More than 30 years ago, Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld brought an impressive innovation to the TV sitcom: Protagonists who are uniformly terrible people.
Sure, Married… with Children’s deplorable Bundys had been on air for a couple of years, but that series was on Fox—then a small upstart network—and an explicit parody of family sitcom tropes, while Seinfeld was, at least on the surface, a more traditionally structured show. It was also in the big leagues, airing on NBC, and the terribleness of its central characters was a lot more subtle: Jerry, George, Elaine, and Kramer made us love them while also reflecting some of our worst flaws, overreacting to small slights and petty annoyances in all the horrible ways we’d probably like to, if we thought we could get away with it.
After a rocky start in the ratings, it broke out in a big
salad way, and was a ratings monsters through the remainder of its nine-season run. It has remained a favorite in reruns (and, more recently, on streaming services) ever since—thanks in no small part to an all-time great cast. Its even darker spiritual sequel, Curb Your Enthusiasm (which featured a whole season revolving around a fictional Seinfeld reunion special) is still going strong. Oh, and Seinfeld’s coming to Netflix starting Oct. 1—the streaming giant having paid some $500 million to grab the rights away from rival Hulu—so you’ll be able to while away your fall visiting or revisiting the gang.
Maybe you’ve never watched the show, and are feeling left out of this particular pop culture moment, or maybe it has just been a couple decades and you need a refresher. If you don’t want to immediately dig into 180 episodes, you can take a representative sample and totally get the gist (not hard when the show is about nothing, am I right?). Like a lot of TV, this show peaked somewhere in the middle seasons, and despite some minor plot continuity and a few running gags, there’s no need to start at the beginning.
This isn’t a “best of” list. Rather, these are 10 episodes that represent the things that Seinfeld did particularly well—including a couple with iconic punchlines and catchphrases that will get you in with the cool crowd, circa 1995.