Top 10 Seinfeld episodes
Carley sets out to discover the 10 best Seinfeld episodes of all time. It's no easy task she's set herself, either...
Say what you like about American TV, but one thing it does really well is comedy. And there are few better examples of that than a comedy based on, well, nothing: Seinfeld.
Running from 1989 until 1998, it became the juggernaut of American television, voted the best show of all time by TV Guide readers. Between 1994 and 1998 it was one of the two most-watched programmes in the US, and its finale was the third most watched in television history.
Needless to say, picking ten episodes was one of the hardest tasks I have ever had to do. So here, in my humble opinion, are the best examples of what made Seinfeld so fantastic.
10. The Merv Griffin Show
Season 9, Episode 6 (1997)
After discovering the old set of The Merv Griffin Show in a dumpster, Kramer decides to set it up in his living room and become host of his own talk show, but finding the pressure too much to bear he hires Newman as his co-host. Meanwhile, Jerry is dating a woman with an amazing toy collection, but she refuses to let him play with it, George’s girlfriend Miranda is disgusted with his apparent lack of humanity towards New York wildlife and Elaine has to deal with a co-worker who is a sidler (a person who moves silently up to another).
I love this episode because it just encapsulates what Seinfeld was all about. Kramer’s crazy idea of setting up a talk show in his living room, acting as if it were real and having guests on is tear-inducingly funny. As an audience, we are introduced to a new way of defining a type of person (something that Seinfeld loved doing): the sidler. As you watched, you could place at least one person you knew who did the same thing.
9. The Pen
Season 3, Episode 3 (1991)
Jerry and Elaine go down to Florida for a weekend break to visit Jerry’s mother and father, go scuba diving and attend a ceremony that Jerry’s father is being honoured at. When his parents’ neighbour, Jack Klompus, comes over that night to give them a cheque for the previous night’s activities, Jerry comments on how nice his pen is. It turns out to be a dangerous compliment - Jack explains that the pen can write upside down and it was designed for space travel. Jack offers Jerry the pen and after much refusing, Jerry finally takes it, much to his mother’s horror as she knows Jack’s wife will make sure everybody knows Jerry forced Jack to give him the pen, even though he, of course, didn’t. Things go from bad to worse when the ceremony that evening turns into a fight between Morty and Jack over the pen.
The Pen is a great showcase episode for Jerry’s parents who stole the show every time they appeared. It's a great example of how the show’s writers could take a simple idea and turn it into comedy gold.
8. The Parking Garage
Season 3, Episode 6 (1991)
Hands up who's ever forgotten where they parked their car in a multi-storey car parks? Well, that’s exactly what happens to the gang when they take a trip to the mall so Kramer can buy an air-con unit. As they search the car park, George worries he'll be late to meet his parents to help celebrate their anniversary, Elaine worries about the well-being of her new goldfish, Jerry desperately needs to go the bathroom and Kramer gets tired of carrying the air-con box and hides it - in another parking space number he needs to remember.
Again, this is a great example of how well Seinfeld portrayed the oddities and comedy of everyday life. Particular laugh out loud moments include Jerry and George getting arrested for urinating in the car park, and the gang's shortlived happiness at finding the car - which then fails to start.
7. The Muffin Tops
Season 8, Episode 21 (1997)
When Elaine mentions that she only likes eating the top of muffins, her ex-boss Mr. Lippman decides to open a business selling just that. When baking just the tops doesn’t work, Elaine again muses that to make a perfect muffin top you must bake the whole muffin and throw away the stumps. After firstly deciding to donate the stumps to the homeless, and being rebuffed by them for not including the best part (the tops), she tries to palm the stumps off on Kramer, who is currently running a bus tour. When that doesn’t work either, she hires Newman as ‘a cleaner’ to make the problem go away. Meanwhile, Jerry begins shaving his chest to impress his new girlfriend and George pretends to be a tourist and lands himself a job with the Yankees.
This episode always sticks out in my memory because, firstly, I agree with Elaine: the tops of the muffins are the best. But also the entire saga of finding a home for the stumps literally made me cry with laughter. And Newman’s spoof of Harvey Keitel’s character from Pulp Fiction is a great in-joke that, alone, is worth watching the episode for.
6. The Junior Mint
Season 4, Episode 20 (1993)
When Elaine visits Roy, an ex-boyfriend, in hospital, she becomes interested in dating him again after seeing how much weight he's lost. But when Jerry and Kramer watch his operation from the viewing gallery, Kramer accidentally drops a Junior Mint into his body. After the operation Roy comes down with an awful infection, so George decides to invest in his artwork as he's sure he is about to kick the bucket, thus making the artwork more valuable. Roy’s condition soon turns around due to the Junior Mint’s effects to stave off the infection, causing him to regain his appetite and Elaine to break off their date. Meanwhile, Jerry tries desperately to figure out the name of his new girlfriend knowing only that it rhymes with a body part.
This is a great episode because it shows just how shallow and self-absorbed the main characters are, which really is one of the reasons the show worked so well. You didn’t ever have to feel bad about the situations they found themselves in because really they brought it on themselves. The best scene has to be the slow-mo shot of the Junior Mint descending from the heavens into Roy’s open cavity, but the big laughs really come as Jerry desperately tries to remember his girlfriend’s name.
