The Most Underrated ‘Seinfeld’ Episodes Now Available on Hulu
Even though Seinfeld ended its nine-season run on NBC in 1998, it’s never really gone off the air. It’s been kept alive through endless reruns and syndication, on DVD, and by the endless quoting of fans (yada yada yada). But there’s renewed interest in Seinfeld this week with the series’ debut on Hulu. Every Hulu subscriber can watch all 180 episodes of the landmark sitcom right now, which is leading a lot of folks to revisit their old favorites, or discover the show for the first time.
A bunch of sites have put together lists of the “best” Seinfeld episodes (and a few brave souls even ranked every episode). To try something a little bit different, we decided to recommend a few Seinfelds that typically don’t make best-of lists but are still worth seeking out. None of the ten underrated episodes below appeared on Hulu’s own list of the best Seinfeld shows (which, for the record, featured “The Stakeout,” “The Chinese Restaurant,” “The Yada Yada,” “The Soup Nazi,” “The Marine Biologist,” “The Contest,” and “The Merv Griffin Show”). We also disallowed anything from Season 4, the year Seinfeld went meta, the Jerry Seinfeld oncreen created his own Seinfeld-esque sitcom, and the series reeled off one classic after another (including “The Pitch,” “The Bubble Boy,” The Cheever Letters,” “The Opera,” “The Junior Mint,” “The Smelly Car,” and “The Pilot”). Basically everything from Season 4 is great; you don’t need us to tell you that.
Click the links in each episode title to go watch them on Hulu. And then do some little kicks to celebrate this great show’s new life online.
1. “The Chicken Roaster”
Season 8, Episode 8
Written by Alec Berg & Jeff Schaffer
Seinfeld’s final two seasons, which were produced without series co-creator Larry David, were very hit or miss. Without David’s influence, the show indulged more and more interconnected silliness and strayed further and further from its “show about nothing” roots. Still a couple of later episodes hit a really nice sweet spot of absurdity and observation, like “The Chicken Roaster,” where the arrival of a Kenny Rogers Roasters on the block prompts Jerry and Kramer to switch apartments — and personalities. The premise is preposterous, but played to the hilt by Seinfeld and Michael Richards. In the ’90s, Jerry’s “bad acting” was a constant qualifier in writing about the show. (“Seinfeld’s great, but yeah, Jerry can’t act.”) “The Chicken Roaster” showed how far Seinfeld had grown onscreen.
2. “The Deal”
Season 2, Episode 9
Written by Larry David
Although it ultimately became one of the most beloved and successful sitcoms in television history, Seinfeld got off to a very rocky start. There was a full year between the first airing of the show’s pilot and the first episode of its first season, which received a pitiful four-episode order. It picked up steam in Season 2, as Seinfeld and David found their creative groove and solidified the characters. The moment Seinfeld became SEINFELD arguably came during episode 9, “The Deal,” in a brilliantly clever scene about Jerry and Elaine negotiating a potential return to physical intimacy. It’s one of the first instances of the show creating its own lingo and catchphrases, a practical matter (because a broadcast TV show in 1991 couldn’t talk frankly about sex anyway) that became one of the show’s trademarks.
3. “The Fix-Up”
Season 3, Episode 16
Written by Larry Charles & Elaine Pope
This episode ups the tête-à-tête gamesmanship of “The Deal” by doubling the conversations; in this episode’s centerpiece, Jerry and George and Elaine and her friend Cynthia each share private conversations as Jerry and Elaine try to convince them to agree to a blind date. By this point, Seinfeld and Jason Alexander’s chemistry had evolved enough to allow them to mimic a genuine conversation, rather than just passing set-ups and punchlines. The physical comedy is great too; watch how Alexander wrings extra laughs out of a line about how “thick, lustrous hair” is very important while scratching his bald scalp. This episode did win an Emmy for Outstanding Writing of a Comedy Series, so maybe it’s not that underrated. All the more reason to watch it.
4. “The Fusilli Jerry”
Season 6, Episode 21
Written by Marjorie Gross & Jonathan Gross and Ron Hague & Charlie Rubin
A case of mistaken identity and a pair of vanity license plates spark one of the show’s most inspired and multilayered storylines. While Kramer comes to grips with life as “The Assman” and Jerry battles Elaine’s new boyfriend over a pilfered sex move, Frank Costanza argues about another stolen move and then receives an unlikely injury which necessitates a visit to ... a real assman, a proctologist. More great lingo, more clever allegories (Jerry compares stealing sex moves to plagiarizing comedy material), and more hilariously sneaky talk about sex. The way it all comes together so perfectly in the end is, like winding up with fusilli pasta in your butt, a million-to-one shot.
