|For Seinfeld, the third season's--for want of a better word--the charm. The show has found its misanthropic voice (by season's end, a fed-up Elaine tells herself, "I gotta get some new friends"), the ensemble has a firmer grasp of their characters, and the writers rise to the occasion with episodes that have entered the Seinfeld pantheon, including the Seinfeld equivalent of a Very Special Episode, "The Boyfriend," with Keith Hernandez and the J.F.K. parody, "The Library," featuring Philip Baker Hall channeling Jack Webb as library bookhound Bookman, "The Pez Dispenser," and "The Keys," with an L.A.-bound Kramer winding up on Murphy Brown. Michael Richards, especially, comes into his own this season as Kramer. The first two seasons built up the mystique of this "man-child"/"parasite." So while he was absent in season 2's "The Chinese Restaurant," he is now out and about with the close-knit, albeit dysfunctional, trio. Julia Louis-Dreyfus has some of her giddiest golden moments, zonked on painkillers in "The Pen," or, as a bored party guest in "The Stranded," telling an obnoxious bride-to-be that "Maybe the dingo ate your baby." And don't get us started on Jason Alexander as George, series co-creator Larry David's neurotic and angst-ridden alter-ego. To paraphrase what Julia Roberts said of Denzel Washington, we don't want to live in a world where Alexander doesn't have an Emmy.
But it's the extensive bonus features that give this four-disc set "hand" over other TV-on-DVD releases. The "Inside Look" episode intros, optional pop-up "Notes About Nothing," and candid, albeit a little too casual, commentaries offer a fount of information to even the most obsessive Seinfeld fans. We learn that even the most outrageous episodes, such as "The Pez Dispenser," were inspired by real-life events. Especially telling is Alexander's observation that Jerry never really socialized with the other ensemble members. This has extended to the commentaries: Seinfeld pairs with David on some episodes, while Alexander, Richards and Dreyfus team up on others. They are gracious to the guest stars and extras, and mostly mum on Jer. --Donald Liebenson