12 Most Awful Seinfeld Episodes
Even a tremendous series like Seinfeld slips up once in a while. For my list of Seinfeld’s 12 worst episodes, I passed over seasons one and two; the show hadn’t hit its stride yet and most of those first 12 episodes are lame, at least by comparison to what was to come.
What distinguishes these undistinguished Seinfeld episodes? Basically, they’re boring — boring characters, boring plots. In some cases, the premises are good, but poorly executed. In other cases, the ideas themselves fall short.
Anyway, you be the judge. Here, in chronological order, are my 12 worst Seinfelds. (New to Seinfeld? There are spoilers below.)
1. The Dog
Appropriately titled, this episode goes nowhere very slowly. Waiting for a seat in a Chinese restaurant: funny. Waiting for a dog owner to reclaim his dog: all bark and no comic bite. No subplots to speak of; just a lot of dialog… and barking. The Dog will make anyone’s list of pet peeves.
2. The Alternate Side
As we’ll see again in #5, parking and action just don’t mix. All the rigmarole involved with George parking cars is too drawn out, and Kramer’s Woody Allen subplot, while funny, is basically all dialog. The episode has a few redeeming qualities, however, such as Jerry’s clowning of an obtuse car rental clerk, and the classic line, “These pretzels are making me thirsty.”
3. The Fix-Up
Maggie Wheeler is a gifted actress, but I wish The Fix-Up would have given her the comic latitude she had in Friends as Janice Litman — the plot is interesting enough, but there’s too much realism and not enough humor. The absence of subplots puts even more comic pressure on the main story, and neither the writers nor the actors can deliver. The Fix-Up needs fixing.
4. The Parking Space
A determined George fights over an equally determined rival for a parking spot in front of Jerry’s apartment. A halfway decent subplot, maybe, but it’s too thin for the main storyline. To make matters worse, there’s no resolution to the parking conflict, and other than Elaine’s dramatic description of her and George’s high speed chase with wild teenagers, there’s not much here that moves over “5” on the funny dial.
5. The Opera
The plot’s too complicated, Joe Davola is too weird, and there are to many operatic allusions for the average sitcom audience, myself included. Of all the 180 Seinfelds, this is the only episode that doesn’t make me laugh at least once.
6. The Smelly Car
The main problem with The Smelly Car is the implausibility of an irremovable body odor. Seinfeld characters can be implausible, and they can do implausible things, but defying the laws of nature takes us out of comedy and into science fiction. Compounding the problem, constant gags about body odor are a bit sophomoric for a Seinfeld script, leading us to the unfortunate conclusion that The Smelly Car kind of stinks.
7. The Barber
I guess I don’t like opera, and episodes like this and #5 explain why — although The Barber is definitely a cut above The Opera. The operatic hijinks surrounding Jerry’s attempt to sneak a haircut is far too goofy for my tastes. However, Jerry’s bad Enzo haircut and George “working” on the Pensky file are very funny, so The Barber barely makes the cut as a 12-worst episode.
8. The Stand-In
The Stand-In takes on touchy subjects like grave illness, little people and exhibitionism, which is all well and good if it’s funny — but this feels more like David Lynch outtakes than a Seinfeld episode, more weird than amusing. And, the subplot with George committing to a relationship with Daphne out of pride falls flat. The Stand-In just doesn’t stand up to Seinfeld standards.
9. The Chaperone
George outfitting the Yankees with cotton uniforms is a promising start, but it’s all downhill from there. Elaine’s imitation of Jackie O. leading to a job from Mr. Pitt is too contrived, and Kramer’s coaching of Miss Rhode Island produces a few chuckles at best. Interesting side note — this is the first of two episodes involving the killing of birds, a theme handled much more adeptly in The Strong Box.
10. The Couch
Two big problems: Poppie is whiny and altogether unappealing; a plot revolving around urination on furniture conjures up memories of The Smelly Car, which isn’t good for anyone. If you want to watch offensive people doing offensive things, watch the Farrelly brothers, because they do a better job.
11. The Gymnast
This episode mirrors The Chaperone, in that George’s story (eating an éclair out of the garbage and going to the bathroom with his shirt off) is funny, Elaine’s story (culminating with Mr. Pitt doing an inadvertent Hitler impersonation) is contrived, and Jerry’s plot (dating a Romanian gymnast) doesn’t produce many laughs. These last three episodes, by the way, were aired very close together. Maybe the writers were sick.
12. The Susie
You have to search far and wide for a stinker in the later seasons, but here it is. The Peggy-Peterman-Elaine-Susie story, where Susie doesn’t exist, takes the premise too far with the funeral scene. Jerry applying pressure to his bookie is a clever idea, but again, we’re given too much of a good thing. The Susie has its strong points, though, including George’s musical voice mail greeting and Kramer dumping him as Allison’s proxy.
There you have it: 12 awful Seinfeld episodes. What do you think? Are there any on my list that don’t belong? Which episodes would you put on a list of Seinfeld stinkers?
Featured image courtesy of Cory Schmitz licensed via Creative Commons.