There are plenty of laudable American comedies out there - Cheers, Frasier and Friends to name just a few. Most of these programs rely on the concept of making fun out of a situation that audiences can usual relate to. Cheers used bar-related situations, Friends was mainly set in an apartment and, whilst Frasier had a few more locations, it largely relied on places that the average person would visit on an average day -work, home, the bar or the restaurant etc. Although I managed to catch at least some of these different offerings - and all of Friends - I never got around to watching Seinfeld. So it is more than a little strange coming in to it on its fourth season.
Set largely around the infamous Seinfeld living room, the show follows stand-up comic Jerry Seinfeld as he hangs around with his crazy friends and mulls over life. His core buddies include George, played to neurotic perfection by Jason Alexander, Michael Richards as the wacky Kramer and Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Seinfeld's vivacious ex, Elaine. These guys don't actually get up to much - except perhaps in the season premiere where they go to L.A. - but every episode houses a mini-adventure within the confines of their nominally normal lives.
Now as a complete outsider, I can honestly tell you that I had my reservations about Seinfeld. Initially he seemed smug and smarmy and incessantly irritating. His friend George, who gets almost as much screen time, was no less annoying and the only saving grace seemed to be Kramer, who was so crazy he simply couldn't help but be entertaining. However, a few episodes in and Seinfeld grew on me. His relationship with the neurotic George became amusing, the relentless sparring with his ex was clever - and her self-referential voiceover immensely entertaining - and Kramer was still just plain crazy. I'm not saying that it is the best comedy I have ever seen, but it was certainly good viewing and worth my time.
Episode-wise this series has its good episodes and its standard episodes, which are still quite entertaining. The classics are naturally laugh-out-loud funny or particularly interesting because of their theme - and inherently also pretty damn funny. The season premiere is noteworthy because of its L.A. setting and mockery of TV detective shows that take themselves too seriously, but I actually preferred some of the later episodes including The Junior Mint, The Outing and The Implant. I doubt there are many who could keep a straight face throughout an entire episode - even Kramer's famous entrances will trigger an involuntary smirk or two - and good quality comedy these days is quite hard to find (you only have to check Channel 5's double-bill of Joey and Two and a Half Men to see how bad things have become). Fans will not need to be sold on this one and newcomers should probably start with the first season but should be aware that this is generally regarded as the best season.
The Trip Part 1 & 2, The Pitch, The Ticket, The Wallet, The Watch, The Bubble Boy, The Cheever Letters, The Opera, The Virgin, The Contest, The Airport, The Pick, The Visa, The Movie, The Outing, The Old Man, The Implant, The Handicap Spot, The Junior Mint, The Smelly Car and The Pilot Part 1 & 2.