5. “The Hamptons”
Season 5, Episode 21
Written by Peter Mehlman & Carol Leifer
Seinfeld’s identity is intertwined with New York, and its discussions of the city’s routines and social mores. It rarely ventured outside Manhattan, much less the Five Boroughs, but it took a very fruitful vacation to Long Island for “The Hamptons,” wherein our protagonists head east for a weekend at a friend’s beach house. Jerry, Elaine, and George’s conversation about “shrinkage” (after Jerry’s girlfriend sees George naked following a dip in a chilly swimming pool) is one of the show’s linguistic pinnacles, and put a term to a widely understood (but rarely discussed) phenomenon. In these moments, Seinfeld wasn’t just a sitcom, it was really a guide to modern life, giving people a common language with which to navigate the perils of awkward social situations.
6. “The Library”
Season 3, Episode 5
Written by Larry Charles
Over eight seasons, Seinfeld built an incredibly deep bench of eccentric supporting characters. Some became fixtures on the show, and others never went beyond a single, great episode. That was the case for Joe Bookman, the appropriately named library cop played by Philip Baker Hall, who interrogates Jerry while on the hunt for a missing copy of Tropic of Cancer. Weirdos like Joe Bookman were one of the early signs of Seinfeld’s slow shift from realism to absurdity, and as a kid I had a hard time reconciling him with the show’s fairly grounded version of Manhattan (at least in early episodes like this one). Then I moved to New York and discovered the truth: This place is full of lunatics like Joe Bookman. So if you think this character is too silly, I’ve got a flash for you joy-boy: It’s right on the money.
7. “The Opposite”
Season 5, Episode 22
Written by Larry David & Jerry Seinfeld & Andy Cowan
In its depiction of life as a series of symbiotic ups and downs, this episode verges on something like a profound philosophy of life. In a dual reversal of fortune, George gets an exciting new job working for the New York Yankees while Elaine loses hers at Pendant Publishing. Meanwhile, Jerry realizes he’s “Even Steven”; when something bad thing happens to him, a good thing tends to come along to even things out. In dark times, I’ve often comforted myself by watching “The Opposite,” and reminding myself that life always has a way of balancing the scales. There’s something very comforting to me about this idea. And if it doesn’t work for you always have the scenes of George “doing the opposite” as when he confronts a bunch of obnoxious patrons at a movie.
8. “The Rye”
Season 7, Episode 11
Written by Carol Leifer
In this episode, Jerry Seinfeld steals a loaf of bread from an old woman (while calling her an “old bag”) and a horse repeatedly farts. ’Nuff said.
9. “The Subway”
Season 3, Episode 13
Written by Larry Charles
Other Seinfeld one-location episodes like “The Chinese Restaurant” and “The Parking Garage” tend to rank higher on best-of lists than “The Subway.” But this masterful slice-of-metropolitan life has aged better than either of those shows. It follows Jerry, George, Elaine, and Kramer on four divergent paths through the bowels of New York’s subway system for what ultimately becomes a microcosmic portrait of the hassles of urban life. It’s a really funny episode, but the humor also co-exists with a kind of existential despair that was so rare on network television during the early ’90s, and is still barely seen on TV today. Poor Elaine trapped on an overcrowded car gets me every time. We’ve all been there.
10. “The Switch”
Season 6, Episode 11
Written by Bruce Kirschbaum & Sam Kass
Though this episode famously revealed Kramer’s first name, it’s really all about Jerry’s story, where he attempts the impossible: To dump one woman (who doesn’t laugh at his jokes) and immediately start dating her roommate. The sequence where Jerry and George brainstorm “the switch” (which involves the suggestion of a ménage à trois) is one of the show’s best. The whole thing backfires spectacularly when the roommates are into the ménage. That sparks another magnificent sequence, with peak Jason Alexander screaming (“This is like discovering plutonium by accident!”) and Jerry’s discomfort at the thought of becoming “an orgy guy.” (“I'd need a new bedspread and new curtains; I'd have to get thick carpeting and weirdo lighting!”) Very few things in life are perfect. These scenes are.