Cennamology Chief Editor
It was one of the most revolutionary ideas in entertainment history - an idea for a show about nothing. And, 25 years later, that show about nothing embodies everything that is great about television.
Yesterday marked 25 years since the premiere of the first episode of the hit series "Seinfeld," on July 5, 1989. Like many shows, the series got off to a slow start, and did not break out and become a hit until the third or fourth season. Originally, creator Larry David originally thought that Season Two would be the final season, evident by that season's finale where Jerry and Elaine become a couple (and are back to being exes without an explanation the following season). Nevertheless, the world owes forever gratitude to NBC for taking a chance on the show that will continue to bring people joy for decades to come.
To celebrate the 25th anniversary, I have compiled a list of my top ten favorite episodes of the show about nothing. It was very hard to choose only ten, as I love just about every episode. Also, keep in mind that this is my opinion only and if your favorite is not on this list, chances are certain that it's an episode that I love too.
Also deserving an honorable mention is "The Finale," which I know a lot of people did not like. However, I enjoyed seeing all of the people the foursome made enemies of over the course of the series testify against them essentially for "doing nothing." I also thought it was a very fitting ending to the series, showing us that despite the fact that they were likable characters, they were pretty terrible people. Therefore, "The Finale" would be my 11th favorite episode.
So, at the risk of being a long talker, here are my top ten favorite episodes of "Seinfeld."
10. The Airport (Season Four)
In this episode, Jerry and Elaine are flying back to New York, and most of the episode takes place on an airplane. The catch is that Jerry is seated in First Class while Elaine is in the dreaded coach. The over-the-top portrayal at how different the flight experience for Jerry and Elaine are makes this episode extremely memorable. Elaine has to eat a Kosher meal that she did not order while Jerry is sipping champagne and stuffing himself with hot fudge sundaes. Elaine later tries to sneak into First Class only to seconds later be told to go back to coach, to which Elaine responds "I dream one day of a world without classes."
This episode is such a classic that it seemingly inspired a similar scene from the Oscar-nominated movie "Bridesmaids," where the main character is in coach while all of her friends are in First Class. She even tried to sneak into first class like Elaine did, only to be thrown back into coach after hilariously attempting to convince the flight attendants that she deserves a First Class seat.
9. The Red Dot (Season Three)
George, being as cheap as always, buys Elaine a cashmere sweater for a staggering discount after she got him a job. The reason for the low price is because the sweater is damaged with a red dot, and George tries to hide the fact that he knew about the dot when he bought the sweater. After Elaine gives it back, he gives it to the cleaning woman at his new job, the one that he had sex with on his desk. Angry about the dot, the cleaning woman tells George's boss about the sexual encounter, and when George is confronted about it, one of the best quotes of the series follows.
Making the episode, George says, "Was that wrong? Should I not have done that? I tell you, I gotta plead ignorance on this thing because if anyone had said anything to me at all when I first started here that that sort of thing was frowned upon, you know, because I've worked in a lot of offices and I tell you people do that all the time." This quote, even according to Jason Alexander, is the quintessential George Costanza quote, and it also brings this episode to the number nine spot.
8. The Little Kicks (Season Eight)
The episode's name is taken from Elaine's hilarious style of dancing. Elaine dances the "little kicks" at a company party and afterwards, no one at the office takes her seriously anymore. Her dancing is compared to a dying animal and after it makes its way onto a bootlegged movie, it becomes a trend in the streets of New York. This episode is the reason I am self conscious about dancing at parties, but it is still a very funny episode.
7. The Puffy Shirt (Season Five)
"But I don't wanna be a pirate!" is the classic quote Jerry says when he finds out that he accidentally agreed to wear Kramer's low-talking girlfriend's newest clothing design on "The Today Show." The funniest part of the show is when, in the first time we can actually hear anything the low talker says, Jerry says on the show that he feels ridiculous wearing the puffy shirt, and then we hear the low talker yell, "YOU BASTARD!" When the host asks "Did you hear that?" Jerry hilariously replies "Now THAT I heard." Also, George gets a job as a hand model in one of the funniest subplots of the entire series.
6. The Chinese Restaurant (Season Two)
This episode is the perfect example of why "Seinfeld" is known as the show about nothing. The episode is just about Jerry, George, and Elaine waiting for a table at a Chinese restaurant, only to be left waiting as they get hungrier and hungrier and hoping not to miss a movie. They walk out, ending up in the same place they were at the beginning of the episode. Nothing happens, but yet a lot of things happen. George is waiting for an important call, Elaine tries to take food off of someone's plate, and many people who arrived at the restaurant after the group did are given tables right away. We have all waited for a long time for a table at a restaurant before, making this episode not only hilarious, but relatable too. Oh, how the "five, ten minutes" feels so long.
