Seinfeld was one of the biggest sitcoms of the ‘90s – besting even Friends in the ratings while the two were in competition – across 180 episodes and nine seasons. The show’s combination of an incredible ensemble cast with no weak links and a talent-filled writers’ room with a solid grasp of complex story structure turned it into one of the greatest TV shows of all time.
One thing the writers of Seinfeld understood was the importance of opening a season with a strong episode to hook audiences back in after a year-long hiatus. So, here is every Seinfeld season premiere, ranked.
9 Season 1: The Seinfeld Chronicles
The pilot episode of Seinfeld is clearly one of its all-time weakest. There are glimmers of the greatness that would eventually appear, with Kramer discussing his get-rich-quick schemes and Jerry and George’s conversations about nothing laying the groundwork for the tone of the show, but on the whole, it’s not a great episode.
Elaine isn’t even there, as she would later be added by a network note that the series needed a female character, and Kramer has the wrong name, Kessler, as a result of Larry David’s neighbor Kenny Kramer, who the character was based on, objecting to the character being named after him at first.
8 Season 9: The Butter Shave
By the ninth and final season of Seinfeld, mostly thanks to the absence of Larry David and full creative control being handed to Jerry Seinfeld, the show had devolved into a weird, surreal parody of itself. Seinfeld was right to end the series after season 9, because the decline in quality was clearly in full swing.
The writers were scraping the bottom of the barrel for ideas – the best premise they could come up with for the premiere episode was: Kramer uses butter to shave and ends up cooking himself while sunbathing, leading Newman to fantasize about eating him. Yikes.
7 Season 4: The Trip
The two-part season 4 premiere “The Trip” is one of the most controversial episodes of the series. The worst thing about it is that it doesn’t feel like a Seinfeld episode. Following Kramer’s move to L.A. in the season 3 finale, he’s been trying to make it as an actor in Hollywood. When his screenplay is discovered next to the body of a serial killer’s latest victim, Kramer is arrested and suspected of being the killer.
Jerry and George, who have flown out for Jerry to make a talk show appearance, have to go down to the station to answer some questions about him. It’s (even) darker and weirder than the average Seinfeld episode, and a strange way to open what would end up being arguably the show’s finest season.
6 Season 8: The Foundation
The season 8 premiere episode “The Foundation” had the tricky job of moving on from Susan’s heartless death at the end of the season 7 finale, right before Larry David left the show. However, it handled the premiere pretty well, giving George some comeuppance.
Initially, he thinks that the silver lining of Susan’s death is that he’s free and clear of his attachment to her, but then her parents open a foundation in her name and appoint George the leader of their new charity. That means he’ll lose all his free time to meetings and foundation business, which is pretty funny.
5 Season 6: The Chaperone
The season 6 premiere episode “The Chaperone” follows on from the storyline established in the season 5 finale “The Opposite” as George begins working for the Yankees. The joke of the season 5 finale that George finally got his dream job by following the opposite of all his instincts is hysterically paid off by showing how miserable he still is.
The plot of Jerry dating a Miss America contestant whose career is hijacked by beauty pageant enthusiast Kramer falls a little flat, but the episode is saved by George’s suggestion that the Yankees wear cotton costing them a game. Now, his ineptitude is having a wider impact, which ups the stakes of its hilarity.
4 Season 2: The Ex-Girlfriend
Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld’s script for the season 2 premiere “The Ex-Girlfriend” shows signs of the series finding its feet with tighter, more complex plotting than we saw in the first season. In the episode, George breaks up with his girlfriend and sends Jerry in to get some books he left at her apartment, but then Jerry begins dating her, grows annoyed with her like George did, and finds that he can’t break up with her as easily as George did.
The episode isn’t perfect, but it’s helped by the fact that George Costanza truly becomes George Costanza in this one.
3 Season 3: The Note
In the season 3 premiere episode “The Note,” every single character is on form. Jerry gets Elaine’s doctor friend in trouble after getting some notes forged to get free massages, George panics after getting a massage from a man and fearing that “it moved,” and Kramer is convinced he’s seen Joe DiMaggio in Dinky Donuts, comparing the way he eats donuts to the way he used to play baseball.
The storylines don’t all converge at the end in the way they would when the show had perfected its formula, but other than that, it’s a fine installment of the series.
2 Season 7: The Engagement
Seinfeld’s seventh season was one of the only seasons with a serialized story arc. In this case, it was George getting engaged to Susan, which Jason Alexander found to be far-fetched when he first read it. The season 7 finale mishandled the conclusion of the plot a little bit, with Susan dying of envelope poisoning and the characters showing no signs of emotion, but the premiere nailed it.
At first, George is excited to finally get his life on track, but even by the end of this episode, he’s starting to regret getting engaged. He’s missing baseball games and seeing movies he doesn’t want to see, all the while blaming Jerry for backing out of their non-existent deal to both get married.
1 Season 5: The Mango
When a friend came to Larry David with the idea for an episode where Elaine reveals to Jerry that she faked a lot of her orgasms when they were dating, he said the premise was “too good to pass up.” He was right, to be fair, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus plays all of Elaine’s scenes in the episode brilliantly, while Jerry Seinfeld plays his character’s insecurities hilariously opposite her. The episode’s B-plot sees Kramer getting banned from his favorite fruit store after complaining about a bad peach and sending in Jerry (and later George) with his shopping list to buy his fruit for him.