Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 31, 2007)
And now it all comes to an end. With its ninth season, Seinfeld came to a conclusion. Arguably the greatest sitcom of all time, 1997-98 acted as its swan song. In addition, this eighth volume of episodes provides our final DVD examination of the series. The plot synopses come from the DVD’s packaging. They’re short but good.
The Butter Shave: “Kramer begins shaving with butter, and the scent overwhelms Newman. George fakes a handicap to land a job at Play Now. Jerry resents Bania for riding his coattails. Elaine and Puddy break up and get back together numerous times on a flight back from Europe.”
Season Nine starts on a reasonably positive note here. The Jerry story acts as the weakest link; it has some moments but some iffy acting from Seinfeld mars it. Kramer’s thread goes up and down due to the Newman side of it, but other parts of it amuse. Both the Elaine and George sections fare quite well, however. Something about “Vegetable Lasanga” always amused me, and George’s continued scheming entertains. It’s not a great show, but it’s pretty good.
The Voice: “Jerry imagines that his girlfriend’s belly button talks to him and he enjoys imitating it. Kramer hires an intern to assist him at Kramerica Industries. Play Now tries to push George out, but he refuses to quit. Jerry bets Elaine that she can’t stop sleeping with Puddy.”
Season Eight featured a protégé for George, and Kramer’s intern seems awfully reminiscent of that concept. It’s not a good thing when the series starts to repeat itself. Sure, giving Kramer an assistant offers a different take on the topic, and some laughs result, but the idea feels a bit stale to me.
Not much about “Voice” ignites. The whole belly button voice thread is borderline worthless; it never amuses or even feels logical for this series. The George side works best, but even that doesn’t quite fly. This is a consistently mediocre program.
The Serenity Now: “George competes with Lloyd Braun at selling computers in the Costanzas’ garage. Frank shouts ‘serenity now’ to keep calm. Jerry gets in touch with his emotions. Mr. Lippman’s son kisses Elaine at his bar mitzvah. Kramer sets up Frank’s old screen door and spends his time relaxing outside his apartment.”
Maybe the series’ final catchphrase crops up via this episode’s title. It’s not one of Seinfeld’s best expressions, but it works okay. The same goes for the erratic “Now”. It boasts some good ideas but suffers in terms of execution, as none of the concepts actually fly. Take Jerry’s exploration of his feelings, for instance. This plays better on the page than on the screen. We get a smattering of laughs here but it’s not a memorable program.
The Blood: “Kramer stores his blood in Jerry’s freezer. George discovers the power of combining food and sex. Jerry’s parents hire Izzy Mendelbaum to get their son in shape. Elaine gets stuck babysitting for a friend’s kid.”
Fans generally regard Season Nine as the series’ worst. I hate to agree with the conventional wisdom, but episodes like “Blood” lead toward that irresistible conclusion. It’s good to see Lloyd Bridges again, and a few good moments emerge, but I leave this episode with an overall impression of blandness.
The Junk Mail: “Kramer cancels his mail. Jerry’s old friend ‘Fragile Frankie’ gives him a van. Kramer offers Anthony Quinn’s T-shirt in exchange for the van. George’s parents rekindle their romance. Elaine meets the man of her dreams but wants to keep Puddy on hold.”
The reign of mediocrity continues here. “Fragile Frankie” has wacky potential that the episode fails to exploit. Other threads also fail to develop. As with prior programs, some intriguing notions pop up, but the show doesn’t make them go anywhere.
The Merv Griffin Show: “Kramer finds the set of The Merv Griffin Show in a dumpster and recreates the show in his apartment. Jerry’s girlfriend owns an unbelievable toy collection. George’s girlfriend forces him to care for a squirrel that he ran over with his car. Elaine must contend with a sidler at the office.”
It’s a bad sign when an episode’s best moments come in the opening bit. The chat about Cain and Abel between Jerry and Kramer provides some pretty good laughs, but after that things go downhill. The “sidler” is an attempt to recreate trademarks like the “close talker”, but it feels forced and doesn’t work. The Merv Griffin concept is ludicrous even for Kramer. “Griffin” ends up as another spotty show.
The Slicer: “Elaine’s neighbor leaves the country without turning off his alarm clock. Kramer discovers unusual uses for his new meat slicer. George goes to work for Kruger Industrial Smoothing and promptly sneaks a photo out of Kruger’s office to avoid an awkward confrontation. Jerry dates a dermatologist.”
Season Nine rebounds with this pretty good show. George’s attempts to rescue his cushy new job become ludicrous but in a good way. Kramer’s fascinating with the titular slicer also amuses. I couldn’t call this one a classic, but it marks arguably S9’s best show to date.
The Betrayal: “The ‘backwards’ episode. Elaine spites Sue Ellen Mischke by going to her Indian wedding with Jerry and George. Jerry and George learn secrets by unlocking Elaine’s vault with schnapps. Kramer and his friend FDR exchange wishes that the other would drop dead.”
