One of the most popular sitcoms of all time, "Seinfeld" probably would not have lasted had it aired today. When the show was initially launched, NBC worried that the show wouldn't play to all audiences and the initial ratings seemed to prove them right. However, NBC was able to see a small cult audience gathering around the show when the pilot first aired in 1989, and although the first couple of seasons saw the show on shaky ground - and they weren't the best moments of the series - the sitcom eventually began to gather some serious steam.
After six seasons, "Seinfeld" became NBC's biggest hit, drawing in audiences by the millions to the all-important Thursday night lineup. However, during the seventh season, "Seinfeld" co-creator Larry David decided to depart the series. While the show would not be quite the same without David's unique and deeply funny sense of humor (Larry David is, after all, the inspiration for George Costanza), Season 7 really did see the future "Curb Your Enthusiasm" creator going out on a high note, as the 7th season is arguably one of the show's very best.
Season 8 of "Seinfeld" was the first without Larry David at the helm, with Seinfeld and a series of mostly newer writers taking control of the immensely popular series. While one can argue that season 8 isn't among the best seasons of the series, the cast and crew do put in a strong effort to keep things going after Larry David had departed. Season 8 also saw the departure of the opening stand-up bits, as the series started cutting right to an opening scene with the characters. While season 8 was going to be the end, the cast and crew decided to give the series one more round shortly after the season wrapped.
While season 7 largely focused on George's arc with Susan, season 8 spread the wealth a little bit. While the season included the legendary "Summer of George" (let go from the Yankees, George vows to spend the next three paid months living it up), the season also began what seemed like the "Downfall of Elaine", most apparent in the famed "Little Kicks", where Elaine becomes the office joke after her bizarre dancing becomes the talk of the office party. The season also sees Elaine getting no help when a "catfight" breaks out in the office ("The Summer of George"), falling for a secretive video store clerk who turns out to be a teenager ("The Comeback"), promoting a psychotic co-worker ("The Fatigues") and getting fired for hating "The English Patient" ("The English Patient").
Season 8 also sees a couple of my favorite Newman moments, as well, most of all his scene towards the end of "The Chicken Roaster", an episode where Jerry and Kramer switch apartments (and personalities) in order to escape the red light of the Kenny Rodger's chicken restaurant outside. Challenged by Jerry to eat just one piece of the broccoli he's ordered, Newman reluctantly eats it and then spits it out, howling, "Vile weed!", and then turns to the honey mustard nearby, downing a shotglass full to try and wash the broccoli out. "The Millennium" also ends with Newman being foiled by Jerry, and actor Wayne Knight ends the scene with this little noise that is not only hilarious, but about the most pure sound of defeat I think I've ever heard in a comedy. It's so funny it's replayed again under the credits.
Even without Larry David around, the writers still managed to come up with a couple of outstanding George episodes. Although "Summer of George" will likely go down as one of the best George episodes (and one of the show's best episodes in general), there's a few other great George moments in Season 8, as well, especially "The Andrea Doria", where George loses an apartment to a shipwreck survivor. Convinced that the experiences he's been through in life are far more traumatic, he decides to state his case to the apartment board, leaving them all devastated by the time he's over. There's also "The Comeback", where George comes up with a zinger that he travels to Ohio to deliver.
There's a couple of weaker episodes in the season, but they're at least more watchable than some of my least favorite episodes, such as season 5's "The Doorman". Season 8's lesser efforts include "The Package" (Elaine tries to find a doctor who will treat her as they all believe she's "too difficult") and "The Money" (Jerry tries to secretly get the car back he gave to his parents, who sold the car to give him money because they thought he could use it).
Still, despite a couple of episodes that don't reach the heights of the others, "Seinfeld"'s 8th season still sees the series going strong, with some of my favorite episodes included.
