Top 10 Greatest Episodes of Seinfeld
Best of the best...
Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David hatched an idea for a TV show in the late 1980s that would turn into one of the greatest television series of all time. Seinfeld (1989-1998) featured Jerry (Seinfeld), George (Jason Alexander), Elaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and Kramer (Michael Richards) as four friends living in New York City with no specific set-up beyond that. The show changed television forever with it's innovative style, complex plots and constant focus on the small, specific details of everyday life. Dubbed a "show about nothing" Seinfeld was in fact a show about everything. Almost all aspects of life were covered by the show and literally nothing was ever taken seriously (including death) which was a strong departure from sitcoms of the 1970s and 80's that usually added bits of drama from time to time.
To truly understand the impact this series had on America, the 1990s and television in general one must examine some of it's greatest episodes. It is almost impossible to choose the best of it's 180 episodes because all of them are so well done in their own ways but I have put together a list that showcases the very essence of Seinfeld and displays the genius of its style.
10. The Switch
Season 6 Episode 11
In this episode, Jerry begins dating a woman who doesn't laugh. This is unacceptable because he is a comedian and him dating someone who doesn't laugh would be like... well it's like something. While this is going on, George is dating a woman who is super slim but eats a lot leading George to believe she may be a bulimic. In order to find out if she is "refunding" meals he paid for, George enlists the help of Kramer's mom who is a matron and through this inadvertently discovers that Kramer's first name is Cosmo which is the first time on the show we learn of this.
The title of this episode refers to a plan Jerry and George come up with after Jerry meets his girlfriend's roommate. This roommate laughs at all of Jerry's jokes and Jerry wants to institute a "roommate dating switch" which had apparently never been done successfully before. This episode is a prime example of Seinfeld's attention to detail and focus on the mundane.
09. The Sniffing Accountant
Season 5 Episode 4
This episode of Seinfeld is a great example of the show's reliance on small details and complex interweaving of events. The episode deals with Jerry's suspicions that his accountant may be a cocaine addict because the man sniffs a lot. George's father gets him an interview for a job as a bra salesman and Elaine has a dispute with her boyfriend over him not using exclamation points when she feels a message warrants their usage. The scene where Kramer tries to find out whether or not Jerry's accountant is using drugs is considered one the show's funniest moments.
08. The Betrayal
Season 9 Episode 8
Referred to as the famous "Backwards Episode" this particular episode features it's scenes in a reverse order with each scene (after the first one) showing an event that proceeded the previous scene. It deals with Jerry, George and Elaine going to India to attend the wedding of Sue Ellen Mischke, a braless rival of Elaine. All of the main characters betray someone in one way or another including Kramer who is back in New York dealing with the fact that his friend FDR wished for him to drop dead. The episode is noted for its unusual style and is a hallmark of the last season of Seinfeld.
07. The Soup Nazi
Season 7 Episode 6
One of the most iconic episodes of the show, this episode features a restaurant that serves incredible soup but is run by a man whose ultra-strict polices have given him the nickname "The Soup Nazi." This Soup Nazi became one of the most popular characters outside the main cast that the show ever created. The episode is a testament to the show's great ability to create memorable one-time characters and was released during the height of Seinfeld's popularity.
06. The Pitch
Season 4 Episode 3
This is an example of the show's subtle self-referential nature. In this episode, Jerry is approached by executives from NBC who after seeing his comedy act would like to offer him a chance to pitch a TV idea to their network. George convinces Jerry to pitch an idea about a show based on Jerry's own life. George also tells him that the show should be, essentially, about nothing. This is a reference to a common statement being made about the show at the time and elements of this episode mirror how Jerry and Larry David actually pitched the idea for Seinfeld to NBC. During the pitch NBC's president asks George "if it's a show about nothing then why am I watching it?" George then famously replies "because it's on TV."
05. The Strike
Season 9 Episode 10
This episode is so iconic it spawned a new holiday. In this one, George's Father Frank Costanza (Jerry Stiller) explains a holiday he invented long ago to protest against the mass commercialization of Christmas. This holiday, called Festivus, is celebrated on December 23 and features a giant metal pole instead of a Christmas tree along with events such as the Airing of Grievances and the Feats of Strength. The fictional holiday became so popular with Seinfeld fans that it turned into an actual holiday that people now celebrate every Dec. 23rd.
04. The Puffy Shirt
Season 5 Episode 2
In this iconic episode, Jerry is talked into wear a very puffy shirt during a television appearance simply because the person who talks him into this is a "low talker." Although he can't quite hear the request this woman asks of him he agrees to it anyway which shows an example of social etiquette. You wouldn't just ask a person to speak up, you would instead pretend to hear what the person said and simply nod and agree. This episode also features George getting a job as a hand model which leads to some unfortunate events due to his inflated ego. The puffy shirt worn by Jerry in this episode became so iconic it was put in the National Museum of American History.
03. The Chinese Restaurant
Season 2 Episode 11
This episode features Jerry, George, and Elaine waiting to be served at a Chinese restaurant. And that's it, that is all they do. The entire episode is in the one location of a Chinese restaurant waiting area. Sure there is more to the plot such as George's situation with needing to get in touch with a woman but the location doesn't change except briefly when Elaine goes inside the seating area of the restaurant and attempts to steal food off someone's plate on a dare from Jerry. NBC first hated the concept for this episode and didn't even want to make it. However, the network was convinced into shooting it but purposely waited until the end of the season to air it. The episode went on to be one of the most iconic the series ever made and it further established the show's mantra: this really was a show about nothing.
02. The Contest
Season 4 Episode 11
This episode begins with George telling the gang that his mother had just injured herself from falling when she walked in on George "gratifying" himself in her house. This leads to all four of them entering into a contest to see which of them can go the longest without "gratifying" themselves. This episode was highly controversial upon it's release due to its touchy subject matter. Despite this, the episode won an Emmy award for Outstanding Achievement in Writing for a Comedy Series which went to the show's co-creator Larry David. The episode has become one of the most popular from the series and is a key example of how the show used cleverness and wit to discuss less than acceptable topics on primetime television.
01. The Boyfriend
Season 3 Episode 17/18
"The Boyfriend" is by far one of the finest and most well written episodes Seinfeld ever produced. The episode is actually a two-part episode that features Jerry becoming friends with New York Mets baseball player Keith Hernandez. Hernandez also begins dating Elaine which causes complications with his friendship with Jerry. Kramer reveals that he despises Hernandez because he believes that Hernandez spat on him and his friend Newman after a 1987 baseball game. Jerry explains that the physics of Kramer's story doesn't add up and the spit would have had to have done impossible things in order to hit both of them the way they said it did. This is a reference to the assassination of John F. Kennedy which had come back into American interest with the film JFK (1991).
This episode also features George trying to scheme his way into more unemployment benefits which involves him using his famous pseudo-name Art Vandelay this time as a company named Vandelay Industries. The episode is most famous for its previously mentioned JFK references and is one of the first shows to ever include a humorous take on the JFK assassination. Although the assassination itself is not mentioned and instead it simply includes a story with striking similarities that parodies the events of the assassination.
This two-part display of comedic gold is a perfect example of everything Seinfeld stood for. It showcases the show's wit, fascination with the mundane, attention to detail and never-ending humorous nature in which no lessons are learned. Jerry Seinfeld himself has called this his personal favorite episode and rightfully so. For anyone who has never seen Seinfeld before I suggest watching this one first and you'll be hooked on the show from that point forward.