Sunday, February 20, 2011

Countdown: The 10 Greatest TV Seasons of All Time - #4

Seinfeld - Season 4 - Seinfeld put the last nail in the coffin of the traditional multi-camera sitcom.  Apologies to How I Met Your Mother and...and...(I can't think of any other halfway decent multi-camera shows), but modern audiences have concluded that laugh tracks, bright lights, and fake, simplified sets are more of a detriment to comedy than an impetus.  Seinfeld worked because it was often hilariously self-aware of the ridiculousness of the old format, making it the first true postmodern deconstruction of situation comedies.  Never was this more clear than during the show's Emmy-winning, groundbreaking fourth season.  Co-creator/show-runner Larry David and company had the brilliant idea of doing a season-long arc (something they had initially eschewed because Seinfeld was supposed to be about nothing) where Jerry (who, of course, plays himself--a stand-up comedian) and pal George write a pilot for NBC that will star Jerry as himself and ends up being exactly like Seinfeld--following the adventures of a fictional version of Jerry, George, Elaine, and Kramer.  This allowed the writers to poke fun at themselves and the sitcom genre as a whole, and season 4 finds everyone involved at the top of their game.  There are stretches of episodes that represent possibly the best streak of greatness ever sustained by a comedy series.  Seinfeld remained superb for another three seasons or so, two of which could easily have made this list, but when you see the key episodes below, you will understand why there was no real competition.