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Comedic magic of ‘Seinfeld’ shines in first two seasons

Molly Griffin | Tuesday, March 1, 2005

Few television shows, or even feature films, have been as highly anticipated on DVD as “Seinfeld.” The first three seasons of the hit show are now available and have plenty of extras. Seasons 1 and 2 are packaged together due to the short length of the first season, and the extras are spread among the four discs. “Seinfeld” is frequently described as being “about nothing,” and in some senses this is true. Instead of elaborately constructed plots, the show focuses on the silly details and events that make up the monotony of life for its main characters – Jerry (Jerry Seinfeld), George (Jason Alexander), Elaine (Julia Louis Dreyfus) and Kramer (Michael Richards). Episodes focus on everyday occurrences that usually wouldn’t warrant any examination on another television show, such as waiting for a table at a restaurant, leaving a bad phone message or having a new jacket ruined.Season 1 is rougher and, as a whole, less funny than other seasons from the series. But it does give some insight into the origins of the show and its later evolution. At only five episodes, the first season is extremely short, and the pilot is a throwback to a time when the show was actually called “The Seinfeld Chronicles” and Kramer’s name was Kessler. While it isn’t really very good, it does give a frame of reference that fans will appreciate. Season 1 has one episode, “The Stakeout,” available with commentary from Seinfeld and co-creator Larry David. Season 2 shows the roots of the series’ slow evolution into the pop culture phenomenon that it would later become. Episodes include some of the more well-known episodes like “The Chinese Restaurant,” which chronicles Jerry, Elaine and George’s experience of waiting for a table and “The Phone Message,” in which George has to steal an answering machine tape from a woman after leaving a message he doesn’t want heard. Season 2 has five episodes with commentary. These commentaries feature a variety of the show’s creators, including writer Larry Charles, the creative duo of Seinfeld and David or the trio of Louis-Dreyfus, Richards and Alexander. The commentary from Seinfeld and David, who has since gone on to success with his own show, “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” is by far the most entertaining, while the commentary from Louis-Dreyfus, Richards and Alexander is somewhat disappointing. They don’t really have much insight to offer and what they do have to say isn’t really that interesting or engaging. The setup of the disc menus is extremely clever, as each one looks like a place or item from the series. However, they can be somewhat hard to navigate. The sound and video quality is much better than viewers would find when watching syndicated episodes, but it isn’t always perfect. Along with the episode commentaries, there is a vast amount of extra material available along with the first two seasons. First, there are “Inside Looks” for various episodes, which are composed of interviews with cast and crew that explain the episode’s background. “Master of His Domain” is a feature that spotlights Seinfeld’s stand-up and “How It Began” is a 64-minute feature that details how the show became a reality. There is also a compilation of clips from cast members’ appearances on “The Tonight Show” and a photo gallery. Overall, while the early seasons of “Seinfeld” aren’t perfect, they show the seeds of what the show would later become. The fact that everything – including bad episodes – is included shows just how much the creators wanted to please their die-hard fans.