Once upon a time — for over five decades — televisions were in a different shape than they are now. TV sets used to be box-shaped. The shows that aired on them, of course, were, too. Widescreen TVs became popular in the aughts, and now any show made in the before-time runs into a problem: They’re often re-shaped for modern TVs. That means cropping and removing chunks of the image. And it means incurring the wrath of those who notice, such as the Simpsons fans who successfully pressured Disney+ into making sure there was an option to watch older episodes of the show in their original form.
Now it’s happening to Seinfeld. All 180 episodes of the ‘90s landmark debuted on Netflix over the weekend. But fans of the show quickly noticed a problem: The show had been reformatted to fit modern screens. That meant jokes had been ruined, like one involving a pothole.
— Brandon (spooky version) (@Thatoneguy64) October 1, 2021
Another eagle-eyed viewer seemed to figure it out: The image was not only cropped but also ever-so-slightly stretched out.
Seinfeld's a weird one where the image is both slightly expanded and slightly cropped, thanks to open matte shooting. It's nowhere near as bad as the Simpsons crop – I almost never noticed issues when it was on Hulu. But come on, just have the original aspect ratio as an option! https://t.co/vjTHTH8nJ4 pic.twitter.com/YNxbZDg1we
— Wes (@alifefilmodic) October 1, 2021
People wondered why Netflix spent a princely sum to show a censored Seinfeld. (Incidentally, HBO Max did the same with Friends, which streams in a similarly cropped form.)
SO, NETFLIX. YOU SPEND EIGHT SQUILLION ON SEINFELD AND THEN YOU SHOW IT IN THE WRONG RATIO. pic.twitter.com/SJiWNTOVIy
— Donald Clarke (@DonaldClarke63) September 30, 2021
Thing is, it’s probably not Netflix’s fault. As per The Verge, Seinfeld has been shown in its cropped form since 2008, when a new HD master started being shown on syndication and, later, on Hulu, where the show lived before its new move.
Wait until people find out that Hulu, TBS and every TV station that still airs it in syndication have been airing SEINFELD in HD and for the 16:9 aspect ratio years before the show dropped on Netflix today. https://t.co/zcnia2zJSn
— John Boo-dine (@BeaudineTwin2) October 1, 2021
That also means that Seinfeld heads have had a tough decision to make for years: Watch it in HD in the wrong aspect ratio, or in substandard quality in the correct shape.
There is hope that a change could come. Again, Disney+ caved to pressure and made older Simpsons episodes available in their original 1.33:1 shape. But it’s unclear if there are HD/4K scans of Seinfeld in its classic shape. And if there aren’t, will Netflix shell out the dough to make new ones, just to appease some people on social media? (And, of course, to do the right thing.) Then again, it’s not like they’re strangers to burning gobs of money.
(Via The Verge)