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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
Seinfeld: Seasons One and Two (1990-1)

"See that? To me, that button's in the worst possible spot. The second button literally makes or breaks the shirt. Look at it. It's too high. It's in no man's land. You look like you live with your mother."
- Jerry Seinfeld (Jerry Seinfeld)

Review By: Jesse Shanks  
Published: November 08, 2004

Stars: Jerry Seinfeld, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jason Alexander, Michael Richards
Other Stars: Lee Garlington, Pamela Brull, Lynn Clark, Philip Bruns, Liz Sheridan, Kevin Dunn, Barney Martin, Len Lesser, Lawrence Tierney, Frantz Turner, Tory Polone, Gretchen German, Michael D. Conway, Nurit Koppel, Fred Applegate, John Capodice, Larry David, Teri Austin, Stephen Tobolowsky, John Posey, Siobhan Fallon, Norman Brenner, Christine Dunford, Vic Polizo, James Hong, David Labiosa, Doug Ballard, John Del Regno
Director: Art Wolff, Tom Cherones

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (Adult themes)
Run Time: 10h:04m:00s
Release Date: November 23, 2004
UPC: 043396053410
Genre: television


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A AA-A A+

DVD Review

In the late 1980s and early '90s, it seemed like any comedian with two jokes to rub together was dragged off the stage of the Improv and shoveled into a sitcom "based" on his or her comedy. Some worked out and some didn't. Sometimes the comedy didn't hold up or the actor didn't or perhaps the audience just didn't hang around long enough to find out. When comedian Jerry Seinfeld was signed by NBC to develop a comedy, it didn't make too many waves in the television industry. Seinfeld had made a name for himself as a "safe" comedian with appearances on The Tonight Show, Late Night with David Letterman, young comedian venues and ultimately his own HBO special Jerry Seinfeld: Stand-Up Confidential. Seinfeld didn't work blue—no screaming and no Jesus jokes—but rather dry and witty observations about the vagaries of every day life.

In creating the show, Seinfeld hooked up with Larry David, another stand-up comedian/comedy writer who had gotten his start on the Saturday Night Live competitor, Fridays, and later worked a year on SNL. Some of the aspects of the show they envisoned camed from Jerry's life and others from Larry's. The general idea was to show how a comedian got his material by alternating real life settings with stand-up sequences that commented on the events portrayed or set up the gags. The motif of actual experiences being developed into scripts was to continue for the run of the series.

After the pilot for what was then called The Seinfeld Chronicles first aired in July of 1989, the show almost immediately disappeared from view. However, an NBC executive moved some money around and was able to order five episodes. Renamed Seinfeld, these five episodes and the pilot (now called Good News, Bad News) make up what was considered to be the first season of the show and make up the first disc of set.

The anchor of the show is a comedian who lives on the Upper West Side of Manhattan named Jerry Seinfeld, of course played by Jerry Seinfeld. He has a strange next-door neighbor named Kramer, portrayed by Michael Richards. His childhood friend, George Costanza (Jason Alexander), is his constant companion, as well as is his former girlfriend—now his girl friend—Elaine Benes (Julia Louis-Dreyfus). Although Elaine doesn't appear in the pilot, she becomes an integral part of the group as the gal who can hang with the guys and be herself. Kramer starts as a bundle of goofy bits that becomes a breakout character who soon captured the imagination of the viewing public. George becomes the essence of Every Man in his determination to live life on his own terms—as defined by the opinion of others.

The first disc of the set includes two version of the pilot. The first uses the original theme music; the second is made to fit into the latter, now familiar style, for syndication. The first season episodes are still quite charming and have a raw quality that the later, more sophisticated episodes lack. There is much more stand-up material and the characters are less formed, although more spontaneous. Seinfeld attained very low ratings in its early years and it is a testament to the foresight of NBC to keep such a project on the air, allowing it to achieve the popularity it ultimately found. Somewhere along the way, Seinfeld and David discovered they were creating a show that was unlike any other on television. Subjects that never saw air time on average sit-coms were fair game on Seinfeld. Unique story structures broke up the commercial to commericial march of the normal half-hour comedy. Also, a darker side of Seinfeld and David emerged, surprising and sometimes even shocking in its use of subjects like suicide, cruelty, and violence in the comedy.

