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HTF REVIEW: Seinfeld Season 4 (RECOMMENDED)

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#1 of 66 Aaron Silverman

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Posted May 20 2005 - 11:26 AM

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Seinfeld: Season 4Posted Image

US Theatrical Release: 1992-1993 television season (Sony Pictures Television)
US DVD Release: May 17, 2005
Running Time: Approximately 552 minutes
Rating: N/ A
Video: 1.33:1 (Extra Features: 1.33:1)
Audio: English DD2.0, French DD2.0, Spanish DD2.0 (Extra Features: English DD2.0)
Subtitles: English, French, Portuguese, Spanish (Extra Features: Portuguese, Spanish)
TV-Generated Closed Captions: English (Extra Features: none)
Menus: Not animated
Packaging: Cardboard slipcase with 4 slim keepcases; 4-page insert lists episode credits.
MSRP: $49.95

THE WAY I FEEL ABOUT IT: 4/5

In its fourth season about “nothing,” Seinfeld really hit its stride. The central characters entered the national pop culture consciousness, the ratings started to take off, and the writing took chances that blew away an audience hungry for something new. Many of the episodes touched on previously unheard-of sitcom subjects (“The Contest;” “The Implant”), while others simply explored the realm of Bizarro TV (“The Trip;” “The Junior Mint”). Along the way, some of the most-repeated catchphrases ever to come out of the boob tube made their debuts:

“Master of your domain”

“Not that there’s anything wrong with that”

“They’re real – and they’re SPECTACULAR!”

In addition, some of the show’s most beloved characters made their first appearances in season 4, including George’s parents (Estelle Harris and Jerry Stiller). (Interestingly, George’s father was originally portrayed by John Randolph in “The Handicap Spot,” which was later partially re-shot with Stiller in the role. This set includes both versions of the episode.) “The Drake” (Rick Overton) also arrives on the scene. And, of course, the diabolically hysterical (in more ways than one) Newman (Wayne Knight), who debuted in season 3, pops in on a number of occasions.

This season is chock-full of classic episodes (see the Swag section of this review for a complete list). It kicks off with the two-part “The Trip,” which actually continues a storyline begun in the season 3 cliffhanger. In addition to being one of the very few (if not the only) 3-part sitcom episodes, it manages to take some very dark material, including a murdered character, and milk it for laughs without veering too far into bad taste. It’s followed by “The Pitch,” which begins a season-long, self-referential running plot about Jerry and George pitching a “show about nothing.” Not many 30-minute comedies have put as much effort into continuing stories as has Seinfeld, which has always been appreciated by its generally sophisticated audience.

Also featured in this season is “The Contest,” which is to this day 22 of the funniest minutes in the history of television. It doesn’t miss any opportunity for a laugh (in fact, the cast can clearly be seen struggling to maintain their composure throughout the episode). The subject matter, which is verbally danced around but never explicitly stated, is handled in a very clever way, and earned this one an Emmy and several other awards.

Seinfeld, more than perhaps any other program of recent years, has a real love-it-or-hate-it relationship with viewers. Its observational humor (which has held up better as situation comedy than as stand-up) doesn’t work for everyone, but those who do appreciate it tend to really devour the material. If one likes Seinfeld, then one probably loves Seinfeld. And for those few who haven’t yet made up their minds, it’s easy to find in syndicated heavy rotation to this day. For fans, season 4 is definitely a worthy addition to the collection – perhaps even the best season of all.


THE WAY I SEE IT: 2.5/5

The image is nothing special, but it’s OK considering the source material. Colors are overly saturated, and bleed a bit. Picture detail is pretty soft. Some digital artifacts are present, but they aren’t too distracting. There is also a bit of flickering. On the other hand, it still looks better than the reruns on cable.


THE WAY I HEAR IT: 3.5/5

The basic DD2.0 soundtrack is fine. Dialogue and music are crisp and clear. There isn’t much in the way of audio excitement here, but this track gets the job done.


THE SWAG: 4/5 (rating combines quality and quantity)

This set is chock-full of extra features that all together run in the neighborhood of 13 hours. Most of them are episode-specific, but a few standalone features are included as well. The quality runs the gamut from worthless (like Jerry Seinfeld’s nearly nonexistent commentary on “The Contest”) to hilarious (like the timeslot promos) and fascinating (like many of the “Inside Look” featurettes). The episode-specific features include “Notes About Nothing” (trivia subtitle tracks that also feature things like the “George Girlfriend Counter” and the “Kramer Entrance Counter”), “Yada Yada Yada” (commentaries), “In The Vault” (deleted scenes), and “Inside Look” featurettes that showcase new interviews with the cast and crew.

