Seinfeld appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on these single-sided, double-layered DVDs; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Should you expect Season Five to look better than prior years? Nope, as it offered visuals very similar to those of the other packages.
From start to finish, sharpness was pretty good. Some mild instances of softness occurred, but the majority of the shows were acceptably concise and accurate. A few light examples of jagged edges and shimmering occurred, and some minor of edge enhancement was apparent. The shows continued to look somewhat grainy, and I also noticed the usual occasional instances of small specks and marks.
For the most part, I thought colors looked good. They faltered periodically, but they usually were reasonably lively and concise. Blacks seemed dark and rich, but shadows varied. They sometimes appeared a little too dark, though they were usually acceptable. Again, these shows didn’t offer stellar visuals, but they consistently provided pretty solid picture quality.
Season Five continued the trend of lackluster Dolby Surround 2.0 soundtracks for Seinfeld. The mixes remained restricted. Most of the audio focused on the center channel, and we didn’t get much information from the other speakers. Music broadened to the sides and rears a bit, though. Effects didn’t do much. Even exterior locations stayed subdued, as laughter from the audience provided the main side and rear material. A few shots opened up matters slightly, but don’t expect fireworks here.
Audio quality was perfectly decent. Speech sounded reasonably natural and didn’t suffer from much edginess. Effects came across as acceptably concise and accurate, though they didn’t exactly tax my system. Music presented the liveliest elements, with decent highs and fair bass response. There wasn’t much to the audio, but it was fine for the shows.
Season Five offers supplements very similar to those in past releases. We find Notes About Nothing on all the programs. These text commentaries fill us with all sorts of Seinfeld-related information. They cover biographical and career notes about cast and crew plus specific details about the episodes such as shooting and rehearsal dates, air dates, ratings and reviews. We find scads of details about changes from the original scripts, deleted scenes, and other variations. The tracks go over series development and issues connected to characters and situations. Also, we get cute “counters”; these keep track of Kramer’s entrances, Jerry’s, Kramer’s and George’s girlfriends, Elaine’s boyfriends, and Jerry’s declaration of “Hello, Newman”. Those continue from the earlier sets.
As with the tracks on earlier sets, I learned a lot from “Notes About Nothing”. “Nothing” provides some very detailed and illuminating discussions. They’re an excellent bonus and may well be the strongest aspect of the set.
Next we find 11 running, screen-specific audio commentaries. For “The Mango” and “The Lip Reader”, we hear from actors Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Michael Richards and Jason Alexander, while “The Glasses”, “The Pie” and “The Cigar Store Indian” feature writers Tom Gammill and Max Pross. “The Non-Fat Yogurt”, “The Masseuse” and “The Hamptons” focus on writer Carol Leifer and co-producer Peter Mehlman, while “The Marine Biologist” gives us director Tom Cherones and production designer Tom Azzari. Finally, “The Opposite” presents Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David.
I found prior commentaries to be uninspiring. Unfortunately, that trend continued here. The David/Seinfeld track was consistently boring, and the two actor pieces were similarly flat. They told us some decent notes like Jerry’s crush on Julia and the fact they never shot in NYC, but otherwise they just laughed and left us with lots of dead air.
The Gammill/Pross tracks were better. They talked about how they got onto the series and how they came up with the story. They also went through the processes related to working on the series, dealing with other staff members, and various production notes. The pair didn’t give us a scintillating discussion, but they seemed pretty good.
The Leifer/Mehlman commentaries were similar, though they suffered from a bit more dead air. They covered territory along the same lines as Gammill/Pross. Again, the tracks weren’t excellent, but they gave us some decent information.
“Biologist” ended matters on a bland note. Cherones and Azzari delivered some production issues like getting a whale, but dead air dominated and they didn’t give us much of interest. Overall, the commentaries had their moments, but they remained lackluster. I still think the “Notes About Nothing” do the job much better.