Starting with the second season, every episode's title begins with the word "The." Purportedly, this was Jerry's idea to avoid having writers waste time thinking up clever titles. In The Ex-Girlfriend, Jerry finds himself disturbingly enmeshed in a relationship with George's former girl friend. The supplements include adeleted scene from this episode in which George envisions his own kidnapping in order to break them up. In The Pony Remark, Jerry criticizes people who have ponies at a family dinner. This upsets his grandmother, who had a pony as a child that she loved and when she dies suddenly, Jerry wonders if his remark caused her death. This episode was nominated for a Best Writing Emmy for David and Seinfeld, and Best Directing for Tom Cherones. In The Revenge, George decides to get revenge on his boss by dropping a "mickey" in his drink.

One of the most interesting episodes of the second season is The Chinese Restaurant, in which Jerry, George, and Elaine are waiting for their table at a restaurant. The characters play out this scenario in real time, and the audience spends the entire running time with them as they wither from waiting. Another episode nominated for an Emmy for its writing is The Deal. In this one, Jerry and Elaine decide to put "that," meaning sex, back into their relationship without disturbing "this," meaning their friendship. The system they develop to govern their new status turns out to have a few bugs.

The first season tentatively laid the foundation for the Seinfeld style, but in it's in the second season (the first complete season) that Seinfeld begins its upward motion toward what has been hailed as the most innovative comedy ever made. Called the "show about nothing," Seinfeld had most definitely become Something. By the fifth season, it was the most popular half-hour on TV and an unbeatable cash cow for NBC.

That Seinfeld juggernaut finally comes to DVD, delayed due to wrangling over money and rights—a continuation of some of the machinations that endangered the show during its run. But it is here, complete with full and seemingly jolly participation by all involved, including in the additional documentary material as well as commentary on selected episodes. With the rush to DVD that many television shows have made, there was much speculation as to what form a Seinfeld release would take. This show has the unique difficulty of being so familiar to its potential audience who have continued to see it in syndication for over a decade as many as four or five times a day.

Fortunately for devotees, no expense was spared and a great deal of effort has been made to make this DVD release the best television show available in the format thus far. In many cases, material that has not been seen since the episodes originally aired is included, as well as additional footage that has never been seen before. Many episodes come with an excellent "Inside Look" feature that allows writers, cast members, NBC executives, and others to reminisce, and to provide background and inside information about the episode. In addition to this, there's a "Notes about Nothing" function, which is a running text commentary for each episode. Some of this information repeats material found in the "Inside Look" features, and it isn't all brilliant or revelatory, but these notes include explanations of certain references, notations about actors, connections and other trivia. There are literally hours and hours of entertaining material beyond the episodes themselves. The repetition isn't that bad, however, and certainly works for those who might prefer one type of supplement over another.

Disc 1

The Seinfeld Chronicles (Pilot)
Original Pilot Version (23m:03s)
Revised Pilot Version (23m:05s)
Inside Look (4m:21s)
Notes About Nothing

Male-Unbonding (23m:01s)
Inside Look (2m:37s)
Deleted Scene (3m:08s) - Alternate ending
Notes About Nothing

The Stake Out (23m:00s)
Introduction by Jerry Seinfeld and Julia Louis-Dreyfus (:48s)
Inside Look (5m:23s)
Commentary with Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David
Notes About Nothing

The Robbery (23m:01s)
Inside Look (2m:17s)
Notes About Nothing

The Stock Tip (22m:59s)
Notes About Nothing

Disc 2

The Ex-Girlfriend (22m:57s)
Deleted Scenes (2m:42s)
Notes About Nothing

The Pony Remark (22m:59s)
Inside Look (3m:01s)
Notes About Nothing

The Busboy (23m:00s)
Inside Look (3m:07s)
Commentary with Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jason Alexander, Michael Richards
Notes About Nothing

The Baby Shower (23m:00s)
Inside Look (2m:02s)
Commentary with writer Larry Charles
Notes About Nothing

The Jacket (23m:01s)
Inside Look (4m:33s)
Deleted Scene (3m:28s)
Notes About Nothing

Disc 3

The Chinese Restaurant (22m:59s)
Inside Look (4m:52s)
Deleted Scene (:58s)
Notes About Nothing

