Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer aren’t quite John, Paul, George and Ringo.
But what The Beatles were to pop music in the ‘60s, the “Seinfeld” crew were to laughs in the ‘90s as they reinvented the sitcom.
As series star Jerry Seinfeld recalls: “Before the very last episode we shot, I told them, ‘Like it or not, we are bonded together for life as a group. There’s nobody I would rather be stuck with for the rest of my life.’ “
Now these bitterly funny urban dwellers — whose NBC series went out with a ratings bang in 1998 after nine seasons, 57 Emmy nominations and 13 wins — finally arrive on DVD on Nov. 23.
The first three seasons are divided into two volumes: Seasons 1 and 2, and Season 3 ($49.95 each; combo gift set $119.95).
Sales are expected to be huge. On the Web site tvshowsondvd.com, “Seinfeld” ranks as the second-most-desired DVD collection not yet available. No. 1: “Charmed.” (Apparently that Cosmo Kramer is no match for the elusive magic of Shannen Doherty.)
Of course, you wouldn’t expect a man of wealth and taste — one whose finicky TV alter-ego was turned off by a girlfriend just because she had fungicide in her bathroom — to put out a run-of-the-mill DVD collection.
A loser like George Constanza would simply dump the nine seasons of “Seinfeld” episodes into store bins and be done with it. But that’s not good enough for Jerry Seinfeld, someone reputed to own 500 pairs of white sneakers, all immaculate.
Sure enough, when the first two volumes are released, each four-disc set will pack a veritable Festivus — that special holiday “for the rest of us” — of extras.
“If it were just the DVDs, it wouldn’t be that exciting,” says Seinfeld, who estimates it took about three years to gather and edit the archival material. “But it’s really encyclopedic.”
The 18 episodes from the first and second seasons on Volume 1 include two versions of the pilot plus such cherished moments as Jerry’s disdain of Dockers and Elaine’s first “get out!’ shove.
The 22 shows from the third season on Volume 2 introduce Wayne Knight as Jerry’s nemesis Newman and such terms as “hand” (as in upper hand) and “the vault” (where secrets are kept sealed in the mind).
With the $119.95 gift set, you get a bonus: Monk’s Diner salt and pepper shakers shaped like mustard and ketchup containers.
The 24 hours of additional features split between the two volumes include a documentary, bloopers, outtakes, never-seen-before Seinfeld stand-up routines, commentaries and trivia. (Ever wonder where Kramer was during the Chinese restaurant episode? The secret is finally revealed.)
Seinfeld is most fond of the gag-reel footage: “At the end of each season, we would have a party, and one of the biggest highlights was a 30- to 40-minute gag reel with every scene over the course of the year where we broke up laughing and ruined the tape.”
Regular watchers know all too well that he was most prone to giggle fits.
“I took zero pride in acting,” Seinfeld says. “I was just so thrilled when a joke would work.”
Money problems almost deleted some of the DVD extras. Late last year, “Seinfeld” co-stars Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Elaine) and Jason Alexander (George) were refusing to do commentary tracks and promotional duties if they weren’t paid for their efforts. Michael Richards (Kramer) agreed to participate but wasn’t pleased about the lack of extra cash, either.
But all was settled amicably, says “Seinfeld” executive producer Howard West, who oversaw the DVDs’ production.
Seinfeld, who turned 50 this year (“It’s over. I’m done,” he jokes), spends most weekends performing stand-up around the country. He has little interest in returning to series TV grind.
“Having a sitcom is like being a captain of a ship,” he says. “Doing stand-up is like surfing on a wave of energy of people laughing. It’s not about money. It’s about proving I can do it.”
The comic also has proved he can commit. He has been married to his wife, Jessica, since 1999. They live with children Sascha, 3, and Julian, 1, at an East Hampton estate (price: an estimated $35 million) once owned by singer Billy Joel.
How alike are Seinfeld and TV Jerry?
“It’s not a leap to think he wound up where I did,” Seinfeld says.
However, he adds: “His TV series didn’t work out. Mine did. He is not living in Billy Joel’s house.”