The so-called "show about nothing" starring Jerry Seinfeld as a fictionalized version of himself, Jason Alexander as his best friend George Costanza, Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Jerry's ex-girlfriend and friend Elaine Benes, and Michael Richards as his hipster doofus neighbor Cosmo Kramer, was included by many on top-shows-of-all-time lists including Entertainment Weekly and Rolling Stone.
Widely considered as one of the best and most influential sitcoms ever made, Seinfeld ran for nine hilarious seasons. This timeless classic still holds up today, the characters are legendary pop culture icons, and quotes from numerous episodes have become popular catchphrases. Needless to say, ranking its nine seasons certainly wasn't an easy task.
Seinfeld’s five-episode first season is its weakest point and there’s no argument about it. It’s not that the first season is bad by any means, but it’s not nearly as good as anything that superseded it. The characters are a bit undefined and their quirky personalities significantly subdued from what they eventually become, the dialogue tends to get a bit stilted, and it feels a bit off especially on a re-watch.
The pilot episode, “Good News, Bad News” or “The Seinfeld Chronicles” is particularly jarring as it aired a whole year before the rest of the episodes, the setting is different, the tone is a bit off, and don’t even get us started on Kramer. However, there are moments that are worth remembering. “The Stakeout” marked the very first appearance of Art Vandelay.
Seinfeld’s second season was a vast improvement on the first one. With more episodes to work with, the main foursome finally got some much-needed development and we even got to meet beloved supporting characters like Uncle Leo. While still not at its peak, the second season does have some standout episodes.
In “The Deal” Jerry and Elaine attempt to work out a way to combine “this” and “that” without disturbing “this” in the process of adding “that”. And “The Chinese Restaurant” is a classic example of a bottle episode executed with utmost perfection. The entire episode takes place in the lobby of a Chinese restaurant as Jerry, Elaine, and George get increasingly frustrated while waiting for a table. This is a true Seinfeld classic because it’s a perfect example of it being a “show about nothing” and because it’s painfully relatable.
Seinfeld’s last season gets somewhat of a bad rep because of the divisive season finale. Depending on whom you ask, it’s either a stroke of genius or the biggest disappointment. Though a bit uneven, season nine certainly had its highs. First and foremost, it’s the season that thought us that you can get through any stressful situation without going berserk simply by exclaiming “serenity now”, preferably at the top of your lungs.
“The Strike” is responsible for creating everyone’s favorite fictional holiday, a Festivus for the rest of us! Kind reminder, this December 23, air your grievances and perform the feats of strength. “The Betrayal” is an inventive and hilarious backward episode in which we’re shown the effect of the joke before its cause. Plus, it introduced George's trademark (though stolen) line, “you can stuff your sorries in a sack”.
Season three is where Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld really started to perfect their “show about nothing” schtick and started to push the envelope by breaching topics like sexuality, Neo-Nazis, promiscuity, and even the JFK assassination. At its strongest, we got episodes like “The Parking Garage” and “The Subway” which portrayed the comedy of mundane everyday events.
“The Alternate Side”, in which Kramer becomes an extra in a Woody Allen movie and George starts re-parking cars for a living, coins the line “these pretzels are making me thirsty” and explains the nature of a reservation. And after watching “The Pez Dispenser” we’re all having a hard time looking at the thing without laughing. However, the season does have some of the show's least exceptional episodes like “The Dog” and “The Stranded”.
At its midpoint, Seinfeld delivered a season that was fittingly moderate by Seinfeld’s standards. It followed after two of the show’s strongest seasons and did extremely well in an effort to execute the winning formula with the same success, but fell just slightly short. There are some standout episodes in the mix for sure. George freaking out over Elaine’s big salad comes to mind, as well as the Superman-themed “The Race” which became a Seinfeld classic, and of course “The Label Maker” which popularized the term “re-gifter”.
Overall, season six had plenty of hilarious episodes and excellent character moments. However, it didn’t quite have the same coherent comedic story that tied all those episodes together the way season four and five had.
Season eight is remarkably unplagued by bad episodes. At the time Larry David had departed from the show, leaving everything in Seinfeld's hands, and yada, yada, yada, we got one of the wackiest and one of the best seasons. Some of the most memorable episodes include “The Bizarro Jerry” which really set the wacky tone of the season, “The Little Kicks” in which Elaine thought us how to do a “full body dry heave set to music”, “The Comeback” that still serves as a painful reminder that the best ones always come when it’s too late, and "The Chicken Roaster" in which Jerry and Kramer switch personalities after temporarily switching apartments.
Season eight also gave us some of the show's most memorable lines and catchphrases, like "top of the muffin to you"; "the jerk-store called, they're running out of you"; yada, yada, yada; anti-dentite; and the urban sombrero.
Season seven was a wild ride from start to finish. The main story arc with George getting engaged provided excellent comedic fodder and gave us the very best of Jason Alexander. “The Pool Guy” in particular comes to mind as one of the most relatable moments from George’s engagement, as worlds start colliding when Elaine starts hanging out with Susan thus threatening to kill independent George.
“The Soup Nazi” introduced one of the most memorable and beloved supporting characters and the hilarious catchphrase “no soup for you”. In “The Sponge”, Elaine coined one of our favorite Seinfeld-isms, “spongeworthy”, and in “The Wink”, we found out that 95% of the population is undatable. The fact is, every single episode from season seven is fantastic. The only thing that kind of bogs it down is the controversial season finale, which confirmed what we already suspected – Jerry and co. are sociopaths.
After mastering their craft in season four, David and Seinfeld created a number of all-time favorite episodes in the show’s fifth season, as well as a good number of the most relevant Seinfeld-isms. In “The Puffy Shirt”, Kramer’s “low-talker” girlfriend gets Jerry to wear a puffy shirt on TV prompting Jerry to cry out “but I don’t wanna be a pirate”. In “The Stall”, Elaine teaches Jerry’s girlfriend a lesson when she refuses to spare a square.
George ends up saving a whale in “The Marine Biologist”, and “The Hamptons” gave a whole new meaning to the word shrinkage. Last but certainly not least, “The Opposite” sums up the entire premise of the show. When George’s life finally starts going up, Elaine plummets, while Jerry remains the same, calmly commenting on his friends’ misfortune. You can randomly pick out any season five episode and find at least one of the show’s classic moments.
Season four is widely recognized as the breakthrough season, it has TV Guide’s best episode of all time, and contains a number of show’s most popular catchphrases. In 2009, TV Guide named Seinfeld’s groundbreaking, Emmy Award-winning episode “The Contest” the best television episode of all time. When the four friends bet on who can remain the "master of their domain" the longest with virgins, Kennedy's, hot nurses, and naked neighbors running around hilarity ensues.
In the GLAAD Media Award-winning episode “The Outing”, Jerry and George utter the unforgettable line “not that there’s anything wrong with that” at every turn in order to deny gay rumors without coming off as homophobic. “The Pitch” started the whole “show about nothing” schtick, “The Implant” gave us the line “they’re real and they’re spectacular”, and in “The Shoes” Jerry explained the intricacies of looking at cleavage. Simply put, season four is Seinfeld at its funniest and most inventive. Nearly every episode is a timeless classic and the meta storyline with Jerry's fictional show is nothing short of brilliant.