When viewing the entire Seinfeld series in syndication, many of the very early episodes come off as weak and difficult to watch. The characters are under-developed, the pacing is awkwardly slow, and the overall comedy style is very different. It seems that the series creators were playing it safe, opting for a more conventional romantic comedy feel rather than the zany and madcap tone that eventually defined the program. Plots usually involved the trials and tribulations of Jerrys love life. The lead characters were a bit more adult, and conversely, less funny. Stories revolved around vaguely amusing ironic situations, but rarely broke into so-called laugh out loud territory. Episode number thirteen, The Heart Attack, changed all of that.
The Heart Attack was truly the beginning of the definitive Seinfeld style. The humor became more quirky, faster-paced, and loaded with warped non sequitir. We finally started seeing Jerry, Elaine, George, and Kramer as four immature and self-centered individuals whose personality flaws translated into some highly appealing, if less-than-likeable, characters.
The episode is loaded with Seinfeld and friends oddly hilarious personality tics. Jerry obsesses over an obscure line in a bad science fiction film. George insists upon calculating the tip to the penny, even while experiencing chest pains. Elaine rather transparently gold-digs a handsome young doctor who turns out to have a very kinky fetish. Kramer recommends a medicine man of questionable credentials whose treatments cause more harm than good.
In fact, the best scene involves George, Kramer, and Jerry visiting this so-called holistic healer. As the dubious doc, played by Steven Toblowsky, uses incredibly bizarre methods to examine the ailing Costanza, we hear Jerrys thoughts--a continuous string of insultive one-liners. The scene ends with a hysterically disastrous non-sequitir, setting the stage for the rest of the series.
The Heart Attack is not without its faults. Like most early episodes, the pacing lags in spots and many jokes bomb. However, it was the first installment to truly set the warped and wacky style that Seinfeld fans would come to know and love.