Seinfeld: The Ultimate Binge Guide
In case you haven’t heard: Seinfeld is on Netflix, as of October 1st, 2021. And as a life-long Seinfeld fan (my dad watched it every night growing up, so in my almost 30 years of life, I have seen every episode of Seinfeld AT LEAST 3 times). I feel as though it’s only fair to share my incredibly specific knowledge on the greatest sitcom of all time with an Ultimate Seinfeld Binge Guide.
The streaming service has been short on comfort food lately. They lost The Office (I was devastated), Friends, How I Met Your Mother, Cheers, and Parks and Rec. They were running low on classic shows that can be both watched & enjoyed, and also used for background noise. And given that they reportedly paid north of $500 million for it, I think Netflix knew they needed a show like Seinfeld.
Before you go any further: This Binge Guide will contain minor SPOILERS for episodes. This is the only warning, as Seinfeld is a show about nothing and there’s not much to spoil.
The best part about Seinfeld is that it does not need to be watched in order. You can stream Seinfeld and watch any episode. This is not a show that requires close viewing or keeping track of events – watching Seinfeld is not meant to be a stressful event. There are a few events that last throughout multiple seasons, such as George’s engagement or the tv show pilot, but it is nothing that will hinder your understanding.
Obligatory Seinfeld Warning
Seinfeld is a show about 4 friends living life in New York City. To quote Elaine Benes, they tend to “pour over the excruciating minutiae of every single daily event.” This show has one goal, and one goal only: to make you laugh. These 4 characters can be described as morally dubious at best, they have no character arcs, do not change over their 9 seasons, and never reach any kind of emotional fulfillment.
This is on purpose. In a time when most sitcoms had a sentimental element, showrunner Larry David employed the rule, “No hugs and no learning.” You might even say that their callous indifference and utter disregard for everything that is good and decent has rocked the very foundation upon which our society was built.
The Seinfeld Binge Guide
Any tv show with 9 seasons and 180 episodes can seem daunting to a new viewer – even if the show is as easy to watch as Seinfeld. So allow me to act as your tv guide, introducing you to some of the best (and worst) episodes of Seinfeld, the must-watches, and the skippables. Grab some pretzels or Jujyfruits, kick back, relax, and enjoy the antics of Jerry Seinfeld, Cosmo Kramer, George Costanza, and Elaine Benes.
10. The Junior Mint (Season 4 Episode 19)
Elaine visits an ex-boyfriend in the hospital who is about to undergo a serious medical procedure. Jerry and Kramer watch the surgery with the med students – and accidentally drop a Junior Mint into the patient’s open body. He is sewn back up with a Junior Mint still inside. Meanwhile, Jerry doesn’t know his new girlfriend’s name, and only knows that it rhymes with a part of the female anatomy. George unexpectedly comes into $1900 and explores different ways to invest it.
Jerry’s girlfriend will always be Mulva to me.
9. The Puffy Shirt (Season 5 Episode 2)
Seinfeld made-up and popularized a lot of terms: double dipping, man hands, close talker, yada yada yada, “No soup for you!”, re-gifter, and of course, the low-talker.
We all know these people. They talk so quietly and never raise the volume of their voice even a hair, so you just smile and nod to everything they say. When Jerry does this with Kramer’s low-talking fashion designer girlfriend, he inadvertently agrees to wear a puffy shirt on national television. Like a pirate. Jerry doesn’t wanna be a pirate.
Meanwhile, an unemployed George moves in with his parents (see my thoughts on Frank and Estelle below) and is searching for a new job. He meets a woman in a restaurant who tells him he has beautiful hands. He embarks on a very short-lived hand-modeling career.
8. The Contest (Season 4 Episode 10)
In the interest of keeping my blog PG-13, I’ll keep this vague:
George is caught in a compromising position by his mother, so he, Jerry, Elaine, and Kramer start a bet over who can last the longest as “master of their domain.” Antics ensue.
7. The Non-Fat Yogurt (Season 5 Episode 7)
A yogurt shop opens nearby, advertising their product as 100% fat free. Jerry and Elaine both gain weight after eating a ton of the allegedly non fat yogurt, and bring a sample of it to be tested.
