It's hard to believe, but for the first three seasons nobody really knew that Seinfeld was about, well, you know. It wasn't until season 4--unleashed here in a four-disc set that's equal in scope, quality, and quantity of bonus material to its predecessors--that the show really became something. In a series which can claim every installment as classic, the two-parter on disc 1 titled "The Pitch/The Ticket" truly stands out as a defining episode and, in retrospect, marked Seinfeld 4 as the breakthrough season. It's the one where (fake) NBC executives express their interest in working with Jerry Seinfeld on a TV show, then moves to the who's-on-first shtick of George successfully pitching Jerry on creating "a show about nothing." Scattered throughout the discs in commentaries by cast and creators and in numerous "Inside Look" documentaries, nearly everyone expresses some anxiety about the season having a story "arc" depicting Jerry and his "real" life becoming a sitcom. The show had been only marginally successful up to that point anyway, and with the edict, "no hugging, no learning," still in place, maybe messing with nothing was a bad idea. What makes the arc so arch is the self-reflexive way it details the reality of Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David coming up with the concept and pitching it to (real) NBC executives as a show that really was about, well, you know. In one of the many informally informative interview segments, Jerry remembers hitting a stride during this time when a lot of crazy ideas started to make sense. "Everything was just a wild guess," he says, "and it takes a while to get confident that you're guessing pretty good. I think sometime in season 4 we realized we were guessing pretty good." Oh, that we could all be so good at nothing.
Season 4 also gave us the episodes "The Bubble Boy" ("He lives in a bubble!"), "The Pick" ("There was no pick!"), and, perhaps most memorably, "The Contest." Recalling how nervous he thought NBC might be about a show based on how long a person can remain--ahem--master of his domain, Larry David says that he kept the idea hidden for a long time. He may have had NBC sweating, but the episode goes by without anyone uttering the word that it's really about. The curmudgeonly David also observes that another famous season 4 episode, "The Outing," only made it on the air due to a network "note" about making sure it wouldn't be offensive to homosexuals. Hence we have the addition of another standard to the Seinfeld lexicon of American pop culture: "Not that there's anything wrong with that!" Not only wasn't there anything wrong with it, the episode won a GLAAD Media Award. Season 4 also brought Seinfeldits first Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series. Stay tuned for season 5 (and a move to the coveted Thursday-at-9 slot) when the volcano we now know was always brewing really blew its comedic top. --Ted Fry