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While Friends and Frasier stole most of the limelight of 90’s sitcom entertainment, one show, which was somewhat overlooked in its freshman seasons, now steps into the wide beams with its immensely good fourth season. While Seinfeld got off to a good start with its debut, it wasn’t particularly anything special back then and wasn’t half as popular amongst the airwaves as some of its destined competitors. But the important thing was that it started out good. Actually I take that back; it started out downright bloody brilliant!

Its second season upped the ante a little, improving the ratings and critical acclaim as it went. Season three saw things get even more heated but it is with this fourth year that everything got ‘big’. It is right here where the show sprouted the wings that would allow its later seasons to skyrocket to the top of the charts and engrave it into the television cornerstone.

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Series
There are twenty four episodes packed into season four, many of which make for an excellent way to pass half an hour. If you feel down or just generally under the weather, these episodes are really able to slap a wide grin on your face and with relative ease too. I often judge how good a sitcom is by its anti-depressant factor. On my meter Frasier is king with a near one-hundred-percent anti-depressant factor rating. Friends come in a close second with about ninety-five-percent. Seinfeld comes third and just behind Friends.

There are several determining factors that are taken into consideration when gauging exactly where on this meter a specific sitcom show will place. Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, the character palette must be of exceptional quality. The characters must really be able to hold their own and flourish during the entire run of the show in question. Next, the concept must be fresh and compelling, or at the very least captivating and gripping.

Charm also plays an invaluable part of any sitcom, and if they are to score highly they at least need to capture this important element with ease and creativity. And perhaps lastly on this decree, the writing must be of a high standard. Seinfeld makes it into my top three for a damn good reason; it fulfils all of the above requirements with ease. It really is the classic it is made out to be by so many and you owe it to yourself to check it out if you haven’t done so already.

The episodes you will find within this season are as follows: The Trip parts I and II, The Pitch, The Wallet, The Watch, The Bubble Boy, The Cheever Letters, The Opera, The Virgin, The Contest, The Airport, The Pick, The Movie, The Visa, The Shoes, The Outing, The Old Man, The Implant, The Junior Mint, The Smelly Car, The Handicap Spot and The Pilot parts I and II.

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‘The Pitch’ sees the start of the epic NBC arc which eventually became the subtle embodiment of the show. It’s a great story to follow over the course of this season and its many rewards hit you pretty hard in the stomach, comically, of course. You can expect a lot more of this type of storytelling to come, but it is really from season four, and perhaps this episode, that things start to escalate and the show begins to reach heights it had once only dreamt of.

There are a great many other classics dotted throughout this season including, but not limited to, ‘The Bubble Boy’ where George finds reason to argue over a trivial pursuit question. ‘The Contest’ is another marvellous episode – perhaps the best one this season – and deals with a rather hushed subject matter; masturbation. Funny, that word is never even mentioned in the episode, even though it is essentially about a bet to see who can ‘hold out’ the longest. On one of the special features the phrase ‘water-cooler episode’ is used in relation to ‘The Contest’, and I can understand why. You’d simply have to discuss it the day after seeing it; it is an episode that demands discussion and repeated laughter.

‘The Outing’ is another semi-controversial episode that perhaps unofficially created a classic Seinfeld quote “Not that there’s anything wrong with that,” in relation to things such as homosexuality. This is just the tip of the iceberg however, within the depths of the fourth season you will find dozens of brilliant episodes, many of which will make you cry from laughing too much.

Having sat though the first three seasons and going straight into this fourth season, I am quickly beginning to see exactly why this show was as big and critically acclaimed as it was. I can also see the reason why it nabbed so many awards during its time on the air. As much as I enjoyed the first seasons, this collection blows it out of the water and excels into true classic territory.

