We can be thankful to American television for many things but one thing they do well is comedy. Back in the 80s you could view family life with Roseanne or take a trip down to the bar with Cheers but in 1989 a new show started that was literally based on nothing, Seinfeld.
Running until 1998, it became the juggernaut of American television, being voted as the best television show of all time by TV Guide readers. It finished among the top two watched television shows across the United States from 1994-1998 and becoming the third most watched finale 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-inducing funny. As an audience we are introduced to another type of person (something that Seinfeld loved doing), the sidler, and in your mind 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 a cheque for the previous night’s activities, Jerry comments on how nice his pen is and Jack explains that it can write upside down and it is used in space travel. Jack offers Jerry and pen and after much refusing, Jerry finally takes it, much to his mother Helen’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 and is a great example of how the show’s writers took a simple idea and turned it into comedy gold.
8. The Parking Garage Season 3, Episode 6 (1991)
Hands up who has forgotten, probably on more than one occasion, where they have parked their car in one of those popular multi-story 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 around the car park time passes and George worries he will be late to meet his parents to help celebrate their anniversary, Elaine worries about the well being of the goldfish she has just purchased, Jerry desperately needs to go the bathroom and Kramer’s arms tire of carrying the air-con unit box and he hides it in another parking space number he needs to remember.
Again another great example of how well Seinfeld got the oddities and comedy out of everyday life and particular laugh out loud moments include Jerry and George getting arrested for urinating within the car park, and when the gang finally find the car their happiness is short lived as it 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 just baking 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 to Kramer, who is currently running a bus tour. When that doesn’t work 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 to me 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 ‘The Wolf’ from Pulp Fiction is a great in-joke and that alone is worth watching the episode for.
6. The Junior Mint Season 4, Episode 20 (1993)
When Elaine visits an ex-boyfriend Roy in hospital she becomes interested in dating him again as he has slimmed down from the last time she had seen him. When Jerry and Kramer watch his operation from the viewing gallery, Kramer accidentally drops a Junior Mint into the open cavity. After the operation Roy comes down with an awful infection, so George decides to invest in his artwork as he is 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.
A great episode in one way 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 really feel bad about the situations they found themselves in because really they bought it on themselves. The best scene, however, has to be the slow-mo shot of the Junior Mint descending from the heavens into Roy’s open cavity and Kramer and Jerry’s horror as it does so. But the big laughs really come when 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! 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 more worthwhile than good sex. In-between making use of his new licence plates, Kramer makes a small statue out of fuscilli 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 Franks 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’ misfortune, falling onto Fusilli Jerry, even though you did see 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, to which Leslie finds her voice, 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 thinks to bribe the maitre d’ and then makes a bet that she is so hungry she would eat food from a patron’s plate. George gets frustrated as he attempts to call his girlfriend from the busy restaurant phone and Jerry’s 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 at what Seinfeld was all about. Although there are sitcom aspects to the episode and the odd glaring joke put here and there to fit that bill, the humour comes from the situation, a situation that 90% of the audience would have been in themselves, although they probably would not dare to 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 so they go down and decide to try it for themselves, but not before Kramer warns them that it is run by the ‘Soup Nazi’, who garners his name from his attitude and strict rules of ordering.
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 and he bans her (“No soup for you, you come back one year.”) When Kramer is robbed of a piece of furniture he is guarding for Elaine, he tells the Soup Nazi of his experience and he supplies a similar piece of furniture, unaware it is for Elaine. When Elaine realises that all his recipes are hidden within it she threatens to destroy him, causing him to close the business and move to Argentina. Running along the main story, 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 if my favourite simply because the character of the Soup Nazi is inspired, probably one of the best 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 amount of times I have quoted this episode and each time I watch it, it still makes me laugh. You would be hard pressed to find a funnier 30 minutes of television, past, present or future.
So that’s my top ten, what are your favourite episodes? Look forward to reading them below!