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"A bra is for ladies. Meet the bro." - Kramer (Michael Richards) introducing his brassiere for men in "The Doorman"

Seinfeld: Season 5 and Seinfeld: Season 6 DVD Review DVD Review

By Jonathan Boudreaux

When everyone's favorite watering hole, Cheers, turned out the lights for the last time at the end of the 1992-93 season, the wacky pals at the heart of Seinfeld - comedian Jerry Seinfeld (played by comedian Jerry Seinfeld), his unemployed loser of a best friend George Costanza (Jason Alexander), Jerry's slightly unhinged ex-girlfriend Elaine Benes (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), and Jerry's nutty neighbor Kramer (Michael Richards) - were given the retired show's coveted Thursday night timeslot. Seinfeld saw an instant rise in ratings, leaping from twenty-fifth to third in its fifth season.

Season five may not contain as many touchstone episodes as season four, but several have become fan favorites. In "The Puffy Shirt," Jerry accidentally agrees to wear a pirate shirt for an upcoming appearance on The Today Show thanks to Kramer's "low talker" girlfriend. George also moves back in with his parents (Jerry Stiller appears as Frank Costanza for the first time) and becomes a hand model. The scene in which he protects his hands by walking around wearing oven mitts is priceless. In the clever "The Wife," relationships are parodied from first date through divorce when Jerry and his girlfriend pretend to be married so that she can receive a dry cleaning discount.

Season four's "The Contest" - in which the friends compete to see who can stay the "master of their own domain" for the longest period of time - is one of the series' most infamous. Season five also includes several episodes that similarly flirt with the thin line between naughty and nice. In "The Mango," Elaine admits that she faked all of her orgasms when she was with Jerry. In "The Hamptons," George becomes a victim of "shrinkage" when Jerry's girlfriend sees him naked after he has climbed out of a cold swimming pool.

The gang's irredeemably, hilariously antisocial behavior continues in season five. George tricks a blind man into swapping eyeglass frames after George inadvertently purchases women's frames ("The Glasses"). Elaine pretends to be deaf to avoid talking to a car service driver ("The Lip Reader"). George claws his way through a group of women, children, and the elderly to escape a fire at a kid's birthday party ("The Fire"). The more immoral the friends are, the funnier the show gets.

Season five also introduces Frank Costanza's obsession with collecting TV Guide ("The Cigar Store Indian"), Kramer's idea for a coffee table book about coffee tables ("The Cigar Store Indian"), and Danny Woodburn as Kramer's friend Mickey ("The Stand-In").

The season ends with "The Opposite," an ingenious episode that turns the series' concept on its ear. George feels like such a failure that he decides to take decisive and radical action. Since he seems to make all the wrong decisions, from now on he will do the exact opposite of what his instincts tell him. The strategy is a surprising success, landing him a date, a dream job with the Yankees, and the opportunity to move out of his parents' house. In the process, he and Elaine seem to swap places and she becomes the big loser. She is evicted from her apartment for being a bad tenant. She loses her job when she wrecks a merger deal that would have saved Pendant Publishing. Her boyfriend breaks up with her when, upon learning that he's been in an automobile accident, she stops to buy Jujyfruits and popcorn before heading to the hospital. To see Elaine and George switch fates in this way is terribly amusing. The episode also perfect sets up season six's often hilarious story arc.

Elaine's descent continues in the sixth season when she takes a job as personal assistant to persnickety millionaire Mr. Pitt (Ian Abercrombie). Her demeaning tasks include buying white athletic socks that aren't too tight or too loose, and plucking salt off pretzel rods. Mr. Pitt is a brilliantly quirky comic creation. He becomes so enraptured by 3-D computer art that his "Moland Springs" deal nearly sours ("The Gymnast"). One of his biggest dreams is to help control the Woody Woodpecker balloon in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade ("The Mom & Pop Store"). He eats Snickers bars with a knife and fork ("The Pledge Drive"). Elaine finally works up the nerve to quit the miserable job, but discovers that she has been added to his will ("The Diplomat's Club"). Louis-Dreyfus and Abercrombie are a perfect comic team, and seeing Elaine sink to such depths is endlessly amusing.

Just when you think she can't get any lower, Elaine begins dating Puddy (The Tick's Patrick Warburton), Jerry's slack-jawed auto mechanic ("The Fusilli Jerry"). Not even the fact that he paints his face like a devil to attend hockey games ("The Face Painter") can end this unlikely relationship.possibly because the sex is so great. Warburton is a terrific addition to the cast, and Louis-Dreyfus finds another talented sparring partner.

