Classic ’90s sitcom Seinfeld just landed on Netflix again after a six-year run on competitor Hulu. Since the show was filmed before HD was a reality, it was originally displayed in a 4:3 aspect ratio on TV. But on Netflix, the show has been cropped into a 16:9 widescreen format to fit modern TVs. This means some visual jokes have literally been lost.
Twitter users @boriskarkov and @Thatoneguy64 pointed out the problem using a specific episode called “The Pothole.” In that episode, George and Jerry are trying to find George’s lost keys, which were dropped in a pothole that was then paved over. When George yells at the pothole, the Netflix crop removes the pothole completely. The 16:9 aspect ratio likely also cuts out some other jokes in the series, plus it can be a jarring experience for people used to how the show originally looked.
Yes, these crops of Seinfeld have been on cable TV for many years, and Hulu also showed the series in 16:9, as well. But with Netflix’s popularity, Seinfeld is getting lots of extra attention right now, and so many new viewers are probably checking it out who might not have seen it on Hulu. They might miss some jokes. There was a similar issue recently when the entire run of The Simpsons hit Disney+. After plenty of complaints about missed visual gags, Disney eventually released the seasons that aired in 4:3 in their original aspect ratio. Maybe Netflix will do the same.