Seinfeld Is the Third-Best Sitcom of All Time
The long-awaited Netflix debut of the influential New York-set sitcom Seinfeld went up on October 1, and fans were quick to notice alterations in the presentation. The outrage was initially directed at the Season 8 episode “The Pothole,” in which George loses his keys in a paved-over pothole. As one might expect, seeing the titular pothole is vital, yet the altered aspect ratio on Netflix eliminates it. Other images of the primary four characters at Jerry’s apartment were published as proof of the show’s unusual appearance.
After losing both Friends and The Office in recent years, the streaming service invested a stunning $500 million in the NBC classic to ensure that it would remain people’s favored destination for 22-minute comfort viewing. People are outraged that Seinfeld is only listed as the third-best sitcom of all time, even though it had been earning billions from reruns well into the 2010s.
Seinfeld fans pointed out that this wasn’t a new issue, as the show was widescreen on Hulu as well, but the service change has resurrected the issue. For some, the fact that one of the defining shows of the 1990s no longer looks like it belongs in that decade is particularly unsettling (though the wardrobe still makes that abundantly clear).
However, as one Twitter user pointed out, rescanning the footage isn’t always easy because the frames were filmed in 4:3, and “frequently outside the frame are the edges of sets, boom mikes, lighting, crew personnel, whatever.” They didn’t intend to film them full-frame, to begin with, and the cost of doing so would be prohibitive.”
“Yada, Yada, Yada”
The situation with Seinfeld isn’t the first time a streaming behemoth has alienated fans by bringing a popular show on its platform. When The Simpsons premiered on Disney+, it was also in a 16:9 aspect ratio rather than 4:3, which resulted in a plethora of jokes being missed (and also a whole industry of websites explaining how you could change the aspect ratio emerged, to boot). Disney+ eventually included the ability to change aspect ratios, though it took months after The Simpsons premiered. Netflix was chastised in August 2020 for airing the animated series The Legend of Korra at a frame rate that was excessively rapid, resulting in strange movements.
Netflix published Charlie Kaufman’s I’m Thinking of Ending Things in 4:3 last year, despite the writer-director telling DAZED that the corporation was afraid that viewers would think there was a problem with their TV and had to be persuaded to accept it.
Given the overwhelming dissatisfaction, it’s probable that Netflix, like Disney+, may address the issue with a 4:3 option. But in the meantime, imagine Kramer crashing into Jerry’s flat, making this look, and screaming, “The ratio is wrong!”