Jerry Seinfeld’s self-titled semi-autobiographical sitcom, Seinfeld – co-created with fellow comedian Larry David – is now streaming its entire groundbreaking nine-season run on Netflix. For long-time fans of the series, this is an opportunity to rewatch the best episodes. But for subscribers who never got around to checking Seinfeld out, it’s an opportunity to finally see what all the fuss is about.
If a straightforward 180-episode binge sounds too daunting, it can be difficult to figure out where to begin with Seinfeld. These classic early installments are a great place to start.
10 The Seinfeld Chronicles (Season 1, Episode 1)
The pilot episode of Seinfeld is far from the polished form that the show would eventually take. Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David had never written a TV script before, so they had to learn as they went along. But “The Seinfeld Chronicles” brilliantly establishes the show’s idiosyncratic comic voice – especially in Jerry and George’s banter.
“The Seinfeld Chronicles” also establishes the show’s plot-driven style. The laughs stem from Jerry’s attempt to deduce whether a woman’s request to stay at his apartment has a romantic subtext, and the episode ends on a great deadpan punchline (the first of many).
9 The Pony Remark (Season 2, Episode 2)
Seinfeld began to settle more into its unique identity in its second season. The season 2 episode “The Pony Remark” sees Jerry making an unfortunate comment at a dinner party that may or may not lead to an old lady’s death.
This episode introduced a comedic well that the Seinfeld writers would keep coming back to for years to come: the fallout of a social faux pas.
8 The Chinese Restaurant (Season 2, Episode 11)
While the “show about nothing” label was initially introduced as a joke, some of Seinfeld’s best episodes fit this bill. Season 2’s “The Chinese Restaurant” is the first time the show really indulged in an “episode about nothing.”
Jerry, George, and Elaine spend the entire half-hour episode waiting for a table in a Chinese restaurant. This premise puts the focus squarely on the characters, and everybody has their own conflicts going on while they wait for the table.
7 The Pen (Season 3, Episode 3)
In season 3’s “The Pen,” Jerry and Elaine fly down to Florida to visit Jerry’s parents. This episode introduced the hilariously bizarre world of Helen and Morty Seinfeld.
Their retirement community is constantly being torn apart by gossip and politics. In Helen and Morty’s social circle, something trivial like the gifting of a pen that can write upside down can spiral into a major incident.
6 The Parking Garage (Season 3, Episode 6)
After the resounding success of “The Chinese Restaurant” in season 2, the Seinfeld writers came up with another “episode about nothing” in season 3. “The Parking Garage” follows the gang’s futile attempts to find their car in a giant parking structure.
As Jerry and his friends wander aimlessly around a sprawling parking lot and ponder life’s big questions, this episode develops some interesting existential overtones. It’s like Waiting for Godot if Gogo and Didi were looking for their car instead of waiting for Godot.
5 The Subway (Season 3, Episode 13)
Every character has something hilarious going on in season 3’s “The Subway,” all tied together by New York’s infamous subway system. Jerry encounters a nudist commuter while George gets swindled by a femme fatale.
Elaine gets stuck in the middle of a tunnel on a crowded train, desperate for information about the delay to provide some much-needed hope. Kramer overhears a betting tip, wins a bundle on a horse race, and has to flee from hustlers who want to steal his earnings. All four main characters are in top form in “The Subway.”
4 The Fix-Up (Season 3, Episode 16)
When both Jerry and Elaine have a friend complaining about single life, they decide to set them up with each other in season 3’s “The Fix-Up.” George goes on a blind date with Elaine’s friend, played by guest star Maggie Wheeler (best known as Janice from Friends).
Like all the subsequent Seinfeld episodes about the painful pitfalls of the dating world, “The Fix-Up” is filled with relatable takes on the difficulties of being single.
3 The Limo (Season 3, Episode 19)
Jerry and George get more than they bargained for when they steal a limousine ride in season 3’s “The Limo.” They think they’re being taken to a basketball game, but they’re actually being taken to a white supremacist rally – where the man George is pretending to be is the keynote speaker.
Penned by Larry Charles, “The Limo” exemplifies the subversively dark sense of humor that made Seinfeld stand out next to other primetime network sitcoms.
2 The Pitch (Season 4, Episode 3)
In the early fourth-season episode “The Pitch,” Jerry is approached by NBC executives who want him to develop a sitcom. He teams up with George – based on series co-creator Larry David – to write a pilot for a series identical to the one that the episode belongs to.
Dubbed “a show about nothing,” this show-within-a-show storyline introduced Seinfeld’s capacity for meta-ness. Now that self-awareness has become the norm in TV comedy, this season arc has proven to be decades ahead of its time.
1 The Contest (Season 4, Episode 11)
In season 4’s “The Contest,” Jerry and his friends put down money to see which of them can go the longest without “treating their body like an amusement park.” Larry David’s script won an Emmy for addressing a taboo subject without ever using its actual name.
Not only is “The Contest” considered to be the ultimate Seinfeld episode; it frequently tops lists of the greatest TV episodes of all time.
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