Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Season 1, Episode 1: Male Unbonding

With the first episode of the series proper we begin to get into more familiar territory though I get the impression that it won’t be until season 2 (only 4 episodes in season 1 so it’s won’t take that long) that the show really takes on that Seinfeld feel. In Male Unbonding, Elaine is present and there is a vast evolution in Kramer’s character between the pilot episode and this one. His look, mannerisms and speech cadence are far more closer to the Kramer in later episodes. George is George but his lines seem to act as a set up for Jerry’s act rather than serve his own purposes. The décor of the apartment is dramatically different here too. Still no bike (I’m guessing that change is made in season 2) and I still couldn’t spot any Superman reference but there’s more furniture and general clutter-like a real apartment.

The story for Male Unbonding deals with a friend, Joel, that Jerry doesn’t like and how Jerry can ‘break up’ with him. Jerry’s stand-up sets up the situation and later Jerry is having lunch with Joel at Monk’s Café (first time we’ve seen Monk’s). Joel is a self-centered guy who is rude to the waitress and never listens to Jerry during their conversation. But when Jerry tries to end their friendship Joel starts crying so Jerry calls off the break up and offers Joel Knicks tickets. But later Jerry comes up with an excuse to avoid going to the game and instead spends the night doing nothing with Elaine(our intro to her). The story part of the episode ends when Joel and Kramer end up at the apartment after the game (having gone together) and Jerry and Elaine try to come up with more excuses for not going to future Knick games.

Not much of an episode and these first episodes are really dominated by the stand-up scenes (three in total) limiting the story portion to what seemed like 18 minutes or so.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Season 1, Pilot Episode: The Seinfeld Chronicles

The Seinfeld Chronicles

There's something unsettling about watching a pilot episode for a show that we're so familiar with. When we've watched the same characters in hundreds of 22 minute installments over and over and over we tend to think of having a sort of crude intimate relationship with them and pilots can rip that familiarity away from us.

As it often happens in American television, especially comedies, things... change. Between filming a pilot and a series being greenlit a lot can happen. An actor can be replaced. Sets can be changed. Characters can be added or removed. Watching a pilot is like wandering into the Mirror Universe or the Other Side or the Twilight Zone or Bizzaro World. Everything seems familiar but nothing seems right. And when you watch a show with that mindset, the differences begin to stick out and the aspects still familiar fade away.

And it's that mindset with which I watched the pilot of Seinfeld; a strange voyage to a Universe where Jerry and George eat at a diner called Pete's, Michael Richards behaves more like his UHF character than Kramer (and he has a dog-further proof we're in an alternate timeline), George has a steady job (Real Estate), Jerry's apartment is Bike and Superman free, Kramer hasn't been out of the building in 10 years, and Elaine is... dead, or something-I don't know, she's not here and that's what matters. Even the name of the show in the pilot "The Seinfeld Chronicles" has the ring of a 50s Anthology series.

So while the basic themes and structures are essentially in place- Jerry and George act more or less like themselves, the stand-up is present and the observational material is there, I found it almost impossible to focus on any of the story with all those Bizarro World style differences. Once Elaine shows up I'm sure things will feel better.