Not all of the episodes are Elaine-centric, of course. In "The Pledge Drive," a "high talker" (a man whose high voice makes him sound like his girlfriend) causes problems for the gang, including Jerry's poor Nana. In "The Switch," we finally learn Kramer's first name (Cosmo, in case you've been living under a rock). In "The Label Maker," Jerry receives a regifted label maker that Elaine gave to dentist Tim Whatley (Malcolm in the Middle's Bryan Cranston) only a month earlier. In "The Beard," a newly bewigged George rejects a blind date when she turns out to be bald. In "The Doorman," the hired help in Mr. Pitt's building intimidates Jerry, and Kramer convinces Frank Costanza that his life would be better if only he wore a bro (or is that manssier?). In "The Jimmy," Kramer is mistaken for an Able Mentally Challenged Adult and feted by Mel Torme.

The season ends on a high note with "The Understudy." In a parody of the Tonia Harding/Nancy Kerrigan Olympics scandal, Jerry and George are accused of purposely injuring Bette Midler so that Jerry's understudy girlfriend can take over her role in a Broadway show. Elaine steals the show, though. Suspicious that her Korean manicurists are insulting her in their native language, she recruits Frank Costanza to translate. Her plan backfires, she gets banned from the shop, and she finds herself wandering the city, depressed about not having a job or a manicurist. That's when she meets J. Peterman (John Hurley), the fatuous goofball behind the pretentious clothing catalog. By the end of their meeting, she has a new job.and another perfect foil for season seven.

Guest stars in season five include Lisa Edelstein (House), Bryant Gumbel, Marlee Matlin (Children of a Lesser God), Jennifer Coolidge (Joey), Al Roker, Jami Gertz, Dan Cortese, Carol Kane (Taxi), Reni Santoni (Manimal), Lane Davies (General Hospital), Courteney Cox (Friends), Judge Reinhold, Veanne Cox, Dom Irrera, Melanie Chartoff, Richard Burgi (Desperate Housewives), Regis Philbin, and Kathie Lee Gifford. Season six guests include Kelly Coffield (In Living Color), David James Elliot (JAG), Patton Oswalt (The King of Queens), Lois Nettleton (In the Heat of the Night), Jon Voight, Elsa Raven (Wiseguy), Vicki Lewis (NewsRadio), Sheree North, Terry Sweeney (SNL), Jon Lovitz (The Critic), Wendie Malick (Jake in Progress), Debra Jo Rupp (That '70s Show), and Bette Midler.

The twenty-two episodes that make up Seinfeld's fifth season are divided onto four discs. The simple, elegant design of this set will be familiar to owners of the first three Seinfeld releases. The discs are housed in slim, clear keepcases. The front covers each feature a different publicity photo of one of the show's stars. The back covers include episode numbers, episode titles, and plot synopses. The double-sided coversheets show through to the insides of the cases and feature a photo of the interior of Jerry's apartment. Each DVD is imprinted with a publicity shot of the same star depicted on its case. The four keepcases slide into two cardboard sleeves, both of which feature the same publicity photo of the cast members. A booklet listing the basic production credits for each episode is also sandwiched between the keepcases.

The twenty-four episodes that make up Seinfeld's sixth season are also divided onto four discs. The packaging mimics that of season five, but this time the double-sided coversheets feature a photo of the interior of the Costanza home.

The imaginatively designed DVD menus are also similar to those in the previous two releases.

Seasons 5 and 6 are also available in a giftset which includes a tiny version of the puffy shirt and a reproduction of a script by Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David.

Video and Audio

Overall, Seinfeld: Season 5 and Seinfeld: Season 6 look and sound great. Sure, there are flaws, but compare the footage to some of the clips included in the extras and you'll see how spiffy it is.

English and French audio tracks are included, along with English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese subtitles. The commentary tracks are subtitled in Spanish and Portuguese, while the "Notes About Nothing" trivia tracks (see below) are available in English, Spanish, and Portuguese.

The episodes are also closed captioned.

Extras

"Yada, Yada, Yada" commentary tracks are included for ten episodes in season five (Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jason Alexander, and Michael Richards on "The Mango" and "The Non-Fat Yogurt;" writers Tom Gammill and Max Pross on "The Glasses," "The Cigar Store Indian," and "The Pie;" writers Peter Mehlman and Carol Leifer on "The Lip Reader," "The Masseuse," and "The Hamptons;" director/producer Tom Cherones and production designer Tom Azzari on "The Marine Biologist," and Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David on "The Opposite") and eight episodes in season six (Jerry Seinfeld, director Andy Ackerman, and writers Alec Berg and Jeff Schaffer on "The Gymnast;" writers Tom Gammill and Max Pross on "The Mom & Pop Store," "The Doorman," and "The Diplomat's Club;" Seinfeld and Ackerman on "The Race;" Berg and Schaffer on "The Label Maker;" and Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Jason Alexander on "The Beard" and "The Fusilli Jerry"). To be totally honest, I didn't listen to any of these. The commentary tracks in previous sets have been so dull that it hardly seemed necessary this time around.

