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The Chinese Restaurant Is The One Seinfeld Episode Fans Want First-Time Watchers To See

"Seinfeld" really excelled with very basic premises. For example, one of the early episodes that took an unusual format was the Season 3 episode "The Parking Garage," in which Jerry, George, Elaine, and Kramer wander around a parking garage trying to find their car. According to the behind-the-scenes featurette on the show's DVD release, "The Parking Garage" was one of the most challenging episodes to make because it was both hard to write action-driven scenes in such a limited setting and because of the physical exertion required to shoot the episode. 

But the episode that first made an impression by breaking out of the show's traditional format came early on in the Season 2 episode "The Chinese Restaurant," in which three main characters spend the entire episode just waiting for a table. During the hijinx that follows, Elaine tries to work up the nerve to steal food off a stranger's table, George has to fight to use a pay phone, and Jerry tries to avoid a woman he knows but can't remember exactly who she is

According to a behind-the-scenes interview with Jerry Seinfeld, the episode was based on an actual incident when he and Larry David waited for a table at a real-life Chinese restaurant called Genghis Cohen in Los Angeles. Somehow, that simple incident launched into one of the show's most popular episodes. So why do fans love it so much?

Seinfeld, party of four

"The Chinese Restaurant" is consistently ranked as one of the show's best. In a piece for Philly Voice, it was listed as one of the three episodes for new "Seinfeld" fans to begin with. Fans also recommend the episode on social media, arguing that the episode is the best choice for newcomers. Another user on Reddit, A_Real_Standup_Guy, explained why fans love the episode so much. "I think it's because it just epitomizes the whole 'show about nothing' premise – it's literally about waiting around for a table, and yet they were able to squeeze all that character and comedy out of it."

Atxflyguy83 argued that appeal came from it being both a groundbreaking episode for the show and a simple situation that fans have been in before. Because the premise of the episode is so simple, it resonates with viewers. Waiting for a table is something that most will do at one point or another, and the frustration the characters feel in the situation makes it especially relatable. Reddit user Couldbeworse2 pointed out that the episode is "aggressively about nothing, yet it has all these bits of urban life that resonate (or did at the time)." 

It seems that in being a "show about nothing," the series often captured bits of bits of reality and offered fans a comical look at real life.