Warning: Spoilers for Seinfeld below
I recently watched every single episode of Seinfeld over a two year period thanks to my friends at Sky Atlantic (more of a one-sided relationship where they don’t know that we’re friends but I show up in their bushes from time to time) showing the classic comedy from start to finish. I ranked Seinfeld as fifth when I wrote about the best comedies of all time, and who could really argue? It is an absolute classic. Watching it over 10 years after Seinfeld has finished, and it is still more relevant than a lot of the shows produced now, which is the sign of a truly great piece of television.
Anyway, enough of me complimenting the show and instead here are the top 10 episodes:
10. 'The Merv Griffin Show'
In what was a rare standout episode in the ninth season of Seinfeld, we have The Merv Griffin Show. I personally have no idea what The Merv Griffin Show is or who Merv Griffin is, but I get the feeling he is some kind of talk show host (and the internet agrees). Everything about this episode sounds pretty silly on paper, but when you put Kramer into the situation it begins to make a lot more sense.
The idea of hosting your own talk show where you invite all your friends on to talk about their lives seems like a good idea to me, it seems even better when you add your portly neighbor to the show as your assistant. Sadly for Kramer (and all the viewers at home), the ratings were poor (life can be cruel) and he had to go trashy (Jerry Springer style), and thanks to a squirrel and a hawk (as well as some other crazy stuff), the set was destroyed, and the last episode of The Merv Griffin Show was a bit of a disaster.
If all that wasn’t enough the episode contained three (yes three!) sub plots. Firstly we had George and his running over of pigeons, much to the distress of his girlfriend, followed by squishing a squirrel before having to care it back to health (damn grey squirrels — they’re scum! Moan the red squirrel!). We also had Elaine’s battle against some guy at work who kept sneaking into rooms without people noticing (damn ghosts), and Jerry trying to play with his girlfriend’s awesome toy collection. Sadly, she was a bitch and wanted to keep them in their boxes (toys are meant to be played with, woman!) so Jerry did the only thing a sensible person would have done and drugged her while his small, bald friend was there. Personally, I wouldn’t have bothered drugging her with a big meal, wine and a boring film, but rather with rohypnol, but I guess it was the '90s and this was network television.
9. 'The Pilot'
OMG it’s a show within a show! Yes Seinfeld did an episode where somebody gave Seinfeld a pilot to make a comedy series called Jerry that starred Seinfeld! Technically this was a double episode to finish off Season 4, but I’m counting it as one because after all, it is my list. The concepts pretty simple really, imagine an alternate reality where all the Seinfeld characters excluding Jerry are played by other actors and George is also Jerry’s butler, that’s what this is. In typical Seinfeld fashion, George gets pissed at some guy for doing something that shouldn’t upset him as much as it does, Elaine tries to do something righteous and Kramer is constipated. We also have a bald Jeremy Piven sighting (yes the same Jeremy Piven who now has hair, the boys got plugs!) and Crazy Joe Davola reappears in typical Crazy Joe Davola fashion (that guy should take some happy pills).
Sadly for Jerry and George Jerry (the show) doesn’t get picked up thanks to Elaine making the NBC executive who supported the show go crazy with her vagina. This leads to the new NBC executive thinking the show is stupid and cancelling it instantly because how can you make a show about nothing or about some guy being some other guy’s butler? It doesn’t make sense!
8. 'The Yada Yada'
It’s the episode which brought a phrase to the wider public, which is used in everyday life; yes the phrase anti-dentite. It also made the phrase yada yada yada popular; however it hasn’t quite had the impact which anti-dentite (a phrase I use every single day) has. This episode happens to contain Bryan Cranston (of Malcolm in the Middle fame) as Jerry’s dentist Whatley, who has recently converted to Judaism. Jerry naturally is convinced that Whatley has converted to Judaism for the jokes, which makes total sense, although his real animosity is down to him being a secret anti-dentite.
We also have George getting another girlfriend who is out of his league, who turns out to be a bit of a shoplifter and has a tendency to leave parts of her stories out. Elaine gets into adoption shenanigans, Kramer and Mickey fight over girls, Mickey get married and Jerry ends up dating an anti-Semite! "The Yada Yada" is a great example of how Seinfeld can have four different story arcs for each character, and then by the end of the episode have them all come together for the big conclusion.
7. 'The Puffy Shirt'
The infamous puffy shirt, a stylish piece of apparel which is utterly timeless and looks good on anyone. Jerry ends up with the beautiful puffy shirt, due to Kramer’s new girlfriend being a low talker (and a fashion designer or something), leading Jerry to misunderstand what she was saying. George gets to move back in with his parents, which is fun for him as they are both level headed individuals and totally sane.
As things do in Seinfeld, stuff happens and George ends up as a hand model because despite being a pudgy bald guy, he does have some gorgeous hands. This leads to George being overly protective of his hands, even going as far as to not masturbate with those beautiful things. Thankfully, he has discipline and years of competition-winning experience. Jerry does The Today Show wearing his new puffy shirt and it goes poorly. Sadly, the good people at The Today Show can’t appreciate a daring new look and laugh him out the building. Trying to save face, Jerry takes the puffy shirt off, which upsets the low talker and she ends up pushing George into a clothes iron, ending his short career as a hand model, robbing the world of his sexy hands.
