Nostalgia for Seinfeld is difficult to muster, considering that the show is nearly as ubiquitous today as it was a decade ago. As Jerry Seinfeld himself jokes in ”The Roundtable,” one of this 33-disc boxed set’s plum extras: ”Believe it or not, there are parts of the United States where the show can only be seen four times a day!” Yet the fact remains that more time has passed since Seinfeld’s ‘98 finale than the sitcom’s entire nine-season run. Finally, the cast — co-creator Seinfeld, Jason Alexander, Michael Richards, Julia Louis-Dreyfus — and co-creator Larry David can retire the series’ sacred creed: no hugging, no learning.
The Seinfeld gang has been emptying the vault since 2004, giggling through the commentaries, bloopers, and behind-the-scenes docs that enhanced a steady stream of DVDs. We learned about Louis-Dreyfus’ 1993 parking-space feud withTom Arnold and why Elaine?s father (Lawrence Tierney) appeared in only one episode (the cast recalls the late Tierney pilfering items, including a butcher’s knife, from the set). But what makes the ninth and final season release special — in addition to enabling a sleek boxed set with a compendious Coffee Table Book that chronicles each episode — is the palpable sense that, despite reruns that will air in perpetuity, the work is truly, finally done. In the freewheeling ”Roundtable,” the relaxed quintet chuckles over NBC’s brutal critique of the unsteady pilot (”No segment of the audience was eager to watch the show again”); Richards’ castmates admit that they were often intimidated by his standoffish preparatory intensity; Alexander apologizes for angrily confronting David when George was left out of season 3?s ”The Pen” (it never happened again). Only David still harbors some resentment — at you! The Curb Your Enthusiasm star is peeved — not unlike an oldman trying to send back soup in a deli — about the tepid reaction to the ridiculously hyped finale. ”They all have their little ideas of what should happen,” he gripes. ”Your show isn?t going to be better than the one that they had in their head.” The most remarkable aspect of Seinfeld, reinforced by 180 episodes at your fingertips, was its constant creative evolution. While its characters famously never lost their malignant apathy and self-indulgence, the writers were always challenging the boundaries of what a sitcom was allowed to be. Unconventional premises, e.g., season 2’s surreal ”The Chinese Restaurant,” and taboo-shattering plots, like season 4?s master-of-your-domain ”The Contest,” led to daring episodes like season 9?s Harold Pinter-inspired ”The Betrayal,” which unspooled in reverse. ”We stood for something in our time,” Alexander boasts. Who cares if that something was blithely confused with nothing? A