Bonus Points: DVD Reviews

'Seinfeld,' Four: It's Real and It's Spectacular

Michael Richards, Jason Alexander, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Jerry Seinfeld make "Seinfeld's" stellar fourth season shine. (Courtesy of NBC)
By Jen Chaney Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 17, 2005; 12:00 AM

"Seinfeld": Season 4 (List price: $49.95)

Release Date: May 17

The first three seasons of "Seinfeld" debuted on DVD last fall with so much fanfare, even "Seinfeld" lovers may have wanted to shout "Serenity now!" At the apex of last November's publicity blitz, the four stars of the influential comedy -- a program that always took pride in its "no hugging, no learning" policy -- even appeared on "The Oprah Winfrey Show," which may involve more hugging and learning per minute than anything else on television. It seemed bizarre at the least, and a betrayal of the "Seinfeldian" philosophy at the worst.

That's why it's a relief to see season four of "Seinfeld" arrive relatively hype-free in a four-disc set. It's not only the best season of "Seinfeld," it may be one of the finest, most hilarious seasons of any sitcom in history. If you have no choice but to sell the first three seasons so you can afford to buy this one, do it and don't look back.

Sound like hyperbole? Allow me to offer just a few of the DVD's episodes as supporting evidence. Exhibit A: "The Contest," which spawned the oft-quoted double entendre "Are you master of your domain?" Exhibit B: "The Outing" (or, as some call it, the "not that there's anything wrong with that" episode). Exhibit C: "The Junior Mint." Exhibit D: "The Implant," starring a pre-"Desperate Housewives" Terri Hatcher as a woman who dates Jerry and blisteringly declares, "They're real and they're spectacular." Is it possible all of these installments came in one season? Unbelievably, yes. And that explains why the remarkable 1992-93 line-up marked "Seinfeld's" one and only Emmy win for Best Comedy Series. The Soup Nazi is funny, sure, but for consistent laughs, no season comes even close to touching this one.

Not only do the shows -- remastered in high-definition -- look great, but, in the style of the first three seasons, this collection comes packed with extras. They include: commentaries; deleted scenes; 20 minutes worth of bloopers; "Inside Looks," short featurettes about specific episodes; additional stand-up footage of Jerry Seinfeld; "Notes About Nothing," versions of the episodes with added pop-up trivia; and the documentary "The Breakthrough Season."

Almost all of the extras are worth watching, with the notable exception of some of the commentaries, particularly those recorded by Seinfeld. The comedian says very little during the tracks for "The Contest" and "The Junior Mint," opting instead to silently watch and occasionally guffaw at what transpires on screen. Then again, can you blame him? Fans surely will crave more insight from the master of his domain, but they'll probably understand why he can't stop chuckling at his own show's genius ... not that there's anything wrong with that.

Whiniest Bonus Point: The "Inside Look" at "The Outing" reveals that Estelle Harris, who played George's mother, was unavailable to appear during the audience taping. In order to record the crowd's response, the show's producers asked another actress to sit in for Harris: Fran Drescher. The footage of the nasal "Nanny" acting opposite Jason Alexander's George makes it all the more apparent that Harris was perfect for the part and deserved an Emmy for her badgering brilliance.

Most Worthwhile Deleted Scenes: The deleted scenes on TV DVDs usually disappoint. Suprisingly, several in the fourth "Seinfeld" collection are laugh-out-loud funny, including one from "The Pick" in which Kramer (Michael Richards) shouts at a Calvin Klein employee, "You stink from corruption, not cologne."

Product Placement Bonus Point: During "The Breakthrough Season," "Seinfeld" co-creator Larry David discusses the censor's surprising lack of concern over "The Contest," an episode about masturbation that never once refers explicitly to the act. "The only note from the censor," David says, "was that we shouldn't use the word Snapple so often."

Coming in Next Week's 'Bonus Points': A review of the second season of "Chappelle's Show."

If you have feedback about "Bonus Points" or want to suggest a DVD for review, e-mail Jen Chaney.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company