Disc 1:

The Breakthrough Season (19:09)

This featurette includes interviews with the main cast, writers and producers about the development of the fourth season, when the show really broke out and became a big hit. There’s some fluff and a few clips, but overall, it’s worth checking out.

Regis & Kathie Lee Parody (4:39)

This is a bit that appeared on Live With Regis & Kathie Lee and involved members of the Seinfeld cast poking fun at the hosts. It’s good for a chuckle.

Episode-Specific Extras
  • The Trip Part 1: Inside Look (4:52); Deleted Scenes (2:06); Commentary with writer Larry Charles; Notes About Nothing
  • The Trip Part 2: Commentary with writer Larry Charles; Notes About Nothing
  • The Pitch/ The Ticket (1 Hour Episode): Inside Look (6:44); Notes About Nothing
  • The Wallet: Deleted Scene (2:42); Notes About Nothing
  • The Watch: Notes About Nothing
Disc 2:

Not That There’s Anything Wrong With That (Bloopers) (21:11)

This absurdly long blooper reel contains some funny stuff. On the other hand, chapter stops would have been nice, as 21 minutes is a lot of giggling to view in one sitting.

Master Of His Domain: Exclusive Standup Material (8:03)

This featurette consists of various unused bits from the stand-up routines that bookend each episode. It’s cute, but unfortunately, a lot of Jerry’s observational stand-up humor hasn’t aged all that well.

Episode-Specific Extras
  • The Bubble Boy: Inside Look (4:39); Notes About Nothing
  • The Cheever Letters: Inside Look (4:20); Deleted Scenes (3:38); Commentary with Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jason Alexander and Michael Richards; Notes About Nothing
  • The Opera: Inside Look (3:23); Deleted Scenes (3:05); Notes About Nothing
  • The Virgin: Deleted Scene (0:51); Notes About Nothing
  • The Contest: Inside Look (9:51); Deleted Scenes (2:02); Commentary With Jerry Seinfeld; Notes About Nothing
Disc 3:

Sponsored By Vandelay Technologies (NBC Promos) (2:58)

A collection of funny promos featuring the cast reminding viewers that the show is moving to “9:30 Thursday after Cheers!”

1992 Olympic Promos (4:14)

These jokey “Seinfeld Olympic Moment” promo clips feature tie-ins to the 1992 Barcelona Summer Olympics. (Ironically, they all say “Seinfeld: Starting Wednesday August 12!”) Some of them are hysterical.

Episode-Specific Extras
  • The Airport: Inside Look (4:21); Deleted Scene (0:29); Alternate Ending (0:45); Commentary with writer Larry Charles; Notes About Nothing
  • The Pick: Inside Look (3:27); Deleted Scenes (1:45); Notes About Nothing
  • The Visa: Inside Look (1:41); Notes About Nothing
  • The Movie: Deleted Scene (1:48); Notes About Nothing
  • The Outing: Inside Look (5:16); Deleted Scenes (2:28); Commentary With Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jason Alexander and Michael Richards; Notes About Nothing
  • The Shoes: Notes About Nothing
Disc 4:

Episode-Specific Extras
  • The Old Man: Inside Look (4:08); Deleted Scenes (0:52); Alternate Ending (0:54); Notes About Nothing
  • The Implant: Inside Look (3:49); Commentary with writer Peter Mehlman; Notes About Nothing
  • The Handicap Spot: Original version with John Randolph as Mr. Costanza; Syndicated version with Jerry Stiller as Mr. Costanza; Introduction to original version with Jason Alexander (0:35); Inside Look (5:48); Notes About Nothing (original version only)
  • The Junior Mint: Inside Look (4:47); Deleted Scene (0:59); Commentary with Jerry Seinfeld; Notes About Nothing
  • The Smelly Car: Inside Look (3:03); Notes About Nothing
  • The Pilot (Parts 1 & 2; 1 hour): Commentary with production designer Tom Azzari and Director/ Producer Tom Cherones; Notes About Nothing

SUMMING IT ALL UP

The Way I Feel About It: 4/5
The Way I See It: 2.5/5
The Way I Hear It: 3.5/5
The Swag: 4/5


