Netflix’s Seinfeld release restores Larry David’s original Newman dialogue. Over the course of Seinfeld’s nine-season run, the sitcom featured plenty of memorable supporting characters, but few were as iconic as Newman. A postal worker who lived in Jerry and Kramer’s building, Newman was positioned as Jerry’s archnemesis and the two had an amusing feud throughout the show. Newman was also friends with Kramer, and the two became a comedic duo in certain scenarios, playing off each other to hilarious effect.
Newman was played by Wayne Knight, as the actor made his first appearance in the Seinfeld season 3 episode “The Suicide.” However, that wasn’t the first time Newman was mentioned on the show. The character has a voice-over only role in the season 2 episode “The Revenge,” where he threatens to jump off the roof. When “The Revenge” originally aired, Newman was voiced by Larry David, as Knight had yet to be cast. When Seinfeld entered syndication, David had Knight re-record Newman’s dialogue, but that version isn’t found on Seinfeld’s new streaming home.
Seinfeld is now available on Netflix, and the version of “The Revenge” available for viewing is the original broadcast version, with David voicing Newman. The Seinfeld DVD set includes both, and the Inside Look special feature on “The Suicide” recalls the syndication story. The featurette plays both versions of the dialogue for audiences to hear. Check out the video (hat tip i_zzz) below:
What’s interesting is something similar happened with Frank Costanza, who made his first appearance in the season 4 episode “The Handicap Spot.” When that episode originally aired, Frank was played by John Randolph. Of course, Jerry Stiller replaced Randolph for the remainder of Seinfeld’s run. When Stiller joined the show, David reshot Randolph’s scenes for “The Handicap Spot’s” syndication. On Netflix, the Stiller version of “The Handicap Spot” can be viewed. It is unknown why the streamer maintained “The Handicap Spot’s” canon version, but opted for David’s original Newman. A possibility is in “The Revenge,” Newman has a bit part and it’s arguably inconsequential who voices him. Stiller was so synonymous with Frank, it would be very jarring to see someone else in the role.
Still, it’s a curious decision on Netflix’s part, especially since David was known for paying close attention to detail and doing everything he could to maintain Seinfeld’s continuity. For all intents and purposes, the syndicated “The Suicide” is the “official” version of the episode, and is probably the one that should be available on Netflix. While it’s great to see the classic sitcom continue to find new viewers on streaming, Netflix has had some slip-ups longtime audiences could take issue with. Netflix’s Seinfeld release is in the wrong aspect ratio, and the episode order in season 3 creates a continuity issue within the show. Perhaps one day, Netflix will look to correct these issues.