Should we regard “The Betrayal” as an innovative homage to a Harold Pinter play – or a desperate stab for something different late in the series’ run? A little of both, probably. It smacks of Memento for most of us, of course, though it’s not as interesting as that film. Once you get beyond the episode’s gimmick, there’s not a lot to it. The program musters a few laughs but seems a little too self-satisfied for my liking.
The Apology: “George demands an apology from Jason Hanke over an old dispute. Jerry learns the difference between good naked and bad naked. Kramer installs a disposal in his shower. Elaine’s co-worker fears her germs, and Puddy admits he’s a germophobe as well.”
I liked this episode when it first aired if just because I then dated a blonde named Melissa, so a naked Melissa hit close to home. Granted, my Melissa wasn’t as hot as this Melissa, but hey, you take what you can get!
Outside of the show’s titillation value, it seems erratic. Kramer’s attempts to shorten his showers amuses, but George’s obsession with the apology doesn’t quite work. The other two threads are lackluster as well. I like the naked shots, but otherwise this is a spotty program.
The Strike: “Everyone celebrates Festivus with the Costanzas. George invents the ‘Human Fund’. Kramer goes back to work at H&H Bagels, ending a 12-year strike. Elaine gives a fake phone number to a suitor in a denim vest. Jerry dates a ‘two-face’”.
We get a flashback to good Seinfeld with the pretty positive “Strike”. It’s amusing that the fake holiday of Festivus has inspired plenty of real-life – albeit ironic – celebrations, and it’s entertaining to learn of its rituals. I love the fact Kramer was on strike for 12 years, George’s fake donations provide cynical laughs, and Elaine’s phone number machinations work too. The “two-face” is a little iffy, but otherwise this is a solid show.
The Dealership: “Jerry decides to buy a new car from Puddy. A starving George accuses a mechanic of stealing his Twix bar. Kramer test-drives a car, emptying its gas tank. Puddy’s obsession with high-fives leads Elaine to break up with him… again.”
“Dealership” does something unusual for the series, as it concentrates almost all of its action in one location, the titular car shop. Only Kramer’s test drive takes us off the lot, and for a good cause, as Kramer’s bizarre quest amuses. The threads back at the dealership work quite well too, especially via George’s antics. It’s a good throwback to classic Seinfeld, as it reminds us of the series’ better programs.
The Reverse Peephole: “Puddy sports a ‘man fur’, much to Elaine’s chagrin. George’s giant wallet leaves him with a sore back. Jerry abandons his wallet in favor of a European carry-all. Kramer installs a reverse peephole in his door. The landlord threatens to evict Newman.”
I’m not wild about “Peephole”, but some of that may be bitterness. My wallet’s been compared to George’s, even though I contend my friends exaggerate its thickness. My wallet is perfectly manageable and normal size, dammit!
But even if I get past my ire, I think “Peephole” offers an average show. The wallet-specific parts are pretty funny, but most of the rest fails to really go anywhere. The thread about Puddy’s coat seems especially blah. It’s not a bad show, but after the strong “Dealership”, it disappoints.
The Cartoon: “Elaine draws a cartoon for The New Yorker. George dates a woman who resembles Jerry. Kramer takes a vow of silence. Jerry contends with Sally Weaver over her one-woman show.”
Didn’t the series already do an episode with a doppelganger for Jerry? Granted, Janeane Garofalo was supposed to be more of a personality match, not physical, and Jerry dated her, not George, but still… the similarity is too close for me. I do like the parts with Kathy Griffin, though, as her angry one-woman show is a hoot, and the way the program punctures the New Yorker’s pretensions amuses. It’s another up and down show, but it’s got some good moments.
The Strongbox: “Kramer acquires a strongbox to keep his valuables. George’s girlfriend refuses to break up with him, even when he dates another woman. Jerry grows suspicious of a neighbor who may or may not live in his building. Elaine dates a homeless man.”
While “Strongbox” never quite excels, it does manage a pretty consistent level of entertainment. Kramer’s pathetic attempts to hide his key in Jerry’s apartment amuse, and George’s relationship problems also merit attention. It’s a decent to good episode.
The Wizard: “Jerry buys his father an electronic organizer. Elaine thinks her boyfriend is black. Kramer retires to Florida, and Morty convinces him to run for condo board president. George lies to Susan’s parents about purchasing a house in the Hamptons.”
While the “not that there’s anything wrong with that” episode offered a sharp take on political correctness and homosexuality, this episode’s attempts to do the same for interracial dating fall flat. Like other aspects of S9, it comes across as a forced statement that doesn’t quite go anywhere. I’m more puzzled at why Elaine’s dating someone who looks like he just graduated from high school.
At least it’s nice to see the Seinfelds in Florida. Kramer’s retirement is kind of a silly and obvious trend, but the show milks it for some good laughs. There’s enough here to make a watchable show, but it doesn’t rise above that level.
The Burning: “Elaine discovers that Puddy is religious, and he tries to convince her that she’s going to hell. Jerry’s girlfriend uses ‘it’s me’ on the phone and refers to a mysterious ‘tractor story’. George finds himself picking up the slack for his boss, Kruger. Kramer and Mickey perform disease symptoms for medical students.”