At this point, most people will already know whether they’d be interested in purchasing season sets of Seinfeld. So the question here is whether season 4 is worth a look. The A/ V quality is not terribly exciting, although for a decade-old sitcom, it’s passable. The episode selection, on the other hand, is nothing short of classic – or should I say “spectacular!” If one were to select only a single season to buy, this would be a good choice. And for those wondering whether they should bother with DVDs of a program that’s still on TV several times a day in many markets, the astonishing amount of extra features provide a fine reason, even if a few of them are subpar. All told, this set is definitely RECOMMENDED.
"How wonderful it will be to have a leader unburdened by the twin horrors of knowledge and experience." -- Mr. Wick

#2 of 66 David Galindo

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Posted May 20 2005 - 11:35 AM

Its a great set, and this was a great review, thanks!!

#3 of 66 Aaron Silverman

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Posted May 20 2005 - 11:45 AM

Thanks, David!
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#4 of 66 Jaime_Weinman

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Posted May 20 2005 - 12:41 PM

I may be in the minority but I think Seinfeld didn't so much hit its stride in the fourth season as start to lose its way a bit. Just a bit, mind you -- I discovered the show in the fourth season (I still remember the shock of seeing the first run of "The Contest" and realizing what George was talking about), and I loved it, and there are a lot of great episodes. But I think the NBC story arc was a bad idea that weighs down the season; most of the weakest material in the season involves the labored, inside-jokey NBC stuff. Seinfeld at its best was about everyday annoyances we can relate to, not an inside look at the life of a comedian; but for a chunk of the fourth season, that's what it became. And the NBC story arc started the whole trend of doing inside jokes and self-references on the show, which led to much of the weaker material in the later seasons.

Not that I didn't buy the fourth season, and not that I don't love many of these episodes, but I just find it odd to hear people saying that the show hit its stride in season 4, when so many of the best episodes are from season 3 (a stronger season overall, in my opinion).

#5 of 66 Amy Mormino

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Posted May 20 2005 - 06:04 PM

That was an excellent review, but I am curious as to the relative quality of the commentaries. It was mentioned that Seinfeld's commentary was fairly worthless on one episode, but how are the others? Which of the speakers make for the best commentaries?

#6 of 66 Casey C.

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Posted May 20 2005 - 08:03 PM

Minor note: In the "Inside Look" segments with Rick Ludwin, they got the rights to show the TV Guide cover that appears over Ludwin's shoulder. In earlier sets they "fuzzed" it out; very distracting.

#7 of 66 Carlos Garcia

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Posted May 21 2005 - 02:45 AM

Quote:
Not that I didn't buy the fourth season, and not that I don't love many of these episodes, but I just find it odd to hear people saying that the show hit its stride in season 4, when so many of the best episodes are from season 3 (a stronger season overall, in my opinion).


I tend to agree that the NBC pilot sub-plots did kind of bring the show down a notch, however, I'm with the minority in believing the show actually was at its best after Larry David left the creative staff. Don't get me wrong, I love Larry, and am a big fan of Curb Your Enthusiasm, but the same way (in my opinion) the NBC pilot took Seinfeld down a notch, Larry did the same thing in "Curb" when he dedicated an entire season to "The Producers" sub-plot. Sometimes I wonder if people don't give Jerry enough credit for "Seinfeld" and give Larry too much. After all, the show was great the last 2 seasons (when Larry was no longer involved) and the worst episode of the the entire series was "The Finale", which Larry came back and wrote.
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#8 of 66 Casey C.

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Posted May 21 2005 - 06:04 AM

I agree with you somewhat about the "story arcs," but I do think that Larry David deserves the credit he gets. When people refer to something in real life as a "Seinfeld moment" -- an obsessively detailed conversation about a minor detail such as in which direction a sandwich was cut -- that's exactly what Larry David brought to the show.

And keep in mind all the "classic episodes" that he wrote or co-wrote: The Chinese Restaurant, The Pen, The Parking Garage, The Pez Dispenser, The Boyfriend, The Bubble Boy, The Contest, The Pick, The Puffy Shirt, The Opposite ...

#9 of 66 Jaime_Weinman

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Posted May 21 2005 - 06:35 AM

Quote:
Sometimes I wonder if people don't give Jerry enough credit for "Seinfeld" and give Larry too much. After all, the show was great the last 2 seasons (when Larry was no longer involved) and the worst episode of the the entire series was "The Finale", which Larry came back and wrote.

