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Summary

  • Seinfeld
    season 1 shows the germ of what would make it a great sitcom, but the actors lacked confidence in their characters.
  • Season 2 of
    Seinfeld
    had its turning point with the episode “The Chinese Restaurant” and started to embrace its unique tone.
  • Despite a dip in quality after Larry David’s departure,
    Seinfeld
    season 8 still had some standout moments, but began to lose its way.

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Taking a look at the Seinfeld seasons ranked worst to best gives a glimpse at how the show became a television icon. Seinfeld is a titan of the sitcom genre, but with 180 episodes across nine seasons from 1989-98, it can be hard to maintain a consistency of quality. While a weak episode or season of Seinfeld has a lot more to offer than most other shows, there are clear peaks and troughs across the series. However, the best Seinfeld seasons prove why it remains so beloved.

Seinfeld Season

Years First Aired

Episode Count

1

1989-1990

5

2

1991

12

3

1991-1992

22

4

1992-1993

23

5

1993-1994

22

6

1994-1995

23

7

1995-1996

22

8

1996-1997

22

9

1997-1998

22

The quality of the show noticeably dipped when co-creator Larry David left after Seinfeld season 7, but it was still one of the funniest shows on network television. When it finally ended with season 9, the Seinfeld finale was deemed to be one of the worst TV finales of all time. However, it’s not reflective of the final season which still contains some classic episodes like “The Serenity Now,” “The Cartoon.” and “The Frogger.” Delivering some of the biggest laughs in television history, a look at the Seinfeld seasons ranked shows the few lows and many highs of the classic sitcom.

Seinfeld is available to stream on Netflix.

9 Season 1

Best Episode: The Robbery

An image of George and Jerry standing together in Seinfeld

Seinfeld season 1 is rough around the edges, but laid the foundations for what would go on to become one of the great American sitcoms. There are only four episodes in the first season, which doesn’t include the very different Seinfeld pilot entitled “The Seinfeld Chronicles.” The storylines focus on Jerry Seinfeld as the lead character with George, Elaine, and Kramer as supporting characters. As Jerry Seinfeld is, by his own admission, the least capable actor in the cast, it can often be difficult to engage with him as a protagonist.

The plots of the five episodes in Seinfeld season 1 veer from stock sitcom tropes like competing for a desirable new apartment to more Seinfeld-style stories of social awkwardness like breaking up with a male friend or staking out a woman’s workplace instead of just asking an ex-girlfriend for the woman’s phone number. The dialogue was sharp and refreshing, feeling like something totally new in the sitcom field, but the performers didn’t quite feel confident with their characters. Even Michael Richards’ Kramer seems reserved compared to later seasons.

8 Season 2

Best Episode: The Chinese Restaurant

Elaine, Jerry, and George waiting in a restaurant in the Seinfeld episode The Chinese Restaurant

The standout episode of Seinfeld season 2 is “The Chinese Restaurant”, which marked a real turning point for the show. Written by Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld, it revolves around Jerry, George, and Elaine waiting for a table at a busy Chinese restaurant. Larry David famously threatened to quit when the network objected to the thin premise, so NBC scheduled it for later in season 2. The episode was received positively by critics as something unique and hilariously relatable within the sitcom genre.

The rest of Seinfeld season 2 sadly doesn’t reach these heights, but it’s clearly working toward this major turning point. Another standout moment is when Jerry and Elaine’s romance is rekindled, and then never returned to. The will they/won’t they romance was a staple of network sitcoms from Sam and Diane in Cheers to Ross and Rachel in Friends. By dropping this subplot, Seinfeld established its credentials as an anti-sitcom, something which reaches a crescendo with “The Chinese Restaurant.” Though there were still some growing pains, these rebellious decisions started to show a confidence growing in the show’s unique tone.

7 Season 8

Best Episode: The Yada Yada

George Costanza raising his hand and shouting

Seinfeld season 8 is the difficult transitionary season after Larry David’s departure at the end of season 7. Without David as a creative force, Seinfeld occasionally leans too far into sitcom tropes. The episode “The Bizarro Jerry” is a somewhat outlandish episode about Elaine finding a new group of male friends who are the exact opposites of Jerry, George, and Kramer. For a show that usually found its humor in grounded situations, the move to sillier ideas was jarring.

Seinfeld season 8 was the first time since season 2 that the show felt slightly directionless. It’s hardly surprising, as their “no hugging no learning” mantra had reached its zenith with the death of George’s fiancée Susan (Heidi Swedberg), a tragedy that had no impact on the central characters. After that, it’s hard to know where to take things, so it’s completely understandable that Seinfeld season 8 lost its way slightly.

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6 Season 9

Best Episode: The Merv Griffin Show

Seinfeld's characters in jail in series finale

The Seinfeld finale casts a long shadow over season 9, but even within that, there are flashes of the brilliance that made the sitcom such a game-changer. From teasing audiences with a romantic reconciliation for Jerry and Elaine during a turbulent airplane fight to the whole cast being put on trial for their awful behavior, it was true to the anti-sitcom spirit of Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld’s original vision. It was hated, but it’s unclear how a “show about nothing” could ever deliver a definitive finale given that a lack of character growth was the show’s whole mantra.

Like the finale itself, Seinfeld season 9 was flawed but contains some strong material such as Elaine accidentally plagiarizing a cartoon for The New Yorker or George’s Dad using “serenity row” as a mantra to reduce his blood pressure. However, it’s also clear that Seinfeld is starting to cannibalize some of its high points. “The Puerto Rican Day” is essentially another version of episodes from earlier seasons where the characters struggle to successfully get to an event such as in season 4’s “The Movie” or season 5’s “The Dinner Party.”

While the show didn’t exactly leave in its prime with season 9 being its last outing, it was still seen as the funniest show on television.

