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Archive for Friday, November 26, 2004

Seinfeld’ DVD gets something from nothing

November 26, 2004

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Talk about much ado about nothing! Columbia TriStar has done a bang-up job with the DVD sets of the first three seasons of "Seinfeld," the Emmy Award-winning NBC sitcom of the 1990s. Not only have the episodes been digitally remastered, there also are numerous commentaries, outtakes, deleted scenes, promos and documentaries on each set.

But the show went off the air on May 14, 1998 (the same night Frank Sinatra died) -- yes, it's taken 61/2 years for the shenanigans of Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer to go digital. Even Fox's short-lived "Greg the Bunny" and the hideous '80s sitcom "Punky Brewster" have beat "Seinfeld" to the DVD shelf.

Still, it's here (at $50 for the Seasons 1 & 2 set and $50 for Season 3), so get ready:

Necessities: Before entering the "Seinfeld" world, make sure you have plenty of Junior Mints, Kenny Rogers roasted chicken and Snapple on hand to give you sustenance.

Get out your hankies: Even a weak episode of "Seinfeld" is far more enjoyable than the best installment of most of the sitcoms airing on television today. Clever and audacious, "Seinfeld" dared to have an episode simply revolve around George, Jerry and Elaine waiting for a table at a Chinese restaurant or follow the four friends wandering a parking garage in search of their car.

"Seinfeld" history: By the time "Seinfeld" bid adieu to its legion of devoted fans, the series had been No. 1 in the ratings in 1994-95 and 1997-98 and in the top 3 in 1993-94, 1995-96 and 1996-97; it also received several Emmys, including one for outstanding comedy series.

But the show about "nothing" wasn't a hit out of the starting gate. It began inauspiciously as a one-time special on NBC on July 5, 1989, as "The Seinfeld Chronicles." NBC brought it back as a limited season in May 1990.

After being picked up for 13 episodes, "Seinfeld" returned to NBC in January 1991 on Wednesdays at 9:30 p.m., where it developed a small but devoted following. The ratings picked up significantly when NBC switched time periods in February 1993, airing it on Thursdays after "Cheers."

And when "Cheers" went off the air in May 1993, "Seinfeld" was given the "Cheers" time slot at 9 p.m. The series went from a cult show to a media sensation.

Extras: The Seasons 1 & 2 set includes 18 episodes along with informative and funny interviews with the cast, creators Seinfeld and Larry David (who went on to create and star in HBO's "Curb Your Enthusiasm") and other members of the staff. Watching the episodes in order, fans can really see how the series developed -- "The Stakeout" introduced Elaine. She and Jerry were newly broken up as a couple. "The Chinese Restaurant" marks the first time they attempted to do an episode in just one location. (NBC executives didn't like "The Chinese Restaurant," however, and waited until later in the season to air it). And believe it or not, Barney Martin was not the first actor to play Seinfeld's dad, Morty. In the first season, Phil Bruns pops up as a much less acerbic father.

Other extras include deleted scenes, very funny bloopers, never-before-seen footage of Seinfeld's stand-up comedy routines that book-ended the episodes for several years, a trivia track, a comprehensive, hourlong documentary on "How it Began," two clips of Seinfeld performing stand-up on "The Tonight Show," including his first appearance in 1981, and a slapstick bit on a 1989 "Tonight Show" with Michael Richards as an inept exercise guru.

Seinfeld, David and producer-writer Larry Charles are among those who offer the breezy commentary.

Extras, Part 2: Season 3 features 23 episodes, including the classics "The Pen," "The Library," "The Parking Garage," "The Nose Job," "The Subway," "The Limo" and "The Good Samaritan."

As with the first set, this edition includes interviews with the cast and crew about several of the episodes, deleted scenes, more funny bloopers, NBC promos, Seinfeld comedy routine footage and a mini-doc on Kenny Kramer, Larry David's neighbor in New York City who became the basis for Richards' Kramer. There are also more commentary tracks with the actors and creative team.

Trivia: Because they couldn't shut down a parking structure long enough to shoot a full episode inside, the production team built a stage set to film "The Parking Garage." To make it look bigger, they put mirrors on either end of the set and in one sequence you can actually see the reflection of the four stars in the mirror.

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