The Phone Message (22m:57s)
Inside Look (1m:38s)
Notes About Nothing

The Apartment (23m:01s)
Inside Look (2m:29s)
Notes About Nothing

The Stranded (23m:00s)
Introduction by Jerry Seinfeld (:13s)
Notes About Nothing

The Statue (23m:01s)
Inside Look (3m:18s)
Notes About Nothing

Disc 4

The Heart Attack (23m:00s)
Deleted Scenes (5m:11s)
Commentary with writer Larry Charles
Notes About Nothing

The Revenge
Original Aired Version (23m:00s)
Syndicated Version (23m:00s)
Inside Look (4m:02s)
Commentary with Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jason Alexander, Michael Richards
Notes About Nothing

The Deal (23m:00s)
Inside Look (7m:18s)
Commentary with Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David
Notes About Nothing

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: The original producers of the show, returned to the original film elements and remastered every episode digitally in high definition to increase video quality and have done a very fine job. The details are crisp and the colors are balanced nicely; that sheen that exists in the syndicated versions is long gone.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0English, French, Spanishyes


Audio Transfer Review: Castle Rock Entertainment, which produced the show, returned to the original elements and digitally remastered the analog audio tracks of each episode. No hiss, pops, or clutter exists in the crisp audio tracks of this release. The set comes with French and Spanish audio, in addition to the English. As a bonus, this show is a scream in the other languages for English speakers, with these interpreting actors delivering their lines with great gusto.

Audio Transfer Grade: A

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 18 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese with remote access
5 Deleted Scenes
1 Documentaries
14 Featurette(s)
6 Feature/Episode commentaries by Jerry Seinfeld, Larry David, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jason Alexander, Michael Richards, Larry Charles
Packaging: Box Set
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Notes about Nothing (Text Commentary)
  2. The Tonight Show TV Appearances
  3. Sponsored by Vandelay Industries - NBC Promos & Trailers
Extras Review: The menus for the set are quite snappy with the setting of one of the episodes as a different theme for each, such as Jerry's apartment or the diner, and are very easy to navigate. The commentaries are a mixed bag with the participants sometimes unprepared and spending time figuring out which episode they are watching, or convulsed in laughter, or lauding each other's performance. Occasionally, there are some insights, but more often we are told who was pregnant that day or other really trivial stuff. The commentaries with Louis-Dreyfus, Richards, and Alexander are superior to the ones with David and Seinfeld, merely because Larry and Jerry say very little of real substance. Still, it is quite intriguing to listen to the original cast and crew talking off the cuff about the show and the people they enjoyed so much. The text commentaries contain quite a bit of analysis of Seinfeld's ratings history in the first two seasons (quite dismal) and also contain several running counters, like the Kramer Entrance Counter, a George Girlfriend Counter, and a Jerry Girlfriend Counter.

Master of His Domain: Exclusive Stand-up material (7m:07s): Disc 2
contains some out-takes of Jerry Seinfeld in his stand-up milieu.

Not That There's Anything Wrong with That: Bloopers (13m:41s): A hilarious group of outtakes and bloopers from the show is on Disc Three.

How It Began:Making of Documentary (1h:04m:51s): This documentary is quite enjoyable as the improbable tale of the "show about nothing" winding its way through the network approval system is told in great detail by many of the participants and NBC execs. Larry David is quite frank and humorous in describing his fears and surprises in becoming a part of something that he felt he was not qualified for in the least. Jerry is more sanguine in his acceptance that it was all going to even out somehow. Once NBC approved a pilot and the network executives were viewing it favorable, the show went into a testing process. What was then "The Seinfeld Chronicles" scored very poorly as the test audience felt it was "too New York" and "too Jewish." However, when the show aired as a "sit-com special," the ratings showed that it was strong across the country and NBC surprised the cast and crew with an order for four more episodes. Larry cried real tears at having to come up with four more shows. Very funny documentary and a treat for fans of the show.

The Tonight Show TV Appearances (18m:58s) includes:
Jerry Seinfeld—May 6, 1981 (6m:32s)
Jerry Seinfeld—May 30, 1990 (7m:06s)
Michael Richards as Dick Williams—March 2, 1989 (5m:21s)

Sponsored by Vandelay Industries: NBC Promos & Trailers (3m:47s): A glittering montage of Seinfeld promos used by NBC.


Extras Grade: A+

 

Final Comments

The best DVD set for a television series yet, the first two seasons of Seinfeld are lovingly transferred in all their quirky glory along with hours of documentary, commentary and never-before-seen material. Highly recommended for fans, non-fans and undecided fans of all ages!

 


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