Seinfeld is now available on streaming. Everyone can take a break! Three long months later, Seinfeld is back on streaming! And after spending five years headlining Hulu’s comedy content, Seinfeld’s packed up and moved to Netflix—truly the Del Boca Vista of platforms. As your self-appointed Seinfeld TV guide, I have this tip for everyone who’s ready to binge the show on Netflix: start with Season 3.
Sidenote: Yes, I am a TV Guide and would be honored if you printed the article and made it into a bouquet.
But seriously—because the prestigious, never-ending, golden era of peak TV has taught viewers to watch shows from Season 1, Episode 1, you’re gonna be tempted to start rewatching Seinfeld—or possibly watching Seinfeld for the first time!—with the very first episode. That instinct is understandable, but actually goes against how Seinfeld—and pretty much every sitcom made before Arrested Development—was intended to be viewed. Back when show’s aired on TV networks at specific times on scheduled weeknights, any episode could be someone’s entry point. Although Seinfeld was open to serialized storieslines, you can jump in with any storyline. I suggest jumping in with Season 3—especially if you’re a newcomer using Seinfeld’s assured status as Netflix’s most-binged show to see what all the fuss was/is about.
The first two seasons are fine—but they’re just fine. Actually, Seinfeld’s pilot episode is one of the more bizarre entries in the entire run (and this is a show that did a backwards episode). Elaine’s MIA, Jerry’s apartment is totally off, Kramer’s name is Kessler, and Kessler knocks.
A bit of behind-the-scenes tea: Seinfeld’s first season was actually produced by the division of NBC that was responsible for summer variety shows—a division that had never made a sitcom before. They took a chance on Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David’s idea for a show about nothing and, instead of making 3 hourlong variety specials in the 1989-1990 TV season, they chose to make 5 episodes of The Seinfeld Chronicles (almost immediately shortened officially to Seinfeld). If the first season feels wonky, that’s why; it was made by people who’d never made a sitcom for a bunch of higher-ups who’d never made a sitcom—and they only had five episodes to figure it out. They didn’t, and Season 1 is pretty forgettable.
Season 2 is, admittedly, better. Seinfeld returned as a midseason replacement in January 1991, six months after its first batch of episodes were buried in NBC’s summer schedule. Seinfeld is more recognizable as the pioneering comedy it would become, but it’s still shaky. “The Pony Remark”And “The Statue” have standout, all-time, series-best moments (“Just make love to that wall, pervert!“), but the show’s clearly still finding its voice in those 12 episodes.
Photo: Everett Collection
Season 3—the first full season of the show—contains so many of the show’s masterpieces. “The Pen,” “The Library,” “The Parking Garage,” “The Red Dot,” “The Pez Dispenser,” “The Limo”—even the lesser episodes have moments that stick out to Seinfeld fanatics. The two-parter entitled is the home run of the season. “The Boyfriend,” which features Jerry’s pseudo whirlwind courtship (?) The Spitting Incident also features Keith Hernandez, a baseball legend. It’s the rare sitcom two-parter that feels worth the extended length.
Starting with Season 3 also means that you’re starting even closer to the groundbreaking—and Outstanding Comedy Series Emmy-winning—Season 4. That’s the season that really brought serialized storytelling to the NBC’s show about nothing as George and Jerry try to sell their own show about nothing to NBC. Season 4 also includes “The Bubble Boy,” “The Opera,” “The Airport,” “The Junior Mint,”And “The Contest,”This episode is widely considered to be not only the greatest Seinfeld episode, but also one of the most memorable episodes of television. Y’see what you should start with Season 3?
Two episodes from Seinfeld’s original two seasons are recommended viewing. With it’s incredibly frank (for 1990) sex talk, “The Deal”It feels like a tonal precursor. “The Contest”This is a sign that envelope-pushing is coming.
And then there’s “The Chinese Restaurant,”It is the best example of the “show about nothing” ethos and it’s also the best. Lots of great imitators (like Season 3’s “The Parking Garage”), but nothing tops Elaine asking to eat a stranger’s egg roll. You don’t have to feel guilty about skipping two seasons. Instead, spend 45 minutes with them and then start a marathon of greatness.
So what’re you waiting for? There are seven seasons of Seinfeld waiting for you to watch—and then you can circle around to Season 1 and see how the humble beginnings Seinfeld’s chronicles.
Stream Seinfeld On Netflix