Meanwhile, George runs into a childhood frenemy Lloyd Braun, an employee of mayoral incumbent Mayor Dinkins. The election is in jeopardy when Elaine (now dating Lloyd) suggests all citizens of NYC should wear name tags, in an effort to make the city friendlier.
6. The Chicken Roaster (Season 8 Episode 8)
When Jerry runs into an old friend from college, he convinces the friend to skip a work meeting. He then gets fired and takes a job at Kenny Rogers Chicken Roasters, a new fried chicken joint that opened across the street from Jerry and Kramer’s building. The light shines into Kramer’s apartment, resulting in his protest against the chicken place. Jerry, in an effort to keep his friend employed, switches apartments with Kramer.
Jerry and Kramer switch personalities, and Jerry is desperate to get back into his apartment. When he discovers that Kramer and Newman are both addicted to the chicken, he makes his move.
5. The Calzone (Season 7 Episode 19)
George, now an employee for the New York Yankees gets invited to lunch by George Steinbrenner every day when Steinbrenner discovers the delicious calzones from the pizza place Paisano’s. When George is banned from Paisano’s for allegedly stealing from the tip jar, he must recruit Newman to pick up his lunch every day.
Meanwhile, Kramer starts cooking his clothes in ovens to warm them up. Yes, you read that correctly.
4. The Rye (Season 7 Episode 11)
When George brings his parents to meet his fiancee Susan’s parents, they bring a marble rye to dinner. When his neurotic parents take back the marble rye after an imagined slight, George must replace the bread before Susan’s parents notice its absence. Jerry must steal the last marble rye from an old woman on the street.
3. The Strike (Season 9 Episode 10)
No Seinfeld Binge Guide is complete without a holiday episode! George’s father is reviving an old holiday from his son’s youth – a Festivus for the rest of us!
Festivus is complete with an aluminum pole in place of a tree, a Festivus dinner that involves an airing of grievances (in which you tell your family, in no uncertain terms, all the ways they’ve disappointed you in that year) and is capped off with the feats of strength.
Kramer, who has returned to work at a bagel shop after a 12 year strike, goes on strike again when he is denied the day off for his Festivus celebrations.
2. The Opposite (Season 5 Episode 21)
When George discovers that doing the opposite of his every instinct will lead him to success, he gets a girlfriend, a job and an apartment. This episode might not be a great first episode for a new viewer – you have to know George to appreciate this one! But when you know George really well, it’s one of the best.
Meanwhile, a box of Jujyfruits leads to the end of Elaine’s relationship, and the loss of her job. She also lets a jewel thief into her building, leading to the other tenants forcibly kicking her out of her apartment.
Everything evens out for Jerry.
1. The Soup Nazi (Season 7 Episode 6)
Both in terms of quality and cultural impact, The Soup Nazi is, in my opinion, Seinfeld’s best episode.
When a new soup stand opens in the neighborhood, it quickly becomes famous both for its soup, and it’s irate owner who kicks out customers who do not following his specific rules for soup-ordering (NO SOUP FOR YOU!”).
Jerry, who has been annoying everybody by calling his girlfriend “Schmoopie”, must choose between said girlfriend or the soup. He chooses the soup.
See my Mulligatawny Soup recipe to make your own Soup Nazi soup at home!
Since I don’t want angry Seinfeld fans in my inbox, here are my honorable mentions – didn’t make my Top 10, but are still fantastic episodes. All are worth watching and would convince anyone of the brilliance that is Seinfeld.
- The Marine Biologist (S5 Ep14).
- The Little Kicks (S8 Ep 4).
- The Bizarro Jerry (S8 Ep 3).
- The Bubble Boy (S4 Ep 6).
- The Pez Dispenser (S3 Ep 14).
- The Jimmy (S6 Ep 18).
- The Fusilli Jerry (S6 Ep 20).
- The Glasses (S5 Ep3).
Seinfeld has very few episodes that I would truly call “bad” – even the worst episode of Seinfeld still has a chance of being the funniest option on television. But since this is a Seinfeld Binge Guide, I have to mention the few that I don’t like.