"In the Vault" deleted and extended scenes are included for 11 episodes in season five ["The Mango" (1:08), "The Glasses" (1:38), "The Puffy Shirt" (2:16), "The Non-Fat Yogurt" (1:36), "The Conversion" (3:33), "The Marine Biologist" (1:00), "The Dinner Party" (2:09), "The Pie" (1:35), "The Fire" (1:13), "The Raincoats" (1:09) and "The Opposite" (3:33)] and 19 episodes in season six ["The Chaperone" (0:52), "The Big Salad" (0:35), "The Pledge Drive" (1:53), "The Chinese Woman" (1:50), "The Couch" (3:22), "The Gymnast" (1:47), "The Mom & Pop Store" (1:48), "The Soup" (3:10), "The Switch" (2:03), "The Race" (2:27), "The Label Maker" (0:56), "The Scofflaw" (0:48), "The Beard" (0:39), "The Doorman" (1:45), "The Jimmy" (1:34), "The Doodle" (1:08), "The Diplomat's Club" (0:52), "The Face Painter" (1:08), and "The Understudy" (2:46)]. The deleted material is often only a few fleeting seconds of the clip's running time, but who can resist even a few extra seconds of Seinfeld?

Sixteen of the episodes in season five and sixteen of the episodes in season six are supplemented by "Inside Looks," featurettes that explore the creation and filming of the episodes. Each runs from one and a half to ten minutes and features interviews with NBC execs, the cast, and the creative team. These sometimes tend to recycle interview material, but really should not be missed by fans.

All of the episodes in both sets feature "Notes about Nothing" - subtitle tracks that present facts and trivia about the show in general and the episodes in particular. The information presented ranges from informative to extraordinarily trivial: descriptions of script changes, ratings info, explanations of pop culture references for the culturally stunted, info on the supporting actors, and the specific dates when the cast first read and filmed the episodes. These notes aren't vital, but fans can at least sample the tracks for their favorite episodes.

Both sets include "Not That There's Anything Wrong With That," compilations of bloopers from seasons five (13:17) and six (22:24). Some of these are quite funny.

Both sets include "Master of His Domain (Exclusive Stand-up Material)," collections of unused stand-up footage filmed for the fifth (7:52) and sixth (6:19) seasons. Some of the clips are funny, but this material was never meant to stand on its own.

In the "Jason + Larry = George" featurette (25:35) on disc one of season five, NBC execs, the cast, and the creative team discuss the creation, casting, and evolution of the George character. Did you know that E.R.'s Anthony Edwards and The Producers' Nathan Lane were both strongly considered for the role? You'll learn that and more in this well-produced extra. The clips from Alexander's failed sitcoms will also be of great interest to fans.

Disc one of season five also contains "Sponsored by Vandelay Industries" (3:25), a collection of ten NBC commercials promoting Seinfeld's move to Cheers' old timeslot once the Ted Danson hit retired in spring 1993.

Season five's disc two includes a never-before-seen alternate version of "The Non-Fat Yogurt." Part of the storyline hinges on the winner of the NYC mayoral race between Rudy Giuliani and David Dinkins. The episode aired the week of the election, so two versions had to be filmed. Giuliani cooperated with the series' producers, won the election on Tuesday, filmed his scenes on Wednesday, and the episode aired on Thursday. Dinkins declined to participate, so Phil Morris, who would go on to play lawyer Jackie Chiles, appears in the alternate episode as a Dinkins advisor.

"Running with the Egg: Making of a Seinfeld" (33:24) on disc one of season six is a featurette exploring the process behind the creation of a Seinfeld episode. Through interviews and behind-the-scenes footage, "Running with the Egg" examines the writing, casting, and filming of the series. Informative and entertaining, this is yet another well-produced extra that fans won't want to miss.

Three episodes in season six include "Sein-imation" scenes: "The Race" (2:13), "The Doorman" (1:21), and "The Face Painter" (1:22). Stick figure animation fleshes out the audio track from a scene lifted from each episode. This is a somewhat weird, pointless idea, yet it is also amusing.

The "Highlights of 100" episode on disc three of season six includes an additional Jerry Seinfeld introduction (0:34).

Summary

You don't need me to tell you that Seinfeld is a classic. With Seinfeld: Season 5 and Seinfeld: Season 6, this classic continues to receive the deluxe DVD treatment.

11/27/05

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