chewing gum, huh?”
RIP Jon Voight’s Le Baron.
Season 5, Episode 8
Before most of us found all of our viewing through streaming media, we were forced to watch TV at certain times. There were rules back then. One of the more prominent being, whatever sitcom is in syndication before the 6 o’clock news will instantly become a family favorite. No matter the content of the series nor individual episodes. For example, there is no reason my conservative mother should see and enjoy every episode of Two and a Half Men. Yet, here we are. One of the biggest shows in this spot for years was Seinfeld.
By the time Seinfeld ended its original run in 1998, it was the biggest show in all of television. New or repeats, “Must See TV” was more than a tagline. Then, like so many comedies before them, a new half-hour was put in that coveted 5:30 slot. Thus, we all moved on to other shows. It’s possible I haven’t watched an episode of Seinfeld in 15 years. Yet certain episodes live in the rent-controlled apartments of my mind. As I grew from my twenties to my forties. Or as I added husband and father to my titles. As life gave me more experiences. That is when I discovered universal truths of Seinfeld I wasn’t ready for in my twenties. George’s confusion in The Barber (season 5, episode 8) is one of the truest conflicts ever on screen.
The employment flexible George Costanza begins this episode in a job interview. He makes a quick joke that goes over well. His interviewer says George would be a great fit at the company because “you understand everything immediately.” “Of course….” and with that, the phone rings and George is waved out of the office. Of course what? He is caught in an impossible situation. If he doesn’t understand whether he got the job, he may lose it. But if he doesn’t show up, he may have had the job. So George changes the Kobayashi Maru. He will show up as if he was hired and hope by the time he is found out, his dedication will keep him with the company. Of course, this all falls apart by the end of the episode and George is left with nothing.
While this whole scenario is played for laughs, it is, unfortunately, a near-documentary level truth. Putting aside that George was deemed fat and bald and my 41-year-old self thinks he’s looking pretty good for his age. The truth comes not from George’s appearance, but from the actions of employers. Names will be changed to protect the innocent and enough time has passed to say this. I speak from first-hand experience.
Years ago I had an interview to manage a seasonal retail store. With the promise of a spot at the parent company after. I was hired on the spot, handed keys and a manual, and that was the last I saw of anyone for 10 days. I literally did what George did. I shuffled papers. Made things look nicer. Ultimately I had no clue what I was doing. A week and a half later someone shows up asking me if I’m ready. Ready for what? No staff, no product, no seeing another soul.
But I got paid.
George was viewed as some sort of loser but that couldn’t be further from reality. He did all he needed to in order to survive living in New York. In our twenties when we all expected to have “real” jobs and “real” homes, he was a joke. Now after rewatching this episode, I think we all need to take a fresh look. To see him as a teacher.