We may be living in the age of Peak TV, but there’s no denying that multi-camera sitcoms peaked from July 5, 1989 to May 14, 1998. A cultural phenomenon during its original run that became one of the most cited shows of the past quarter century, “Seinfeld” is a work of art that remains in a class of its own.
Seinfeld played a fictional version of himself over nine stellar seasons, with ‘Seinfeld’ racking up 10 Emmys (and 68 other nominations) during its 180 episode run. But while the observational humor that fueled Seinfeld’s stand-up career was the focus of the show, the real stars were Jerry’s eccentric friends.
The comedian starred opposite Jason Alexander’s George Constanza, an unapologetically selfish Queens native who displayed genuine brilliance in his attempts to avoid work, responsibility, and anything resembling human virtue. Julia Louis-Dreyfus was equally good as Elaine Benes, Jerry’s ex-girlfriend turned close confidante whose misadventures as a single woman working in publishing gave her countless opportunities to share her strong opinions. And then of course there’s Michael Richards’ Kramer, the ball of manic energy in human form who lives across the hall from Jerry and divides his time between unashamedly bellowing and devising elaborate schemes.
For years the series has been defined by its tongue-in-cheek moniker that it’s simply a “show about nothing,” but you’d be hard pressed to find a work of art that has done a better job of explaining human nature in the 21st century. Jerry and his Upper West Side friends represent the worst parts of us all: They spend their relatively easy lives nit-picking about every awkward detail, judge everyone by standards they themselves could never meet, and gradually let the banality of life everyday you turn them into monsters. The amount of shifting social norms and technological innovations expected by the series is undeniably impressive and a little frightening. Depending on the day, watching “Seinfeld” is either a hilarious lesson in what not to do or a sobering look in the mirror.
With the caveat that casting any great series as ‘Seinfeld’ is an exercise in futility (or should we say, fusilli-ty?): Here are the 45 best ‘Seinfeld’ episodes, from ‘The Muffin Tops’ and ‘The Blood’ to “The Junior Mint” and “The Fire”.
Editor’s Note: The following was originally posted on August 9, 2022 and has been updated multiple times since.