In the streaming, on-demand, binge-watch ten seasons type of world we live in, nostalgic TV is very in. Netflix famously paid $100 million to license Friends for an extra year. Though its run with Friends has ended, Netflix recently added the entire run of Seinfeld to the service, prompting a small but real revival in watching the classic sitcom.
My wife and I started Seinfeld from the beginning, which is something I have never done, despite seeing plenty of reruns growing up. Immediately after starting the series, I was struck by its presentation in the widescreen format, instead of its original, 4:3, more boxy presentation.
This issue is nothing new, for years people owned TVs made for 4:3 presentation, which led to the rise of full-screen home movies that were intended to use up all of the TV screen. The issue was that cropping the images to fit 4:3 meant losing quite a bit of a movie’s cinematography. Now, we have the inverse problem. We all own widescreen TVs, but when we watch 4:3 content, some fans feel like the black bars are “wasting” their TV space.
Consider me as passionately against that sentiment as possible. I want to see all of a show or movie more than I want to use up the whole screen. Cropping Seinfeld reruns to fit my TV is robbing me of some of the visual experience, and sometimes eliminates visual gags. The issue popped up with The Simpsons back when Disney+ launched, and Disney thankfully remedied the situation by offering fans an option to watch in its original aspect ratio. It’s a no brainer. Directors and cinematographers put thought into every inch of their aspect ratio, and the only way to experience something as intended is to watch it in that original format. Cropping an image, either to make it wider or taller, alters that show or movie, sometimes beyond repair.
Here’s to hoping Netflix, and everyone else, too, permanently realizes that the original aspect ratio should always, always be the default.
I’m Evan Rook.