135. 8- 1 19 Sep 96 The Foundation
136. 8- 2 26 Sep 96 The Soul Mate
137. 8- 3 3 Oct 96 The Bizarro Jerry
138. 8- 4 10 Oct 96 The Little Kicks
139. 8- 5 17 Oct 96 The Package
140. 8- 6 31 Oct 96 The Fatigues
141. 8- 7 7 Nov 96 The Checks
142. 8- 8 14 Nov 96 The Chicken Roaster
143. 8- 9 21 Nov 96 The Abstinence
144. 8-10 19 Dec 96 The Andrea Doria
145. 8-11 9 Jan 97 The Little Jerry
146. 8-12 16 Jan 97 The Money
147. 8-13 30 Jan 97 The Comeback
148. 8-14 6 Feb 97 The Van Buren Boys
149. 8-15 13 Feb 97 The Susie
150. 8-16 20 Feb 97 The Pothole
151. 8-17 13 Mar 97 The English Patient
152. 8-18 10 Apr 97 The Nap
153. 8-19 24 Apr 97 The Yada Yada
154. 8-20 1 May 97 The Millennium
155. 8-21 8 May 97 The Muffin Tops
156. 8-22 15 May 97 The Summer of George
VIDEO: "Seinfeld" is presented in 1.33:1 full-frame once again in season 8. The episodes have been remasted for this DVD release, and the results are really quite good. Having watched these episodes in syndication a great many times, I'll definitely note that the picture quality is an improvement over broadcast. Sharpness and detail seem quite good, as the picture often appeared noticably more well-defined than the episodes of the show I watch during dinner most nights.
The picture showed little in the way of real concerns. Some slight shimmer and a trace or two of pixelation were noticed, but these issues were certainly minor. Colors remained bright and vivid, seemingly stronger and more saturated than the broadcast episodes I've seen lately, which look a tad washed-out in comparison.
SOUND: "Seinfeld" is presented in Dolby 2.0 on the DVDs. The sound quality is perfectly fine, with clear dialogue. The dialogue and laugh track seemed nicely balanced, while the occasional hints of music seemed crisp and full. Overall, a perfectly fine effort - nothing to write home about, but no problems, either.
"The Bizarro Jerry": David Mandel
"The Little Kicks": Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jason Alexander, and Spike Ferestein
"The Fatigues": Gregg Kavet and Andy Robin
"The Checks": Tom Gammell and Max Pross
"The Chicken Roaster" has two commentary tracks: one with Jeff Schaffer and Alec Berg and the other with Jerry Seinfeld and Andy Ackerman
"The Abstinence": Jerry Seinfeld, Andy Ackerman and Steve Koren
"The Comeback": Andy Robin and Gregg Kavet
"The Susie": David Mandel
"The Pothole": Jerry Seinfeld, Andy Ackerman, and Dan O'Keefe
"The Nap": Andy Robin and Gregg Kavet
"The Yada Yada": Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jason Alexander, and Peter Mehlman
"The Muffin Tops": Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jason Alexander, and Spike Feresten
"The Summer of George": Alec Berg and Jeff Schaffer
Once again, we get a set of commentaries from members of the cast and crew. While the crew manage to offer a good deal of information about the episode - how the idea was born, some changes that took place and behind-the-scenes stories - the actors don't have a lot to offer. Louis-Dreyfuss and Alexander do chat more about the episodes (and banter back-and-forth with each other like old friends) than in the past, but - as great as it is to have Jerry Seinfeld participating in commentaries - his participation on these tracks is still largely limited to laughing along with the show and occasionally being surprised by moments he didn't remember.
Of special note is "The Susie" commentary from writer Dave Mandel, who admits that he thinks a lot of the episode doesn't work (he frequently suggests changing to a different episode.) While I don't think it's an episode without some good laughs, this commentary is an interesting look into the pressures of the season and how this episode apparently slipped through the cracks. While the writer tracks are the most informative, Mandel's two commentaries stand out as the best.
As with prior seasons, we get short "Inside Look" featurettes about the majority of the episodes. While not too in-depth, these featurettes offer some thoughts about how the writers came up with the idea, some discussion about how certain gags were approached and more. They do a nice job of setting up each episode. "Notes About Nothing" (text notes about the episodes that play throughout the episode) also returns here as an optional feature.
There's also "Sein-imation" (animated versions, which are really very funny) versions of two scenes, deleted scenes for many of the episodes (some of which are good stuff) and a hilarious (and quite long) gag reel, including some bloopers that have been shown elsewhere (Jerry breaking up when Kramer realizes what the effects of smoking have done to his face) and some that I've never seen. Finally, we also get "Jerry Seinfeld: Submarine Captain", a 21-minute featurette that looks into Seinfeld's participation in the series, both in front of and behind the camera.
Final Thoughts: Although there are a couple of so-so episodes, the 8th season of "Seinfeld" also offers some terrific ones, including a few of my favorites. The DVD offers very good audio/video quality and a great set of extras. Highly recommended.