5. The Pez Dispenser
Season 3, Episode 14 (1992)
Jerry becomes obsessed with a Pez dispenser and ends up taking it to a piano recital that George’s girlfriend is giving. Jerry puts the dispenser on Elaine’s leg causing her to burst into laughter and ruin the recital. George is unhappy that he has no upper-hand in his current relationship and, acting on Kramer’s advice, decides to pre-emptively break up with her, thus giving him the power he wants. However, at the end of the episode, Elaine bursts into laughter again, causing his girlfriend to realise who ruined her performance and ends up breaking up with him anyway. Other plot lines in this episode include Kramer creating a cologne that smells like the beach and Jerry holding an intervention for a friend who is addicted to drugs but later ends up addicted to Pez.
Again, another fantastic example of taking a simple everyday thing (this time a Pez dispenser) and turning it into comedy gold. The moment Jerry starts messing with Elaine at the recital is classic and you end up laughing more than she did! It's also a great George episode as he gets what he wants relationship-wise and loses it again just as quickly.
4. The Fusilli Jerry
Season Six, Episode 21 (1995)
Kramer gets new licence plates from the DMV, but a mix-up ensues and his new plates read ‘ASSMAN'. Jerry is upset to learn that his mechanic, Puddy, used one of his moves on Elaine and decides to take his business elsewhere, but ends up returning to him as a good mechanic is worth more than good sex. In between making use of his new licence plates, Kramer makes a small statue out of fusilli pasta of Jerry (because he’s silly).
Meanwhile, after separating from his father, George’s mother, Estelle, decides to get her eyes done and Kramer takes her to the doctor, using his licence plates to claim he is a proctologist and get a good parking spot. When Estelle thinks Kramer made a move on her, George’s father Frank turns up to take him on but inadvertently falls bum first onto the fusilli Jerry statue.
Great episode, as we get our first introduction to Puddy, who was one of the funniest supporting characters on Seinfeld. Plus, you get plenty of laughs with Kramer’s new licence plates and the pure childish pleasure of laughing at poor Frank’s misfortune, falling onto fusilli Jerry, even though you saw it coming a mile off.
3. The Puffy Shirt
Season 5, Episode 2 (1993)
Jerry and Elaine are out for dinner with Kramer and his new girlfriend Leslie, who is a low-talker. At dinner they mention to Leslie that Jerry will be going on The Tonight Show to talk about a new charity project. Unable to hear her reply, they nod in agreement with her, not knowing they are actually agreeing for Jerry to wear the puffy shirt she designed on the show. Unable to back out of the agreement, Jerry ends up going on air with it on, then denouncing it. Leslie finds her voice then, calling him a bastard. Meanwhile, George is down in the dumps because he has had to move back in with his parents but then meets an agent who thinks he could be a great hand model, until an unfortunate accident with an iron kills his chances.
Again, Seinfeld introduced us to another type of person, this time the low-talker and the fact that Jerry proves he isn’t really bothered what Leslie is saying in the first place makes it even funnier when he has to deal with the consequences. It is also a great example of how - yes! - adding something as simple as a shirt can really pull out the laughs and again proves how genius the writers of Seinfeld were.
2. The Chinese Restaurant
Season 2, Episode 11 (1991)
This episode is the perfect example of Seinfeld being a show about nothing. Deciding to have a quick dinner before going to the movies, Jerry, George and Elaine get stuck waiting for a table at a local Chinese restaurant, although they are repeatedly told their table will be ready in five to ten minutes. While waiting, a starving Elaine tries to bribe the maitre d’ and then makes a bet that she is so hungry she'd eat food from another patron’s plate. George gets frustrated as he attempts to call his girlfriend from the busy restaurant phone and Jerry gets caught out in a lie. As the trio finally give up and leave, their name is called.
The Chinese Restaurant is probably the best example of what Seinfeld was all about. There are some broad jokes, but the real humour comes from the situation, a situation 90% of the audience have probably found themselves in at some point - though they probably wouldn't have dared make their way to a table as much as the trio here did. Simple and funny, a lot of sitcoms could learn a lot from this episode.
1. The Soup Nazi
Season 7, Episode 6 (1995)
Kramer tells the gang about a new soup stand, raving about how fantastic the soup is. They set off to try it for themselves, but not before Kramer warns them that it is run by the ‘Soup Nazi’. When George dares object to not receiving free bread with his soup, he comes up against the Soup Nazi who declares, “No soup for you!” Elaine also ignores her friend’s advice and infuriates the Soup Nazi so that he bans her (“No soup for you, you come back one year.”) When Kramer is robbed of a piece of furniture he was guarding for Elaine, the Soup Nazi gives him a replacement - which turns out to contain all of his recipes, giving Elaine the ammunition to destroy him.
Meanwhile, in the B-plot, Jerry annoys everybody with his public displays of affection with his new girlfriend. To make a point of how annoying it is, George tries the same thing with his girlfriend, who is thrilled as she thinks George is finally becoming more open.
This episode is my favourite simply because the character of the Soup Nazi is so inspired. He's probably one of the best minor characters ever created for television, and each line and encounter is so well written and seamless you wish he had become more of a regular. I can’t count the number of times I have quoted this episode and it still makes me laugh when I rewatch it. You'd be hard pressed to ever find a funnier 30 minutes of television.
Now it's your turn to pick! Vote for your favourite Seinfeld episodes!
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