Seinfeld and David both deserve an equal share of the credit, I think. I didn't realize until the DVD sets came out just how hands-on Seinfeld was in the writing of the show -- I always thought of it as David doing the writing and Seinfeld the performing, but it's clear from the DVD features that Seinfeld's input was hugely important. Put it this way: Seinfeld was Jerry, the confident guy with show-business smarts, and David was George, the neurotic guy who doesn't think or react the way anybody else does. Their creative relationship made the show what it was.

I don't think there was any dropoff in quality right after David left, but I do think the show declined in its final season, when Seinfeld put too much control in the hands of young, Harvard-educated writers. (People like Alec Berg, Jeff Shaffer, David Mandel, all of whom went on to make the movie Eurotrip.) Harvard Lampoon guys really shouldn't have been writing for this show in the first place, since the basis of good Seinfeld stories is supposed to be life experience, and Harvard-educated comedy writers, in the words of The Simpsons, are people who wrote their college thesis on life experience. I think the Harvard Lampoon influence showed in the increasingly implausible stories and the over-reliance on movie parodies, pop-culture jokes, and other things that had no relationship to what the show was supposed to be about. David didn't help with his finale, which was just a long self-referential joke about the show and its characters -- the product of a writer who no longer has any jokes to make about real life so he spends an hour making jokes about his own show. But David was just doing what the whole show had been doing all season long.

#10 of 66 Mike Williams

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Posted May 21 2005 - 06:49 AM

Aaron, on what sort of display do you watch the Seinfeld episodes on DVD? If it is some huge widescreen projector screen, then I can understand how you might have issues with the picture quality. But watching these episodes on a standard display as they were intended to be seen, the picture quality is really quite sharp and clear, and blows most -- even current -- TV on DVD away. So I'm just curious as to how you're viewing them, because I'm really very picky when it comes to picture quality and I couldn't be happier with Seinfeld. Even watching them on a 55" Mistibushi HDTV, they look very, very good.

For a comparison, I doubt that I will buy any further sets of Doogie Howser, as I thought the picture quality on that show was horrendous.

#11 of 66 Richard Gallagher

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Posted May 22 2005 - 10:04 AM

But watching these episodes on a standard display as they were intended to be seen, the picture quality is really quite sharp and clear, and blows most -- even current -- TV on DVD away. So I'm just curious as to how you're viewing them, because I'm really very picky when it comes to picture quality and I couldn't be happier with Seinfeld.


I agree. I've been watching them on a Toshiba 35-inch Cinema Series direct view monitor, and Seinfeld looks better than ever to me.
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#12 of 66 Doug Wallen

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Posted May 23 2005 - 01:41 AM

Great set with great extra's.

Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image

I am over halfway through and hope to finish by tomorrow.
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#13 of 66 R. Kay

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Posted May 23 2005 - 04:07 AM

Must disagree with the guy stating that the last 2 seasons were great.

The show became completely unrealistic.

Part of its charm and what made it so funny in the first place is its take on real life happenings.

The last 2 seasons of Seinfeld were as real as the first six episodes of the Star Wars saga.

#14 of 66 Aaron Silverman

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Posted May 23 2005 - 04:52 AM

Sorry for the late responses, guys -- I was offline all weekend.

Quote:
That was an excellent review, but I am curious as to the relative quality of the commentaries. It was mentioned that Seinfeld's commentary was fairly worthless on one episode, but how are the others? Which of the speakers make for the best commentaries?


Listen to the Jerry Seinfeld commentary on "The Contest" just to be amazed at how he could have agreed to allow such an embarassment to be recorded on a disc. Posted Image His commentary on "The Junior Mint" might be better -- I didn't get to it.

Writer Peter Mehlman gives a decent but not *great* commentary.

Writer Larry Charles does a very solid commentary.

I unfortunately didn't get a chance to listen to the George/ Kramer/ Elaine group commentaries or to the crew commentary on the season finale.

Quote:
Aaron, on what sort of display do you watch the Seinfeld episodes on DVD? If it is some huge widescreen projector screen, then I can understand how you might have issues with the picture quality. But watching these episodes on a standard display as they were intended to be seen, the picture quality is really quite sharp and clear, and blows most -- even current -- TV on DVD away. So I'm just curious as to how you're viewing them, because I'm really very picky when it comes to picture quality and I couldn't be happier with Seinfeld. Even watching them on a 55" Mistibushi HDTV, they look very, very good.


