Six years after its final episode aired, “Seinfeld,” the sitcom that redefined television, is finally available on DVD ó and it’s just as obsessive as the show. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
A sneak peek at the first three seasons, which will be released on Nov. 22, confirms that these are no Costanza-like make-a-quick-buck editions, nor a yada-yada rehash.
In addition to 40 gorgeously remastered episodes in their original network form (plus, for comparison, the shorter syndicated versions of two episodes), there are more than 12 hours of extras for each season, include extensive written notes in the form of subtitles for every single episode.
This innovative feature provides lines that were cut or changed (sometimes for reasons of taste), running tallies of the four main characters’ boyfriends and girlfriends ó and a count of the wacky Kramer’s entrances, which destroyed three doorways during the series’ run.
And for true obsessive-compulsives, there are biographies and credits for virtually every actor who appears as a guest star (or in a bit role), as well as detailed explanations of the series’ sometimes obscure cultural references ó everything from Peter Lorre and Gandhi to the book “Where’s Waldo?” and New York City parking rules.
But that’s only the beginning. Along with hilarious blooper reels and never-seen deleted scenes and Seinfeld stand-up routines, most episodes are preceded by new interviews with Jerry Seinfeld, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jason Alexander and Michael Richards, as well as behind-the-camera talent, including co-creator Larry David.
Some of these interviews are remarkably candid ó Richards admits he was deeply hurt when the wacky Kramer was left out of the series’ first classic episode, “The Restaurant,” and worried he was going to be written out of the series.
Former NBC president Warren Littlefield confesses he was adamantly opposed to “The Restaurant,” which defined “Seinfeld” as a “series about nothing” by having stand-up comic Jerry, his pushy ex-girlfriend Elaine and his whiny pal George spend the entire 22 minutes waiting for a table at a Chinese restaurant.
In a separate audio commentary track, Seinfeld and David discuss how they prevailed over the nervous network to do the episode, which was held on the shelf for several months after it was filmed because NBC thought an episode with so little action would hurt the series.
Indeed, there is plenty of discussion of how the series evolved from a very shaky start ó the underwhelming pilot, “The Seinfeld Chronicles,” aired in July 1989, and the first season, which began a year later, was only five episodes long.
In a candid 65-minute documentary on the show’s origins, Seinfeld and David say they gambled on an abbreviated first-season summer run following “Cheers,” rather than a lousy spot on the schedule earlier in the season.
But despite great reviews, the ratings were relatively anemic until the show broke through in season three, when the series began coining catch-phrases like “yada yada,” “master of his domain,” “spongeworthy,” “double-dipping” and “not that there’s anything wrong with that.”
David and Seinfeld, who as newcomers to the sitcom form were eager to push the envelope in unconventional ways, say there was enormous pressure from the network to have Jerry get back together with his ex-girlfriend Elaine.
They responded with the second-season closer “The Deal,” in which the two have sex ó and bicker endlessly as they try to establish rules for a purely physical relationship.
Seinfeld says that during the hiatus, he repeatedly asked audiences whether Jerry and Elaine should stay together ó and they responded overwhelmingly against it.
“So Jerry and Elaine broke up again between the second and third seasons, and it was never referred to in the show,” Seinfeld says.