I won’t break down these episodes because I never watch them on purpose, but I don’t care for the following:
- The Dog (Season 3 Episode 4)
- The Stranded (Season 3 Episode 10)
- The Male Unbonding (Season 1 Episode 4)
- Any episode with Sally Weaver (The Cartoon and The Doll)
The first episode of Seinfeld is a bit weird, not representative of the show and not great for Seinfeld newbies. Julia Louis-Dreyfus was not yet cast, and they were in a different coffee shop. I recommend starting with one of my top 10 or honorable mentions, and going back to the first episode after you’re already hooked.
The internet seems divided on the episode The Chinese Restaurant, where George, Jerry, and Elaine spend the entire episode waiting for a table at a Chinese restaurant. While this is far from my favorite, I do still think it’s funny and enjoy watching it. Its only real downside is the lack of Kramer.
I will now also admit my shameful secret to the world: I like the Seinfeld finale. I will not be taking comments at this time.
Best Side Characters
While everyone loves the main cast, the side characters are sometimes the gems of the show, and a must-have in a Seinfeld Binge Guide. Here are just a few of the best:
“Maybe there’s more to Newman than meets the eye…”
Newman, sometimes known as “the White Whale”, close friend of Kramer, archnemesis of Jerry, and US Postal Worker is a recurring fan-favorite character. He is often involved in Kramer’s schemes, and can sometimes be found hatching schemes of his own. He often makes outlandish claims, such as “When you control the mail, you control… information“.
He provides some of my biggest laughs in the whole series. With his rant about dogs in The Engagement (S7 Ep1), his proclamation of broccoli as “vile weed!” in The Chicken Roaster (S8 Ep8), asking the police what took them so long in (also in The Engagement), interrogating Jerry at the post office (The Package S8 Ep5), and sitting on a fork in The Calzone (S7 Ep19).
All of Newman’s episodes are his best, but my favorites for the Seinfeld Binge Guide are The Engagement (S7 Ep1), The Andrea Doria (S8 Ep10), The Sniffing Accountant (S5 Ep4), The Scofflaw (S6 Ep 13), The Calzone (S7 Ep19), The Junk Mail (S9 Ep5), The Bottle Deposit (S7 Ep20), and The Ticket (S4 Ep 3).
Elaine’s on-and-off boyfriend Puddy becomes a staple of the show in later seasons. Between his monotone delivery, love of Arby’s, and belief that Elaine is going to hell, Puddy is very memorable. Even when he doesn’t have a big role, my favorite game is trying to catch Puddy staring into the distance. You can find him sitting like this at any given moment.
Puddy’s best episodes are The Face Painter (S6 Ep22), The Butter Shave (S9 Ep1), The Dealership (S9 Ep11), and The Burning (S9 Ep16).
Frank and Estelle Costanza
Frank and Estelle are George’s parents, and after 1 episode with them, the mystery of George will become clear. The Costanza’s do not believe in calmly addressing issues or having honest conversations about their feelings. Estelle is a woman who has never laughed, and Frank wears his sneakers in the pool. Whether it’s Frank making his own holiday, or Estelle insisting that Jerry pass out bologna sandwiches in his building, these two are a guaranteed belly laugh.
The Costanza parent’s best episodes are The Little Kicks (S8 Ep 4), The Rye (S7 Ep11), The Andrea Doria (S8 Ep 10), The Serenity Now (S9 Ep 3), and The Strike (S9 Ep 10). The Serenity Now is a must-watch.
Jackie Chiles appears a few times in the series as Kramer’s lawyer. He is known for his extravagant vocabulary, and his commentary on Kramer’s latest schemes make him for a memorable side character, though he only appears a few times in the series.
Jackie Chiles best appearances are in The Maestro (S7 Ep3), The Caddy (S7 Ep12), The Abstinence (S8 Ep 9), and The Finale (S9 Ep 22).
This Seinfeld Binge Guide, is, of course, never complete because all Seinfeld episodes are hilarious and worth watching.