Next week, Hulu will begin streaming television’s most famous show about nothing, “Seinfeld” — which aired from 1989-1998. All nine seasons will be available at the push of a button for subscribers, and for some whom may be just getting familiar with the show (I know, it’s on all the time in syndication, but in this day and age, not everyone has cable) it may be a little daunting as to where to begin.
See, “Seinfeld” was not a huge hit when it first began. In fact, it really did not begin picking up steam until the third season (the first two seasons are fine, just not classic). So it might be a little easier to settle in with a few of the more classic and established episodes to get the feet wet and then perhaps begin watching in chronological order. Or whatever order you want. It really doesn’t matter.
The premise of “Seinfeld” is pretty basic. Four friends living in New York are dealing with everyday issues and social norms, but with their hilarious misanthropic twist on things. Jerry is pretty much the straight man living among an insane group of friends. You have George Costanza (based on co-creator Larry David) who is the king of making-a-bad-situation-worse; Elaine Benes who is Jerry’s ex-girlfriend and often is the one who tries to be the voice of reason (in the first few seasons at least); and Kramer, Jerry’s moocher next door neighbor who is constantly cooking up some sort of scheme with shady folks, like his good friend Bob Sacamano.
So I will share what I think are the top five episodes for beginners to sink their teeth into.
The Chinese Restaurant: Season 2, Ep.11
This is pretty much considered the most classic episode of “Seinfeld.” It was also one that NBC did not want to make because of how different it was. It is basically a bottle episode (takes place in a singe place) that has no real story beyond the fact that Jerry, George and Elaine are waiting for a table at a Chinese restaurant before they go see a movie. But it really is a hilarious episode, with joke after joke landing in a consistent manner. It also epitomized the show’s theme of “being about nothing.”
The Library: Season 3, Ep. 5
In this episode, Jerry is being hounded by a library cop who claims he never returned “The Tropic of Cancer” in 1971, thus resulting in an outstanding library fine. Jerry tries to figure out what happened, as George is convinced a homeless guy in front of the library is a former gym teacher he had fired for bullying him in high school. This episode also happens to be my personal favorite just for the Library Cop’s talk with Jerry.
The Contest: Season Four, Ep. 11
George is busted by his mother for — being alone with a Glamour magazine, *ahem*. Which causes her to fall over and be hospitalized. This leads to a contest among George, Jerry, Elaine and Kramer to see who can last the longest being — the king of one’s castle or the master of one’s domain if you will. This was pretty edgy TV, even by today’s standards it is hard to believe this would air on prime time television. They — incredibly — worked around the actual content of the contest with euphemisms and so forth, without explicitly saying what the contest was. But it remains one of the most classic moments in television.
The Soup Nazi: Season 7, Ep. 6
This episode gave the show one of it’s most lasting catchphrases: “No soup for you!” Kramer tells Jerry, George and Elaine about the best soup place in New York. But the man who runs the place, The Soup Nazi, is very strict about how people order at his establishment. Like asking for free bread, which can cost one a soup. The Soup Nazi strikes fear into the hearts of those who desire his soups but who also do not follow the rules. Except Kramer, who for reasons unknown can just hangout and shoot the breeze with the man at his shop. Except he messes with the wrong woman, when he banishes Elaine for one year.
The Strike: Season 9, Ep. 10
This episode is probably best known for giving the world Festivus, a made-up holiday from George’s dad, who grew tired of the commercialism of Christmas. We also find out the reason Kramer never has had a job during the show’s run is because he has been on strike at a local bagel shop for 12-years. George creates a fake charity called The Human Fund so he can give his co-workers false donations in their name during the holidays.
I think that is a pretty solid starting point. This show has a lot more classic moments, too many to realistically list here. Yet, these five are some of the strongest episodes of the show’s run.