Across all four discs, we get Inside Look featurettes for 16 of the episodes. They come for “The Mango” (2:05), “The Glasses” (2:34), “The Puffy Shirt” (10:21), “The Sniffing Accountant” (4:14), “The Lip Reader” (2:34), “The Non-Fat Yogurt” (4:28), “The Barber” (2:32), “The Conversion” (1:47), “The Stall” (3:53), “The Marine Biologist” (7:06), “The Pie” (3:13), “The Stand-In” (4:53), “The Fire” (3:28), “The Raincoats” (4:01), “The Hamptons” (2:54) and “The Opposite” (7:13). These mix show snippets plus new interviews with David, Louis-Dreyfus, Seinfeld, Pross, Gammill, Alexander, Cherones, Richards, Leifer, Mehlman, Larry David’s neighbor Kenny Kramer, costume designer Charmaine Simmons, actors Jerry Stiller, Estelle Harris, Wayne Knight, Reni Santoni, Danny Woodburn, and Phil Morris, casting director Marc Hirschfeld, producer Tim Kaiser, composer Jonathan Wolff, TV critic Ray Richmond, Yankees owner George Steinbrenner and writers Andy Robin, Bruce Kirschbaum and Larry Charles.
Like the “Notes About Nothing”, the “Inside Looks” take on a mix of basic topics. We hear about inspirations for various lines, characters and sequences, the series’ growing willingness to depart from reality via the silliness of Gammill and Pross, development of some stories, character topics, casting guest actors, designing the puffy shirt, recasting George’s father and Stiller’s work in the role, shooting two versions of some parts of “Non-Fat Yogurt”, music for “The Barber”, trying to land George Steinbrenner, and general notes. Too many show clips appear, and inevitably some of the information repeats from other sources. Nonetheless, the “Inside Looks” toss out lots of good bits that help us learn more about the series. Some highlights come from info about the development of Frank Costanza, and we find out quite a lot of other good stuff. These work nicely.
We discover deleted scenes for 11 episodes: “The Mango” (one scene, 1:09), “The Glasses” (two scenes, 1:38), “The Puffy Shirt” (two scenes, 2:16), “The Non-Fat Yogurt” (two scenes, 1:35), “The Conversion” (three scenes, 3:35), “The Stall” (one scene, 1:02), “The Marine Biologist” (three scenes, 2:10), “The Pie” (two scenes, 1:35), “The Fire” (two scenes, 1:14), “The Raincoats” (one scene, 1:09), and “The Opposite” (four scenes, 3:33).
Most of the snippets offer minor additions to existing sequences. A few minor unique segments appear, such as one in which we actually see Cousin Jeffrey. We also get two alternate endings for “The Conversion”, and we witness Kramer as he saves Toby’s pinky toe. Of course, some of these are somewhat weak, but most are pretty good, and I’m glad to find them here.
DVD One includes a documentary called Jason + Larry = George. This 25-minute and 34-second show features Alexander, David, Seinfeld, Hirschfeld, Louis-Dreyfus, Richards, Pross, Gammill, Leifer, Kirschbaum, Richmond, NBC executives Rick Ludwin and Warren Littlefield, executive producer George Shapiro, director Andy Ackerman, Castle Rock executive Rob Reiner, and actors John O’Hurley, Bob Balaban, and Barney Martin. They get into the origins of George’s character and his development, casting the part, Alexander’s take on the role and his personality, connections to David, elements of David’s career and their influence on the part, and other elements.
Inevitably, we hear some information that repeats from prior sets and other pieces. Nonetheless, “George” offers a succinct recap of elements connected to the character. We find some good new bits and receive a solid overview. I especially like the glimpses of Alexander’s prior sitcoms as well as bits from Fridays and Curb Your Enthusiasm.
Entitled Sponsored by Vandelay Industries, DVD One includes a three-minute and 26-second collection of NBC promos and trailers. 10 of these spots appear here, and almost all of them address the show’s move to the time slot formerly occupied by Cheers. These are quite amusing and fun to see.
DVD Two also gives us Master of His Domain. This seven-minute and 51-second clip includes “exclusive stand-up material”. As one might expect, this consists of unused comedy routine snippets. Not all of the bits work, but I’m happy to get the chance to see them.
DVD Two includes both the original and alternate Mayor Dinkins versions of “The Non-Fat Yogurt”. The latter lets us see the episode as it would have aired if Dinkins had won the election. He doesn’t appear, however. It’s fun to compare and contrast the two.
We locate some bloopers on DVD Four. This 13-minute and 16-second reel mostly includes the usual goofs and giggles. A few funny outtakes pop up but mostly this is the same old stuff.
Did Season Five of Seinfeld measure up to the heights achieved in Season Four? Probably not, but any possible decline in quality remained marginal. Season Five continued to offer consistently strong material, as only a couple of episodes were relatively mediocre. The visuals and audio were unexceptional but just fine, and they improved slightly over prior seasons. Extras remained very strong and added a lot to the package. Season Five offers another terrific set that easily earns my recommendation.