I watched 'em on a 55" Mitsubishi HDTV (in 4:3 pillarbox mode), which is more sensitive to picture artifacts than a "Mistibushi." Posted Image (Just kidding!) Anyway, as I said, the set *does* look better than the episodes on TV; I just thought that "remastered in hi-def" could have looked better. I'm sure that it looks great on a 35" or smaller set.

To clarify my rating, think of a rating of '2' as "fair" and a rating of '3' as "good."
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#15 of 66 Carlos Garcia

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Posted May 23 2005 - 05:02 AM

"Must disagree with the guy stating that the last 2 seasons were great.
The show became completely unrealistic.

Part of its charm and what made it so funny in the first place is its take on real life happenings.

The last 2 seasons of Seinfeld were as real as the first six episodes of the Star Wars saga."

I guess that's where we disagree...If I wanted charm, I'd have watched Friends. I always felt the last 2 seasons of Seinfeld was what put it above all other sitcoms. The first 2 seasons I found to be more like a normal sitcom, the middle seasons was when the show started to rev up, but those last two had me in hysterics! Unrealistic? Maybe, but so was the old Abbott & Costello show of the 50s, which I always thought Larry and Jerry based Seinfeld on, weird characters and old vaudeville routines being updated to modern times. I can't wait for Bizarro Jerry, The Chicken Roaster, "The Jerk Store", The Merv Griffin Show, Yada, Yada, Yada, Frogger, etc...a totally awesome series, that was only blemished by that awful finale...I still feel Larry David shouldn't have come back to do that finale. He had been away from the show for 2 years and was probably out of touch with what the show had become by then. Oh well.
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#16 of 66 Seth--L

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Posted May 23 2005 - 05:56 PM

But watching these episodes on a standard display as they were intended to be seen, the picture quality is really quite sharp and clear, and blows most -- even current -- TV on DVD away.


Agreed. On medium sized displays it looks like a film -- the DP did a pretty good job. I'd call the picture quality excellent.

Re: NBC Arc

I think the only problem with it, was that they used it to put George in a situation where he was totally out of place (which worked beautifully), but it had no real function for Jerry. He was too much along for the ride.

Re: last 2 season

The show got too goofy and over-the-top. George was just screaming all the time and Elaine's character changed episode from episode.

Re: commentaries

I think that they are all pretty awful. Jerry says almost nothing; the cast points out what's happening on screen. The writers and crew are better, but they too don't have a lot to say. It seems like part of the problem is that there really isn't much to say about most episodes besides a funny production story or two. Most of the commentators also seem to do much better when asked questions, as they are in the "Inside Looks."
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#17 of 66 Seth--L

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Posted May 23 2005 - 06:01 PM

that was only blemished by that awful finale...I still feel Larry David shouldn't have come back to do that finale. He had been away from the show for 2 years and was probably out of touch with what the show had become by then.


The finale was pure Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld cynicism: exposing the characters for who they really were, purposely not giving fans what they wanted.
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#18 of 66 David Galindo

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Posted May 24 2005 - 12:46 AM

Quote:
The finale was pure Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld cynicism: exposing the characters for who they really were, purposely not giving fans what they wanted.

Which is why I cant wait to watch it again. I remember first watching it and hating it, but the more I thought about it, the more it grew on me.

#19 of 66 Casey C.

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Posted May 24 2005 - 04:04 AM

Quote:
Which is why I cant wait to watch it again. I remember first watching it and hating it, but the more I thought about it, the more it grew on me.


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"I hate it."
"No, you love it."
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#20 of 66 Mike Williams

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Posted May 24 2005 - 05:41 AM

I completely agree that the finale was pure Jerry and Larry cynicism. They had said all along, "No hugs and no lessons learned." I thought the finale was absolutely the perfect ending to what the series had really been all along. I mean, c'mon, let's face it . . . these are NOT good people. Hilarious, yes, but good . . . no.

I absolutely LOVED all the Inside Looks, Deleted Scenes, Bloopers, the Documentary, the Regis and Kathie Lee spoof and all the 'Notes about Nothing." The audio commentaries, aside from Larry Charles, are pretty much useless. I was completely shocked at how little these people had to say. I was also surprised at how much Jason, Julia and Michael sounded pretty much like they didn't really wanna be there. They never said that, but listen to the commentaries, and it's hard to believe anything else.


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