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Video
Packing a pretty solid DVD transfer that is fully able to capture the vibrancy of the original televised episodes, while all the while bumping the overall quality up a notch or two, Seinfeld looks stunning on DVD. Though the transfer of the first three seasons was nothing too jazzy, they did at least command some respect, though not quite as much as the image attributes do here. On the whole everything appears to be every so slightly sharper and a tad clearer. But I guess the real bonus would be the reduced quantities of grain and unwanted artefacts. Though there are still the occasional bouts, they are not as often as in previous seasons of this show. Elsewhere the image has a decent balance of colour and mostly fine black tones but the no matter the DVD improvements, this image still looks like one of a typical sitcom.

Audio
I found myself mostly unimpressed with the audio in the earlier seasons of Seinfeld – its constant inconsistencies were a major turn off. But after a good few months of deliberation it appears Sony have corrected this issue. Here we are treated to a sharp and often upbeat Dolby Digital 2.0 score with rich dialogue and poignant ambient audio throughout. Don’t expect robust LFE sub action or riotous surround sound as you won’t find any; it’s just your plain old dialogue-heavy sitcom affair. Though as stated it does sound a damn sight better than its predecessors and most of its competitors.

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Extras
Once the first disc has booted up you are presented with the usual Seinfeld menu system. From here one can access the episodes, extra features and audio options etc. Heading right into the episode section you will find a lengthy feature entitled ‘The Breakthrough Season’. It lasts for a good twenty minutes or so and covers pretty much everything you need to know about the fourth season – at least on a generic or need-to-know basis.

What I quite like about the Seinfeld DVD’s is how the features are actually presented. You might wander into a menu screen and find features you didn’t expect to find. It’s pretty random and unexpected and often a pain in the ass when looking for a specific feature, but quite fun nonetheless. What’s more, the menu screens are all themed to a specific Seinfeld locale – it looks quite stunning and all are soaked in the lore of the show.

Audio commentaries by the cast are provided on the following episodes: ‘The Trip, Part II’, ‘The Cheever Letters’, ‘The Contest’, ‘The Airport’, ‘The Outing’, ‘The Implant’, ‘The Junior Mint’, and ‘The Pilot’. Just as with the previous boxed sets the commentaries prove to be a great listen and are always entertaining. Through them you are bound to learn things about this show you could have only ever have attained from fumbling around on the internet or reading some overlong and monotonous trivia book.

Next up the ‘Regis and Kathie Lee Parody’ featurette was rather amusing as the Seinfeld team parody the aforementioned chat show. There are also a number of deleted scenes for selected episodes peppered throughout the DVD’s and most of which offer a laugh or two. Several ‘Inside Looks’ featurettes on a number of episodes also flesh out the array of extra features (these are again dotted across the DVD’s).

The ‘Notes About Nothing’ feature is once again present on this set offering text commentary on episodes. ‘Not That There’s Anything Wrong With That’ is an amusing blooper reel that is something of an epic at twenty minutes long! The ‘Master of His Domain’ feature offers some exclusive stand up material, which will inspire a few laughs.

‘Much Ado About Nothing’ deals with a rather infamous parking space feud that broke out during this season of the show. Just for good measure there are a few NBC promos included amongst the features which look horribly dated. Finally there is also a photo gallery which rounds out the array of features.

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Overall
The fourth season of Seinfeld proves to be a riotous laugh and here you really do get more bang for your buck entertainment that previously seen. Of course there were some downs along the way, but rest assured there aren’t many. This is pure spectacle and totally satisfying television on a grand scale. Want belly laughs that will crease you? No problem, Seinfeld’s fourth caters for all your laughter needs.

The DVD presentation is once again absolutely mind-blowing. I made a comment in my first season review that the Seinfeld DVD boxed set appeared to be the best amongst its sitcoms competitors. While I still stand by that statement, I must say that this fourth season is ever so slightly superior to its own predecessors making for a genuine must own boxed set. Here you can expect a beautiful looking DVD transfer and a robust Dolby soundtrack which sounds great. Again, the host of special features are just what the comedian ordered, making this a very special boxed set indeed. Seinfeld season four will be released on June 13th so make sure you have some spare cash at the ready.


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