5 Season 3

Best Episode: The Parking Garage

Reportedly, Seinfeld faced being canceled toward the end of season 2, but the network decided to give it a season 3 if the writers made more of an effort with storylines. If anything, Seinfeld season 3 doubled down on what made “The Chinese Restaurant” so popular. Season 3, episode 6, “The Parking Garage” is centered around the fact that nobody can remember where Kramer parked his car in a multi-level parking garage. Season 3 also marked the first full season of Seinfeld where it was very much an ensemble show, with each character getting their own storylines.

For example, “The Pez Dispenser” saw Elaine inadvertently ruin a piano recital given by George’s new girlfriend, Jerry hosts an intervention for a friend who is battling drug addiction, and Kramer is inspired to invent a cologne with the smell of the sea. All these storylines converge via Jerry’s Tweety Pie Pez dispenser. “The Pez Dispenser” demonstrates Seinfeld season 3’s more sophisticated approach to narrative structure and plot mechanics and contains considerable promise for the show’s golden years.

4 Season 6

Best Episode: The Race

David Puddy (Patrick Warburton) at a Devil's game with his face painted in Seinfeld

Of Seinfeld‘s excellent run of seasons 4 to 7, season 6 is the weakest because it lacks the memorable episodes of the other three seasons. There are fun episodes like “The Chaperone”, in which Kramer becomes a personal coach to a prospective Miss America contestant that Jerry is dating. However, they don’t live as long in the memory as the standout episodes of Seinfeld seasons 4, 5, and 7.

That being said, what season 6 may lack in memorable episodes, it makes up for in memorable characters. Seinfeld season 6 introduces Elaine’s relationship with Puddy (Patrick Warburton) which would be on and off up until season 9. It also introduces other notable Seinfeld supporting characters like Bryan Cranston as dentist Tim Whatley, and hack comedian and thorn in Jerry’s side, Kenny Bania (Steve Hytner).

All of these characters would further flesh out Seinfeld‘s rich fictional New York City and become fan favorites. Though perhaps not the most outstanding season of the show, season 6 strengthened Seinfeld overall with its new additions.

Related

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3 Season 5

Best Episode: The Opposite

Jerry standing in a puffy shirt in Seinfeld

Seinfeld season 5 is full of memorable episodes and iconic moments, such as Jerry accidentally agreeing to wear a pirate costume in “The Puffy Shirt” or George pretending to be a marine biologist and coming face to face with a beached whale. It’s also the season that includes the episode “The Fire” which sees George Costanza flatly refuse to let women, children, and the elderly go first when escaping a house fire.

By this point, Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld were incredibly comfortable with how unlikable their lead characters were. They had also realized how much they could get away with on NBC after the success of “The Contest” in season 4, and continued to tackle NSFW topics like Jerry being unable to give Elaine an orgasm and Kramer plotting to stop a baby being circumcised at a Bris. It was a season that really embraced these main characters being awful people that the audience could have fun with.

2 Season 7

Best Episode: The Soup Nazi

Susan licking an envelope on Seinfeld

Larry David’s final Seinfeld season is the sitcom equivalent of an orchestra building toward a crescendo. It marks the pinnacle of the mantra of “no hugging, no learning” and arguably, the season 7 finale “The Invitations,” in which Seinfeld‘s Susan was killed off, could have been the best ending for the show. The overarching plot of season 7 is George’s increasingly futile attempts to get out his engagement to Susan, and his ambivalence toward wedding planning is exactly what leads to Susan’s death from sealing cheap, and toxic, envelopes. Of course, George learns absolutely nothing from this tragedy.

Seinfeld season 7 heavily featured the fan-favorite supporting character, and Elaine’s eccentric boss, J. Peterman (John O’Hurley). It’s also the season that made The Soup Nazi a pop culture icon, who still features on Seinfeld-related merchandise to this day. Add to that the ridiculous image of Kramer atop a fire engine in “The Secret Code,” and it’s one of the very strongest seasons of Seinfeld.

1 Season 4

Best Episode: The Contest

Few sitcoms could get away with something as meta as Seinfeld season 4’s “Jerry” plot. Building on the increasing popularity of the series, Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld decided to have their fictional counterparts Jerry and George also work on a sitcom together. Brilliantly, this storyline never feels smug or too knowing, and season 4 is so full of classic episodes that the “Jerry” arc hardly matters. There are so many classic moments in Seinfeld season 4 such as George fighting the Bubble Boy, Kramer flipping a Junior Mint into an open torso, and the fictional erotic movie Rochelle, Rochelle.

It’s a show that is at the peak of its power and its popularity. Nowhere is this more obvious than in “The Contest,” Larry David’s favorite Seinfeld episode which was a masterclass in talking about taboo subjects on network television without using any words that would upset executives or censors. It continued to establish the show as something refreshing and daring in the trope-filled world of sitcoms. Seinfeld is one of the greatest sitcoms of all time, and season 4 is its greatest run.

Seinfeld Poster

Seinfeld

Seinfeld stars Jerry Seinfeld as a stand-up comedian whose life in New York City is made even more chaotic by his quirky group of friends who join him in wrestling with life’s most perplexing yet often trivial questions. Often described as “a show about nothing,” Seinfeld mines the humor in life’s mundane situations like waiting in line, searching for a lost item, or the trials and tribulations of dating. Co-starring is Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Jerry’s ex-girlfriend and current platonic pal, Elaine Benes; Jason Alexander as George Costanza, Jerry’s neurotic hard-luck best friend; and Michael Richards as Jerry’s eccentric neighbor, Kramer.

Cast
Jerry Seinfeld , Julia Louis-Dreyfus , Jason Alexander , Michael Richards

Release Date
July 5, 1989

Seasons
9



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