6. 'The Soup Nazi'
No soup for you! Haha! Only joking! Soup for everyone!!! An episode of Seinfeld which delved into the delicious world of soup, and it was about time too. It’s a really simple episode, there is a strict procedure for getting soup, which if you choose not to follow or upset the Soup Nazi then you get no soup. It wouldn’t be Seinfeld however if things went to plan and of course Elaine is self-righteous about doing what she wants, George makes a big deal over nothing and Jerry betrays another girlfriend for a delicious bowl of soup.
The episode isn’t all about soup (it is mostly about soup), two gay guys steal an armoire (posh people word for a wardrobe), Jerry does baby talk and Elaine destroys the Soup Nazi’s empire by finding all his recipes and being a super big meany about it, forcing him to move back to Argentina and depriving all of New York of his delicious soup…thanks Elaine…
5. 'The Opposite'
Imagine if George wasn’t a bald loser… I know it’s hard but in the opposite that is exactly what happens. George decides to do the exact opposite of what his instinct tells him, leading to him becoming a lot more successful in his love life, career and personal life. The exact opposite happens to Elaine, who loses her job, apartment and boyfriend, becoming the new George as the universe must have at least one.
Kramer goes on his coffee table book of coffee tables book tour and visits the Regis and Kathie Lee show (whatever that is); sadly for Kramer it ends disastrously as he spits coffee over Kathie Lee’s lovely dress and sadly ending the world wide book tour for the best book idea that has ever been thought of whilst skiing ever. Jerry is also in this episode.
4. 'The Boyfriend'
Technically a two parter, however the true greatness happens in the first episode as Jerry befriends some baseball man and George tries to get more unemployment benefits. The episode is beautiful as George works really hard to get more unemployment benefits, which is oh so ironic. George introduces the well-known latex company Vandelay industries in an attempt to encourage the unemployment office to give him more money, as is life.
The true genius of the episode however involves Kramer, Newman and a gob of spit. What we receive is a fantastic parody of the assassination of JFK, with Kramer and Newman telling a hilarious story of being spat on by the baseball guy, only for Jerry to come back with the counter argument where he uses logic and other silly things to prove them wrong, and that the magic loogie was actually be some other baseball guy…understandable really, baseball players all look alike.
3. 'The Contest'
Making an episode entirely about masturbation may not seem like a big deal now, however back in the day penises and stuff were a taboo subject, so imagine what Middle America made of a network comedy in 1992 talking about lady bits and dirty man sticks! One of the many great things about the Contest is that at no point do any of the cast actually mention the act of masturbating, it is all implied, something so simple but it takes any of the perceived grotesqueness from the subject.
The episode starts with George telling the story about how his mum walked in on him in the act (happens to the best of us) and how he’s giving up polishing the sword, and hence the Contest was born! Another great touch in this episode is after finally giving in and unclogging the pipes those characters sleep at night, whilst the ones who haven’t tickled the pickle are seen tossing and turning in bed. By the end of the episode we don’t know who has actually won due to every character having fallen asleep, only for George to reveal that he was in fact the last to spank the monkey, only to the then reverse the decision in the finale and reveal that he was actually lying. Writing at its finest, wanting to say something without actually saying, yet everyone watching at home understands exactly what they are saying.
2. 'The Marine Biologist'
I often tell random people who I meet on my travels that I’m a marine biologist, when in fact I am not. Why do I do it? I don’t really know, it sounds impressive and it’s like an inside joke with myself and anyone else who has seen Seinfeld…so far everyone thinks I’m actually a marine biologist…one day though…one day…
One of my favourites scenes in Seinfeld is when George is wandering down the beach with his girlfriend and they come upon a beached whale, only for someone to call out “is anyone here a marine biologist!?!?” It’s so ridiculous, it’s brilliant. George marching into the sea to relieve the whale, then telling the heroic story back at the diner and the reveal that it was Kramer’s fault, it’s one joke which runs an entire episode and gets better with every scene.
1. 'The Hamptons'
Finally we are the end of the list and it’s the episode which takes the cast out of New York City which takes the top spot! The four main character head out to the Hamptons to see someone’s new baby, with all but Kramer taking a date, only to discover that the baby is incredibly ugly (shit happens not every baby can be cute, my cousin certainly knows about that). Everyone gets to see George’s girlfriend sunbathe topless, so as is only fair George tries to see Jerry’s girlfriend topless.
This is where the episode takes it to the next level, as she ends up walking in on a naked George after he had swam in the cold pool, every man’s nightmare, George was suffering from a classic case of shrinkage. Jerry’s girlfriend was sadly ill-informed about men’s genitals and the effect which cold water has on them and tells George’s girlfriend of the small penis situation, causing her to leave in disgust. For revenge George feeds Jerry’s girlfriend some non-kosher lobster which Kramer had stolen earlier in the episode (as you do), when he goes to apologise he finally gets to see her naked. It’s a classic episode, where Kramer does something stupid and impulsive, Elaine over thinks something, George must get even and Jerry…well Jerry’s there.
So there you have it, the top 10 Seinfeld episodes! It’s tough to take a show that has 180 episodes (many of which are great) and select only 10 from it. If you weren’t counting, the top 10 list contains four episodes from Season 5, two from Season 4, one from Season 3, one from Season 7, one from Season 8 and one episode from Season 9. It wasn’t deliberate, but it’s quite a nice split across all the seasons.
Let's hear that funky bass line one more time:
So what did you think of my top 10 episodes of Seinfeld? Terrible? Great? Leave a comment and share your thoughts and which episodes of Seinfeld you feel should have cracked the top 10.