Seinfeld. To those who became fans of the series in the 1990s or who started to follow via syndicated re-runs in the last decade, it is undeniably one of the greatest television shows ever. It hits all the right marks: the writing is outstanding, the characters are perfectly cast and the timing is, for the most part, perfect in producing laughs.
Fifteen years have passed since NBC aired the final episode of Jerry Seinfeld and company’s masterpiece of a series. You would have thought the digital age that has quickly developed since would make most of the humor outdated. Some have suggested numerous problems Jerry, Elaine, George and Kramer confronted could’ve been instantly fixed had they had access to many gadgets at our disposal today.
In a pleasant surprise, not only has the technology-less show maintained its status for being a laugh-out-loud endeavor, but also actually improved in reputation as the years have passed. The show’s almost-flawless interweaving of the principal players and their chaotic lives far outpaces the tone set by most major network sitcoms that followed.
Given a show this rich in content, it’s difficult for a group of five guys who all loved the series and have seen the majority – if not all – of the show’s nine seasons to narrow all the gang’s outings to a list of 15. Still, we did our best to highlight some of the strongest moments from its near decade-long run.
We want to thank Chris Bright, a major fan of the show, for joining the regular group of contributors here at The Wise Guise in ranking the top episodes. We’re sure devoted followers will have some quibbles with the results, and lists varied radically between our group of voters. The end result is a nice blend that will hopefully remind many of you why you fell in the love with the show. – Alex
Let’s get to the rankings.
15. The Red Dot
Warner: George absolutely carried Seinfeld in so many episodes and this is one of his finest moments. His cheapness alienates him from Elaine, leads him to sleep with a cleaning lady at his new job, and ultimately gets him fired. Jason Alexander considers this episode to be one of his defining moments as George Costanza, therefore it HAS to be one of the best of all time.
14. The Fusilli Jerry
Clayton: This is the episode where Kramer inadvertently receives the “ASSMAN” license plate, which he ends up trying to use to his advantage. My favorite part of the episode though is all the discussions about people stealing each others “moves”. Elaine recognizes one of Jerry’s moves when she sleeps with Puddy and then Kramer gets accused of using Frank’s “stop short” move on his wife. It is utterly hysterical how upset everyone is about the use of their moves.
13. The Library
Warner: The interactions between Mr. Bookman and Jerry throughout this episode are enough to catapult it into any list of best episodes. I mean, just watch this…
Throw in George’s typical, pathetic “woe is me” storyline of getting wedgies and being called “Can’t Stand Ya,” and you have a classic episode of Seinfeld. Also, the scene in which Kramer dissects what he believes is the back story of the mousy librarian is phenomenal. When you watch this episode, you laugh the whole time.
12. The Frogger
Alex: One of the final episodes of “Seinfeld’s” nine-season run, “The Frogger” is also one of the most outlandish. George attempts to save a Frogger arcade machine at the closing of Mario’s Pizza Parlor because he still holds the all-time high score. Jerry spends days hoping to break-up with his sentence-finishing girlfriend (“It’s like dating Mad Libs”). Oh, and Elaine mistakenly eats a $29,000 piece of wedding cake from King Edward VIII her boss purchased at an auction. The whole thing ends in a rather surreal fashion, as we see George playing real-life Frogger with the arcade machine, trying to get it across the street. The episode stands as a superb example of how a range of plots among characters, no matter how different or bizarre, could be almost effortlessly integrated into one, solid block of television.
11. The Burning
Warner: This episode’s four plots could each carry their own episode. “It’s me,” leaving on a high note, Puddy’s Christian radio presets, and Mickey and Kramer fighting over gonorrhea are all memorable stories; ones you often find people discussing when talking about Seinfeld’s greatness. And they’re all in this one episode! The beauty of the plots is that each one is absolutely ridiculous but all extremely believeable.
Even Kramer and Mickey’s crazy antics aren’t that far-fetched but are still over the top funny.
10. The Yada Yada
Clayton: I’ll admit that part of my love for this episode is Walter White playing Dr. Tim Whatley, who converts to Judaism, according to Jerry, for the jokes. George’s girlfriend abuses saying “yada yada” when telling stories, which George then tries to use against her. She ends up telling him that her ex-boyfriend visited last night and “yada yada” and so she’s tired today. Naturally, George loses it. This is also the episode where Jerry is deemed an “anti-dentite” because of his beef with Dr. Whatley.
9. The Chicken Roaster
Alex: A real showpiece of Kramer, “The Chicken Roaster” is about as good of an episode as any to show the unique wit of Michael Richards’ character. Kramer absolutely loathes the Kenny Rogers Roasters chicken restaurant that moves in across the street from his apartment and puts up a big neon sign that bursts light through his windows. The outrage leads him to switching apartments with Jerry, which produces a strong comedic exchange between the two stars embodying each other’s personalities. Of course, Kramer secretly gets addicted to the chicken of the restaurant he protests. Elsewhere, George buys an $8,000 hat with Elaine’s business card. And you can guess how that ends up.
8. The Muffin Tops
Chris: This episode stands out as one of the best instances of each of the show’s main characters having his or her own interesting storyline. Elaine runs into her former boss and enters into business with him by opening a bakery that sells only the tops of muffins. The business is a success until they are faced with the problem of what to do with the unwanted muffin stumps. Kramer starts the “Peterman Reality Tour” in which he essentially charges people a hefty sum of money for a glimpse into his daily life. George poses as a tourist to win the affections of a travel agent, but his plan leads to a mix-up with the Yankees that ultimately leads him to be traded to Tyler Chicken. Jerry tries to convince his girlfriend that his chest is naturally hairless after learning that she loves hairless animals. Despite how unrelated each of the storylines may seem, the show once again does a fantastic job of bringing all of them crashing together perfectly at the episode’s conclusion.
