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SeinfeldSeinfeld: Seasons 5 & 6 on DVD

Even the biggest anti-Seinfeld, anti-sitcom person in the entire world cannot deny the genius of the show.

A show about nothing was somehow a show about something. It took average, ordinary, everyday situations (ones with which we can all identify), and spun hilarious half-hour episodes out of them. The writing was often brilliant, not only being infinitely more funny than most of the tripe on TV, but also the way seemingly insignificant details from seemingly insignificant subplots can have a massive impact on the end result (not to mention how everything always seems to tie in together, somehow).

The Seinfeld DVDs have been exquisite thus far. Sure, they took their time coming out, but only because those involved wanted to make sure they were done properly. Every episode from every season has looked and sounded great, and each set has included a wealth of entertaining supplements.

Seasons 5 and 6 are the latest to hit the format. Nary a bad episode in its entire run, these two particular seasons are chock full of pure gold. The show was in full stride by this point, knowing what it did best and giving it to us in spades. Season 5’s opener, “The Mango,” is an instant classic, as well as “The Puffy Shirt,” “The Barber,” “The Marine Biologist,” and “The Opposite” (the season finale).

Highlights from Season 6 include “The Switch,” “The Jimmy,” “The Fusilli Jerry” and “The Understudy.”

In the later seasons, Seinfeld episodes got both more elaborate and more basic. An entire episode is woven around the concept of faking an orgasm, while another episode is based entirely around Jerry getting a bad haircut (now that’s funny stuff!). Some would argue that the show is boring or underwhelming, but if you can appreciate the genius of it all, Seinfeld will surely go down as the greatest sitcom ever, and the one to base all others upon.

You really can’t argue with great characters, great writing, and a whole lot of nothing.

The Seasons 5 & 6 DVD presentations are just as good as they should be. Each episode is presented in full frame with Dolby Digital Stereo, and look and sound as good as they possibly can. We care not for having 5.1 audio tracks for TV shows, as long as they sound better than through our TV speakers (which they do, tenfold). The picture is flawless, with not a trace of grain, which unfortunately ixnays the feeling of watching it on TV.

Season 5 extras are as follows: “Jason + Larry = George” is a featurette on how Jason Alexander embodied Larry David’s alter ego to become George Costanza. Hilarious. We get short “Inside Looks” on most episodes, which are entertaining and informative pieces focusing on the making of a single episode, and we also get cast & crew commentaries for about half of them. Also hilarious. Production notes, bloopers, advertisements and deleted scenes are available, as well as Jerry Seinfeld himself in an extended “Master of his Domain” stand-up routine.

Season 6 also includes the typical Inside Looks, commentaries, production notes, trailers, deleted scenes and bloopers, and also sports a few other bits. There’s more exclusive Seinfeld stand-up stuff, some “Sein-Imation” classic scene re-imaginings (not as good as you’ll hope for), and “Running with the Egg,” which takes us through the making of a Seinfeld episode from idea to air. Pretty fascinating.

The latest Seinfeld DVD offerings are absolutely on par with the previous releases. If you’re a Seinfeld fan, it’s hard to justify not having these ones.

Seinfeld: Seasons 5 & 6, from Columbia Tristar Home Entertainment
1049 minutes, 1.33:1 full screen, Dolby Digital Stereo
Starring Jerry Seinfeld, Julia Louis-Dreyfuss, Michael Richards and Jason Alexander

Seinfeld, Season 8Seinfeld, Season Eight

Not that there's anything wrong with it, but it seems funny – well, strange – that Season Eight would come out right after its episodes were playing via syndication in our neck of the woods.

On the other hand, it gave us a great opportunity to compare what you get on TV with what you can get on DVD. And, in this case at least, we'll take the DVD, whose picture quality (and lack of commercials) blows what we get from our broadcast TV sources right out of the water.

Season Eight was the series' first without co-creator Larry David, a fact made much of in the four disc set's supplementals. Along with Seinfeld, David had been the series' guiding hand and driving force since the beginning, and his departure could have been a death knell for the popular sitcom.

But not to worry. Season Eight continued the series' high laugh quotient, with another year's worth of bizarre situations for the show's four main protagonists.

Season Seven left us with Susan's death and George's newly (and accidentally, though not unwelcomely) won freedom. Season Eight seems to kick off with the leads' leaving behind any semblance of  reality (whatever that may mean for this crew!) and heading straight into a Bizarro universe of cartoon-like unreality. And it works.

The characters' very superficiality is the heart of their situations, of course, as otherwise meaningless or picayune events take on heroic proportions in their lives. "Life's punches" that normal people would roll with hamstring Seinfeld participants physically, emotionally, or rhetorically.

So here we get George up to his reluctant rump in a charitable foundation, Jerry overly concerned over his placement on his current girlfriend's speed dial, Elaine enthralled with a threesome of men who are the exact opposite of Jerry, George, and Kramer, and Kramer seduced by the dark side of – roast chicken.

The four disc boxed set brings together all 22 of Season Eight's episodes, with an abundance of extras. The episodes are: The Foundation, The Soul Mate, Bizarro Jerry, The Little Kicks, The Package, The Fatigues, The Checks, The Chicken Roaster, The Abstinence, The Andrea Doria, The Little Jerry, The Comeback, The Money, The Van Buren Boys, The Susie, The Pothole, The English Patient, The Nap, The Yada Yada, The Millennium, The Muffin Tops, The Summer of George.

And they look great! The full frame (not 16x9 TV compatible) picture has been remastered in high definition and it's razor sharp, with excellent color and detail. If you've only seen Seinfeld on TV, this will be a real eye opener.

Audio is Dolby Digital stereo and it's fine as well.

According to the Seinfeld website, each of these episodes is a couple of minutes longer than the ones you see in syndication on TV. This is because they trim the episodes to put in more commercials/promos and the like, padding their bank accounts while subtracting your enjoyment. That's bonus material you may never have missed, but it's good to see it back.

Extras are spread across all four discs and include inside looks at the stories, as brought to you by cast/crew members, and a set of outtakes and bloopers. You also get "Jerry Seinfeld: Submarine Captain", a documentary on the series' star and how he kept all his balls in the air as star and head cheese after David left the show.

There's also a selection of deleted scenes, commentaries by cast and/or crew, classic scenes "re-imagined" as "Sein-imation" animation, and some trivia and production notes.

Seinfeld, Season Eight, from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
506 min. full frame (1.33:1, not 16x9 TV compatible), Dolby Digital stereo
Starring Jerry Seinfeld, Michael Richards, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Jason Alexander

Jim Bray's columns are available through the TechnoFile Syndicate.

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