Power Ranking Seinfeld: The Definitive Best Seasons

Which season is most spongeworthy?
Power Ranking Seinfeld: The Definitive Best Seasons

For a show about nothing, Seinfeld somehow lasted nine seasons. In the words of guest-star Teri Hatcher, they were real and they were spectacular. There’s a reason Netflix paid about half a billion dollars for the rights to stream the classic comedy.  But not all of its episodes -- or even seasons -- were created equally.  If you’re looking to binge, here is ComedyNerd’s definitive power ranking of Seinfeld’s most spongeworthy seasons ever.

Season 1

It’s not that Season 1, which started as The Seinfeld Chronicles before quickly changing its name to Seinfeld, was lousy -- it simply had only five episodes. (At the time, the shortest series order in network history.) That makes it tough to compete with full seasons. The show was still finding its voice through the first five stories, although it was quirky and funny enough for NBC to give it one more chance. 

Standout episode: The Stakeout might as well be called The Stalking since that’s essentially what Jerry does -- creeping around a woman’s workplace so he can pretend to run into her accidentally.  (Of course, this was based on something that socially weird Larry David did in real life.) But we’ll put a thumbtack in this one since it introduces Jerry’s parents and the importer/exporter “Art Vandelay.” It was also nominated for a Writers Guild Award.

Season 9

You know a show is running out of ideas when the cast starts making trips all over the place.  While Seinfeld’s best episodes are grounded in the characters’ everyday lives, Season 9 sees Elaine traveling to Europe, Elaine dragging George and Jerry to India for a wedding, and Jerry heading to Florida. What, the diner isn’t good enough for you? Then of course, there’s the two-part series finale, one of the most controversial endings to a beloved show in TV history. We’ll give Larry and Jerry credit for holding tight to their “no hugs, no lessons” credo until the bitter end.

Standout episode: The Serenity Now was yet another classic entry that introduced new vocabulary to the American populace, a calming if ineffective mantra for whenever Frank Costanza’s (or our) blood pressure reached its boiling point. 

Season 6

There’s nothing wrong, per se, with Season 6 -- it just lacks the big moments of the seasons that follow.  We’re also docking points for The Highlights of 100 episode, with Seinfeld introducing old clips to commemorate the series’ 100th go-round.  A clip show, Jerry?  Really?

Standout episode: The Jimmy has a little bit of everything -- a recreational athlete who refers to himself in the third person, Kramer perusing Penthouse magazine at the dentist’s office, the crooning of Mel Torme, sweaty George, and Bryan “Breaking Bad” Cranston. Forget the trips to Los Angeles -- we love the episodes with local weirdos.

Season 2

Seinfeld was no slam dunk for renewal after its stunted first season; to prove its lack of confidence, NBC only ponied up for 13 follow-up episodes . But that was enough for the series to start taking shape -- we once again meet Helen and Morty Seinfeld (this time with the actors who would portray them for the rest of the run), and Newman is introduced, albeit offscreen and it’s not yet Wayne Knight. We’re fond of Season 2 for building plots around baby showers, busboys, and answering machines -- you know, nothing.

Standout episode: The Chinese Restaurant set the viewing public on notice -- Seinfeld would build entire episodes around events as mundane as waiting for a table.  The episode is set in real-time so we’re stuck waiting around with Jerry, Elaine, and George -- and it’s a lot more fun than the movie they were trying to get to anyway.  Plus the omnipresent James Hong!

Season 8

No longer at its peak but still capable of the occasional tape-measure home run, Seinfeld started to get a little raggedy at the edges.  For whatever reason -- too much show-running responsibility? -- Jerry no longer bookended the show with stand-up routines.  A pregnant Julia Louis-Dreyfus meant Elaine spent most episodes hiding behind couches and absurdly large house plants. Most damning of all?  No Larry David. He left a huge kvetching hole in his wake. 

Standout episode: The Yada Yada added another phrase to the lexicon, but we’ll go with The Bizarro Jerry, an episode where Elaine finds new friends who are the exact opposite of Jerry, George, and Kramer.  It’s also the episode where Jerry breaks up with one of his endless supply of girlfriends for having “man hands.”

Season 3

Seinfeld finds its stride in the excellent Season 3, featuring another Chinese restaurant-esque episode spent trying to find a car in The Parking Garage. The characters of Kramer and Elaine find nuances and quirks, more recognizable as the oddballs they’d remain for the rest of the run. It’s also the season that gave us the ubiquitous Kramer painting found in countless 90s dorm rooms.

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Cosmo replaced the St. Pauli Girl on countless dorm room walls.

Standout episode: The Boyfriend had it all -- Jerry’s man-crush on Mets icon Keith Hernandez, Hernandez’s girl-crush on Elaine, the return of Vandelay Industries, and a devastating parody of JFK’s courtroom scene, this time argued with Jerry’s magic loogie theory. The season when the show leveled up.

Season 7

What separates Season 7 from other top seasons is a throughline and a pretty damn funny one, beginning with George proposing to Susan and ending with his fiancee’s death-by-envelope-glue. In between, we get plenty of Larry David’s hilarious George Steinbrenner, Elaine’s dwindling supply of birth control sponges, and Jerry’s villainous pursuit of a loaf of rye bread. 

Standout episode: The Soup Nazi wins by virtue of being so iconic. In addition to adding another catchphrase -- no soup for you! -- to our national glossary,  it created a second career for actor Larry Thomas, who guested on numerous shows and made live appearances as the character. The episode is so seminal that it inspired its own pornographic parody

Season 5

The series’ middle years represent Seinfeld’s dizzying peak.  A series of killer episodes dominate Season 5, including George’s cold-water shrinkage, faked orgasms, puffy shirts, low-talkers, and cigar-store Indians. The oddball show was no longer the undiscovered cool kids show -- everyone was watching and the stars were taking home all the awards hardware.

Standout episode: The Opposite is Apex George, realizing that every decision he’s ever made is wrong and that by refusing to trust his instincts, he might just make something of himself.  He picks up an alluring woman by telling her that he’s unemployed and lives with his parents. He lands a dream job with the Yankees by telling Steinbrenner that he’s run the team into the ground. It’s thrilling to see George embrace his antithesis -- and be richly rewarded.

Season 4

Another season with a year-long subplot (George and Jerry pitching a show about nothing to the networks), strung together by a brain-blasting number of classic episodes that resulted in the show’s only Emmy for Oustanding Comedy Series.  In Season 4, we meet the Bubble Boy, learn how not to pitch a network sitcom, dodge death threats from Joe Davola, and learn that John F. Kennedy Jr. has a way with virgins. The undisputed heavyweight champ of Seinfeld seasons.  

Standout episode: The Contest may be the single best episode of television comedy ever. The fact that Larry David could build an episode around a masturbation contest, not even mention the word “masturbation,” and win a writing Emmy for his trouble?  Truly a master of his domain. 

For more ComedyNerd, be sure to check out:

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The 50 Best Comedies of the Past 50 Years: 20-11

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