7. The Opposite
Alex: In terms of memorable moments, “The Opposite” is tough to beat. The bits are timeless when George decides his life is a disaster, and the best way to correct it is to do the opposite of everything he’s currently doing. This makes for one of the best lines of the entire series, when George introduces himself to a woman by saying, “My name is George. I’m unemployed and I live with my parents.” Kramer goes on Regis and Kathie Lee to promote his coffee table book and ends up spitting coffee on Kathie Lee. Also, this is the one where Elaine gets dumped by her boyfriend for buying Jujyfruits before coming to see him at the hospital. It’s the series at its finest.
6. The Marine Biologist
Joseph: Kramer’s 600 Titleist driving range balls. An ocean. An old high school friend of Jerry and George’s. A simple white lie about George’s occupation. A beached whale. All resulting in the greatest scene in the entire history of Seinfeld. The final scene of The Marine Biologist is the single best moment in the show’s history. It starts with Larry David’s voice yelling out, “Is anyone here a Marine Biologist?” Then the beautiful high school friend asks George to save the whale. We see George, slacks rolled up to his knees, traipsing into the water. Then the greatest 2 minutes in the show begin, where all the great ones do. In the booth at Monk’s. “A strange calm came over me… At that moment… I WAS A MARINE BIOLOGIST… The sea was angry that day my friends, like an old man trying to send back soup in a deli… I said, EASY BIG FELLA… I realized that something was obstructing his breathing…” And then the best final line: Hole in One!
5. The Contest
Clayton: In my opinion this is the best episode of all time. I think the greatest thing Seinfeld brought to TV was the introduction of “cringe comedy”. And it doesn’t get more cringe-worthy than George getting caught by his mother doing, well, “you know”. This is where you find out who is the ultimate master of their domain.
Here is the setup:
4. The Strike
Chris: Any episode that delves into George’s relationship with his parents is guaranteed to provide a ton of laughs, and perhaps no episode serves as a better example than “The Strike.” After getting caught using donations to the phony Human Fund as Christmas gifts at the office, George claims not to celebrate Christmas, instead saying that he celebrates Festivus, a holiday created by George’s father in protest of the commercialism of Christmas. Kramer, who briefly returns to his old job after a 12-year strike, convinces George’s father to once again throw a Festivus celebration. The celebration, which also serves as an attempt to convince George’s boss that the holiday is real, quickly begins to unravel with events such as “the airing of grievances” and “the feats of strength.” Perhaps the most amazing thing about this episode is that Festivus has since transitioned into a somewhat real holiday amongst the Seinfeld fan base. Think about that for a moment. People are still celebrating a fake holiday introduced in a sitcom episode that aired over 15 years ago. Mark your calendars for Dec. 23 and prepare for a Fetivus for the Rest of Us!
3. The Comeback
Joseph: This was always my personally favorite episode. I don’t know what there was about it. The concept is a simple one we can all relate to. A bully taunts George at a work meeting with, “The ocean called, they’re running out of shrimp.” On the way home, George thinks up the perfect “comeback”: The jerk store called and THEY’RE RUNNING OUT OF YOU! But no one else thinks it’s as funny. The reason why The Comeback is top-tier is its ability to take four separate individual storylines for each of the stars and effortlessly weave them together in the hilarious final act. Jerry discovers that the tennis pro, Milos, is a horrible tennis player and Milos sends his beautiful wife to seduce Jerry to keep him quiet. There’s Elaine and the video store worker, “Vincent”, who calls her and romances her. Kramer is concerned about being put in a coma and wants a living will. Once he watches the end of the movie that started his fear to see that the woman gets out of the coma, Kramer panics and wants the will annulled. In the final minutes of the episode, every plot line weaves together seamlessly. There are tons of laughs… and then it gave us one of the greatest quotes in the history of the show. The Jerk Store line…. it’s GOT. TO. BE. THE. JERK. STORE. LINE!
2. The Soup Nazi
Chris: This episode introduced the world to one the show’s most popular characters and brought us perhaps the most often quoted line of the show’s entire run. The plot centers around a new soup stand that has just opened up and that features the best soup and the strictest proprietor in town. Despite Jerry’s instructions, Elaine violates the proper ordering protocol and finds herself with a one-year ban handed down by the episode’s titular character. Meanwhile the constant baby talk between Jerry and his new girlfriend has begun to wear on the nerves of the rest of the group. George attempts to prove how annoying this behavior is by using the baby talk on his fiancé, but the plan backfires when she loves George’s new ability to show affection. Jerry soon finds himself forced to make the ultimate choice between love and soup when facing a ban from the soup nazi, and in typical Seinfeld fashion, soup wins. The episode serves as a prime example of the show’s ability to escalate the mundane to absurd levels.
1. The Merv Griffin Show
Joseph: There’s two types of genius Seinfeld episodes – the ones so simple and basic where hilarity comes completely from the characters in that single situation. Think The Chinese Restaurant. Then, there’s my favorites… the one’s where there are numerous absurd storylines that all intersect in one hilarious moment. There is no episode where the premises are as ridiculous nor where the mode for combining them so outrageous as The Merv Griffin Show. It’s a parody of talk shows with Kramer as the host and his friends as the guests. There’s George’s compact with the squirrels and his nursing an injured one back to health. There’s Jerry’s girlfriend with the classic toy collection who he gets drunk so he can play with the toys. There’s even Jim Fowler and his animals. And then there’s Kramer… bringing it all onto his Merv Griffin set in his apartment with nothing but hilarious results.