Don’t you think the Puddy’s religious nature would’ve become apparent to Elaine way before now? Like the interracial plot in the last episode, this theme seems awkward and self-conscious. The Kramer and Jerry bits don’t really sizzle, but at least George’s story proves amusing. One out of four ain’t bad, I guess.
The Bookstore: “Jerry spots Uncle Leo shoplifting at a bookstore, while George gets in trouble for taking a book into the bathroom. Elaine gets drunk at the office party and makes out with a co-worker. Kramer and Newman start a rickshaw business.”
Sometimes Seinfeld steps into various politically incorrect moments that appear to exist for their basic semi-shock value. That’s the purpose of the rickshaw bit here when it involves the homeless. It’s tacky and not particularly amusing.
At least we get to see Uncle Leo again, and his moments amuse. George’s attempts to deal with his toilet-tainted book have some good parts as well, though Elaine’s side is lame. Chalk this up as another erratic episode.
The Frogger: “George concocts a grand scheme to maintain his high score on an old Frogger video game machine. Elaine eats antique cake at Peterman’s. Kramer nabs some caution tape from the police station, where he hears of a neighborhood serial killer. Jerry dates a sentence finisher.”
Why do I get the impression this episode was built around the visual concept of George’s attempts to move the Frogger machine across the street? It’s not a good thing to get a show for which one sight gag acts as the catalyst for everything else. That’s backwards and not effective.
I’m with Elaine in her rant against the incessant parade of office party-pushing, though the twist with the old cake falls flat. Jerry’s annoyance with his girlfriend amuses but also peters out before too long. Not much comes from the Kramer story as well, and this turns into a bland episode.
The Maid: “Jerry dates his maid, blurring the lines between courtship and prostitution. George gets an unwanted nickname at the office. Kramer’s girlfriend moves downtown. Elaine resents her new phone number’s area code.”
Usually when one of Jerry’s girlfriends splits, it’s because of his idiocy. In this case, the breakup is one in which he’s not at fault. C’mon – Cindy’s a lazy sleaze, though a sexy lazy sleaze. The whole hooker motif gets dopey toward the end, but it has some good moments. The same goes for the other threads as well, though the Kramer part works best. It’s absurd that he regards downtown NYC as another world, but it’s still funny. This is an above average show for S9.
The Puerto Rican Day: “Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer get stuck in traffic during New York’s Puerto Rican Day parade.”
After the reasonably good “Maid”, we take a dive with “Day”. The episode starts pretty well but quickly deteriorates once the crew encounters the titular parade. The unwelcome return of Cedric and Bob – the extremely annoying gay couple who originated in “The Soup Nazi” – further harms this already lame show. Don’t expect many laughs from this clunker.
The Chronicle (Parts 1 & 2): “A look back at favorite moments from all nine seasons.”
You gotta be kidding me! The series’ penultimate episode just offers 45 minutes of clips? Granted, that’s still funnier than “Day”, but still, it’s a tacky way to lead up to the show’s ending. It’s a waste of time.
The Finale (Parts 1 & 2): “NBC decides to bring Jerry and George back to make their sitcom and rewards them with a free trip on the corporate jet. On their way to Paris, the plane must make an emergency landing in a small New England town. The gang witnesses a mugging and is arrested for doing nothing to help the victim. Jackie Chiles defends them at trial, where a slew of memorable character witnesses testify against Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer.”
On a website I visit, someone ran a thread to discuss the least favorite episode of Seinfeld. “The Finale” was the runaway winner for that “honor”, and the readers of that site aren’t the only ones who feel disdain for this episode. Does it deserve to live in disgrace?
Probably not, but even as we near the show’s 10-year anniversary, it remains a disappointment. I could live without the self-referential ways it toys with the audience, as these seem too contrived and clever-clever. It also gives us an idiotic premise once the cast ends up in the small town. Even for them, it’s awfully cold and cynical to watch them mock a car-jacking victim, and the use of the “Good Samaritan” law is completely stupid. The show’s text commentary tells us of an actual Massachusetts law in this regard, but I don’t think that it means ordinary citizens are forced to confront armed criminals.
Hmm… the more I think about it, the more I think “Finale” does deserve to be regarded as one of the series’ worst shows. Granted, the Seinfeld crew had to live up to high expectations while they also stayed true to the show. It’s not like Cheers or M*A*S*H where they could have some really natural end point and/or indulge in weepy sentimentality. A satisfying ending to a series about nothing would be difficult to achieve.
And that’s the problem with “Finale”: they tried way too hard to make it about something. It’s such a big, dramatic set of events that it feels contrary to the series’ tone. Perhaps the “Finale” should’ve gone in the absolute opposite direction of expectations and created the smallest scenario possible. Give us an hour of the main four chatting in the coffee shop. That would’ve been much more subversive than all the audience teasing done here and it also would’ve been true to the series.
But that’s not what we got, so Seinfeld left the air on a moderately sour note. I guess that makes sense since most of Season Nine fails to live up to the series’ better efforts. Granted, my grousing is relative, as bad Seinfeld still betters 99 percent of all other sitcoms. It’s simply unfortunate that the series limped to the finish line.