One of the most popular sitcoms of all time, "Seinfeld" probably would not have lasted had it aired today. When the show was initially launched, NBC worried that the show wouldn't play to all audiences and the initial ratings seemed to prove them right. However, NBC was able to see a small cult audience gathering around the show when the pilot first aired in 1989, and although the first couple of seasons saw the show on shaky ground - and they weren't the best moments of the series - the sitcom eventually began to gather some serious steam.
After six seasons, "Seinfeld" became NBC's biggest hit, drawing in audiences by the millions to the all-important Thursday night lineup. However, during the seventh season, "Seinfeld" co-creator Larry David decided to depart the series. While the show would not be quite the same without David's unique and deeply funny sense of humor (Larry David is, after all, the inspiration for George Costanza), Season 7 really does see the future "Curb Your Enthusiasm" creator going out on a high note, as Season 7 is arguably one of the show's very best.
Although this season is known for the legendary "Soup Nazi", it also puts George (Jason Alexander) through the works, starting with George's engagement with Susan Ross (Heidi Swedberg) to the postponement an episode later. While they don't quite reach the heights of season 8's "Summer of George", some other George-centric highlights include: "The Wink" (George keeps getting misinterpreted due to his winking after a getting grapefruit juice in the eye), "The Secret Code" (George works to keep his ATM code secret from Susan) "The Secret Code" also provides an exchange of dialogue that essentially defines George (George: "Why can't there be some things just for me? Is that so selfish?" Jerry: "Actually, that's the definition of selfish.")
Although the famed "Summer of George" episode doesn't happen until Season 8, Season 7 certainly seems like "Season of George", with other highlights, such as "The Doll" (Susan's doll collection includes a doll that looks very creepily like his mother) and "The Calzone" (George gets George Steinbrenner of the Yankees hooked on calzones, only to get booted from the store). Even though "The Pool Guy" is more of a Jerry-centric episode, the George story about how his different worlds are colliding (and the potential demise of "Indepdendent George": "A George divided against itself cannot stand!") thanks to Susan and Elaine becoming friends is a classic bit.
Although George's engagement is a main story focus of the season, there are highlights that focus on other characters, as well. Although "The Soup Nazi" is the most famed episode from the season, "The Bottle Deposit" is another highlight. The two-part episode has Elaine bidding on JFK's golf clubs for her boss, only to have them stolen when she leaves them in the back of Jerry's car and his mechanic runs off with the auto. While that's amusing, the other half of the episode, with Kramer (Michael Richards) and Newman (Wayne Knight) finally figuring out how to profit off bottle returns thanks to an open mail truck, gets bigger laughs and makes one wish that Kramer and Newman would be teamed up even more than they were during the show's run.
Although season 7 has a couple of so-so episodes ("The Gum" and "The Friars Club" aren't bad, but they pale in comparison to the rest of the season), the majority of the season sees the show clicking beautifully, powered by some of the show's best George moments.
Season 7: 24 episodes on 4 discs: The Engagement, The Postponement, The Maestro, The Wink, The Hot Tub, The Soup Nazi, The Secret Code, The Pool Guy, The Sponge, The Gum, The Rye, The Caddy, The Seven, The Cadillac (1), The Cadillac (2), The Shower Head, The Doll, The Friars Club, The Wig Master, The Calzone, The Bottle Deposit (1), The Bottle Deposit (2), The Wait Out , The Invitations.
Note: these are the episodes as originally aired, not the shorter syndicated versions.
VIDEO: "Seinfeld" is presented in 1.33:1 full-frame throughout this first year. The episodes have been remasted for this DVD release, and the results are really quite good. Having watched these episodes in syndication a great many times, I'll definitely note that the picture quality is an improvement over broadcast. Sharpness and detail seem quite good, as the picture often appeared noticably more well-defined than the episodes of the show I watch during dinner most nights.
The picture showed little in the way of real concerns. Some slight shimmer and a trace or two of pixelation were noticed, but these issues were certainly minor. Colors remained bright and vivid, seemingly stronger and more saturated than the broadcast episodes I've seen lately, which look a tad washed-out in comparison.
SOUND: "Seinfeld" is presented in Dolby 2.0 on the DVDs. The sound quality is perfectly fine, with clear dialogue. The dialogue and laugh track seemed nicely balanced, while the occasional hints of music seemed crisp and full. Overall, a perfectly fine effort - nothing to write home about, but no problems, either.
Commentary on “The Postponement” with Jason Alexander and Julia Louis Dreyfus
Commentary on “The Soup Nazi” with Jerry Seinfeld, Director Andy Ackerman and Writer Spike Feresten
Commentary on “The Secret Code” with writers Alec Berg and Jeff Schaffer
Commentary on “The Pool Guy” with Jerry Seinfeld, writer David Mandel and director Andy Ackerman
Commentary on “The Sponge” with writer Peter Mehlman
Commentary on “The Gum” with writers Tom Gammill and Max Pross
Commentary on “The Shower Head” with Jason Alexander and Julia Louis-Dreyfus
Commentary on “The Doll” with writers Tom Gammill and Max Pross
Commentary on “The Friars Club” with writer David Mandel
Commentary on “The Calzone” with with Jerry Seinfeld, director Andy Ackerman and writers Jeff Schaffer and Alec Berg
Once again, we get a set of commentaries from members of the cast and crew. While the crew manage to offer a good deal of information about the episode - how the idea was born, some changes that took place and behind-the-scenes stories - the actors don't have a lot to offer. As great as it is to have Jerry Seinfeld's participation on these tracks, his participation is limited to infrequent slight comments and the occasional laughing along with the jokes.
As with prior seasons, we get short "Inside Look" featurettes about the majority of the episodes. While not too in-depth, these featurettes offer some thoughts about how the writers came up with the idea, some discussion about how certain gags were approached and more. They do a nice job of setting up each episode.
Deleted scenes for some episodes are also included. While these scenes seem rightly deleted, there are a few funny bits, such as an absurd extended bit with Steinbrenner and George's parents that was taken out of "The Caddy". Each of the episodes also offers optional subtitle text notes about the episode ("Notes About Nothing".) There's also "Sein-imation" (animated versions, which are really very funny) versions of two scenes.
The remainder of the extras are on the final disc. "Master of His Domain" offers a look at some of the stand-up bits that never made it to air. Bloopers offers 21 minutes of absolutely hysterical bloopers, highlighted by a fake fight between Louis-Dreyfuss and Alexander. "Where's Larry?" is a look at co-creator Larry David's participation in the show (while largely only heard - George Steinbrenner's voice for example - and not seen, David can be spotted in a few episodes), providing a montage of some of these moments.
"Larry David's Farewell" is a short featurette that details the reasons of David's departure and talks about the changes that occured afterwards. "Queen of the Castle" is a look at the Elaine character - from how the character came on-board to how Dreyfuss approached playing Elaine to the thoughts of those who worked with her on the show. It also shows some additional bloopers and Louis-Dreyfuss giving her acceptance speech at the Emmy's.
Final Thoughts: Although there are a couple of so-so episodes, the 7th season of "Seinfeld" offers plenty of classics and remains one of the show's very best. The DVD offers very good audio/video quality and a great set of extras. Highly recommended.