5. The Betrayal (Season Nine)
In this creatively structured episode, the story is told as a reverse narrative, as the episode begins with the end of the story and goes backwards in time as it progresses. The episode stays true to its backwards structure by making the design of the episode in reverse as well, as the the Castle Rock logo which usually ends the episode is shown instead at the beginning of the episode.
What lands "The Betrayal" on the list is not only its distinctive structure, but also because the episode "ends" before the beginning of the series. In the final scene, Jerry is shown moving into his apartment and meets Kramer for the first time. Since they are neighbors, Jerry tells Kramer "what's mine is yours," explaining why Kramer has been rather intrusive in Jerry's apartment over the course of the series. Just seeing how everything in the episode comes together is what makes this episode great. You start the episode very confused as to what is happening, only to be clued into everything as the episode goes back in time. The writers took a big risk with this episode, and it definitely paid off.
4. The Library (Season Three)
Philip Baker Hall's performance as the very strict and no-nonsense library cop, Lt. Bookman, single-handedly makes this episode one of the most memorable of the series. In my favorite guest performance of the entire series, Hall plays the library cop like a drill sergeant, laying down the law on "joy boys" like Jerry, who unwittingly failed to return a book that he checked out in 1971. Meanwhile, George sees a homeless man outside the library who he believes is his high school gym teacher. Hall's performance, the greatest guest appearance of the series, and Jerry's quest to find out what happened the day in 1971 when he thought he returned the book, make this one of my favorite episodes.
3. The Soup Nazi (Season Seven)
Even if you have never seen the series, you know this episode. Like "The Library," this episode is also driven by a fantastic guest actor playing a strict no-nonsense character, with Larry Thomas making "No Soup for You," a permanent catchphrase of popular culture. Elaine's obsession with bringing down the Soup Nazi, the introduction of the two gay street toughs that rob Kramer, and Newman and Jerry's obsession with the soup all make it clear why this is the most famous episode of the series.
2. The Big Salad (Season Six)
This episode is on the list for more personal reasons for me, as my girlfriend (Cennamology Chief Science Correspondent Amanda Biederman) loves ordering big salads when we go out to eat. If I get the bill, I jokingly complain, uttering George's famous line, "If it was a regular salad, I wouldn't have said anything. But you had to have the BIIIIIG salad." It never gets old.
Personal reasons aside, this is still a great episode. Elaine asks George to buy her a big salad and he does. When he gets to Jerry's place, his girlfriend hands Elaine the salad, causing the girlfriend to get the "thank you" from Elaine. This annoys the hell out of George, who feels entitled to the "thank you" since he is the one who paid for the salad, and he spends the whole episode bothering Elaine and his girlfriend about it. This episode is great because it is a commentary on the many petty controversies and arguments that are inevitable in most friendships and romantic relationships. The episode also gives us a more subtle message of how important "thank yous" are to many people.
1. The Parking Garage (Season Three)
I love this episode because, like "The Chinese Restaurant," the characters end up in the same place as they were at the beginning of the episode, and virtually nothing happens yet everything happens too. The plot - the foursome cannot find where they parked at a shopping mall. It takes them hours to find the car, and all have a reason of why they are pressed for time - Kramer is carrying a heavy air conditioner, Jerry has to go to the bathroom, Elaine needs to get her fish home before they die, and George has to make it back for his parents' anniversary dinner. The sense of the clock ticking as well as the characters' feelings of hopelessness in the crowded garage make this an exciting episode despite the fact that little is actually happening.
But what puts this episode at the top of the list is the ending. When they finally do find the car, hours after they started looking and time has run out for all of them, they cannot get the car started. This is the most head-splittingly hilarious ending to a "Seinfeld" episode ever. And, what also helps bring this episode to the top spot, the ending was not the one that was originally written. According to Larry David, the car was supposed to start and the group would be unable to find the exit. But, when filming, the car (clearly a very old piece of junk) would not start. The cast thought that the ending that the "comedy gods" bestowed upon them was much better than the one originally written. It looks like God is a "Seinfeld" fan like the rest of us!
Jerry, George, Elaine, and Kramer have been making the world laugh for 25 years now. I know that they will be making the world laugh for 25, 50, 75, and 100 more years. Choosing only ten episodes was tough, as every single one is written in such a creative way that makes the series iconic as well as relatable. Because of this, it has aged very well.
In almost any episode, a regular person can see themselves in the situation. Never has a series explored such mundane things about everyday life, and "Seinfeld" did it in a way that makes it probably the best television series of all time.