Friday, August 30, 2013

Season 2, episode 10: The Statue

“Just keep making love to that wall, pervert!” - Kramer

This is a landmark episode for the Kramer character. Kramer has been evolving since the very first episode, more so than any other character on the show, but until now he hasn’t had that breakout scene where we see just how far he can go. The character has already had moments here and there, most notably in the Pony Remark and The Baby Shower but he’s always seen playing off one of the other three. In The Statue we see him break out on his own in a scene that belongs completely to him.

The action begins with Jerry and Kramer bringing an old box of Jerry’s late grandfather’s belongings up from storage. Kramer takes the old clothes which resemble in style something that may have been worn by Joe Friday. Of particular interest to George, who is also there, is a statue identical to one that belonged to his parents that he broke as a child. George and Kramer fight over possession of the statue and they resolve their battle in the most childish way imaginable – inky-dinky, which is also exactly like einy-meany-miny-moe. George wins but he decides to leave the statue at Jerry’s so he doesn’t have to carry it around the city.

Jerry is also having his apartment cleaned by the boyfriend of a woman who’s book Elaine is editing. The boyfriend, Ray, does an A+ job, Jerry can’t stop raving about it. But later, at the woman’s apartment, Jerry sees the statue. And, when he returns to his own apartment, he finds his version missing. The only conclusion he can see is that the boyfriend stole it.

Kramer is immediately keen to confronting him. “Let’s go get ‘em.” Jerry first tries the police, but it’s his word against Ray’s. Next they talk to him in Monk’s, but he claims that he bought the statue at a pawn shop and insists he’s innocent. After these avenues to recovering the statue fail, Kramer takes matters into his own hand.

Taking the clothes from Jerry, Kramer dresses as a detective and confronts Ray at his apartment. No description of this scene could do justice to Michael Richards’ performance. Anyone could read the lines off a page but he performs them with such flair and nuance - The force with which he bursts through the door after Ray opens it. The little turn of the head he gives Ray while telling him, “Just keep making love to that wall, pervert.” His raising his voice in just the right places to be just the right level of intimidating. The smoothness of his exit after he locates and retrieves the statue – just the little things that bring this masterpiece to life.

Proud of himself, Kramer brings everyone together at Jerry’s to show them the statue. As George is holding it, Kramer pats George on the back. The statue flies out of George’s hands and shatters to a thousand pieces on the floor.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Season 2, episode 9: The Stranded

“Maybe the dingo ate your baby.” – Elaine

Vic Mackey wouldn't be caught dead in that sweater.

Elaine and Jerry are asked by George to accompany him to a party on Long Island for his work (he’s still in real estate – and actually, before I go on I should mention that this episode didn’t air until the 3rd season when George was no longer in real estate. This episode was preceded by a message from Jerry explaining this continuity error). While George pursues a woman he works with, Jerry and Elaine wade through the rough waters of terrible conversation with people they’ve never met or will ever see again.

Asked by a party-goer where he gets his material, Jerry tells him he hears a voice in his head, but it’s a German voice, so he has to have it translated. Elaine suffers through a conversation she’s not actively participating in about George Washington Carver. Later she’s sitting next to a woman obnoxiously pronouncing ‘fian’. George, unseen to the camera, makes progress with his co-worker and tells Jerry he’s going to drive her home. So Jerry and Elaine are now stranded at this party. Jerry calls Kramer to come pick them up but he doesn’t arrive until after 2am. Jerry apologizes to the host, a pre-Vic Mackay Michael Chiklis, and offers his services if he’s ever in the city.

The following week Seinfeld is just about to leave his apartment to pick up medication (which he needs because he’s had a cold all week; a result of driving back from the party in Kramer’s convertible with the top down at 2am on the freeway) when Chiklis shows up. He’s waiting for a ride and just wants to hang out in the meanwhile. Jerry is leaving but feels guilty so lets him stay at the apartment. While out with George at the pharmacy, George decides to steal the medication which costs just under $10 (an amount George feels he is owed by the pharmacy after receiving incorrect change at the beginning of the episode) but he’s arrested by the security guard. At the apartment, Kramer runs into Chiklis and they proceed to – get drunk, tell stories, call an escort service, hire a prostitute (Kramer has left by now) and get into a fight over money with previously mentioned prostitute – all before Jerry returns from the pharmacy. Chiklis’ ride shows up and he leaves without paying the woman what she is owed. Right as Jerry pulls out his wallet to cover the difference the cops show up.

Later, after they are both released from jail, George and Jerry compare notes on their brief prison experience.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Season 2, episode 8: The Apartment

“I just threw away a life time of guilt free sex and floor seats for every sporting event in Madison Square Garden. So please, a little respect. For I am Costanza: Lord of the Idiots.” – George

Jerry’s 94 year old upstairs neighbor dies leaving an opening in the building. The building managers ask Jerry if he know anyone looking for an apartment and Jerry, without thinking about it, suggests Elaine. And the apartment is only $400 a month. I know it’s 1990 on the show but that still seems appaullingly low for Manhattan. She just happens to be in his apartment at that moment so he goes back inside and gives her the news. She’s super excited about it, even giving him a “Get out!” shove (the first of the series). As soon as she starts talking about how much time they can spend together, Jerry’s pleased expression deteriorates into a near panic.

He meets George outside Monk’s and explains what he just did. “You may think you’re an idiot but with all due respect I’m a much bigger idiot than you are,” Jerry says. But George being George responds, “Please, don’t insult me, my friend, remember who you’re talking to. Nobody is a bigger idiot than me.” They go inside to continue debating who the bigger idiot is. It’s here that George brings up something he heard from a friend; that women are attracted to married men. Jerry tells George that Kramer has his father’s wedding band. George laughs the idea off but later picks up the band and uses it at a social event.

Jerry, meanwhile, has an out with Elaine. Someone else is willing to pay $5,000 to take the apartment and Jerry knows Elaine doesn’t have that kind of money. As he’s breaking the ‘bad’ news to her, Kramer walks in and suggests, to Jerry’s ire, that he should just loan her the money. Under pressure, Jerry agrees. Elaine leaves and Jerry chews out Kramer for ruining his opportunity to get rid of Elaine. “You’re a pod,” Jerry tells him, “I on the other hand am a human being.”

Jerry, George and Elaine attend a gathering in Elaine’s friend’s apartment to watch the NYC Marathon. George is wearing Kramer’s band and flirts with several women (including Theresa Randle!- whatever happened to her???) at the party who all show way more interest in George than they should but none will act because they think he’s married. Elaine meanwhile gives Jerry another out when she mentions that living so close could be awkward for the two of them but Jerry brushes her concerns aside. Jerry and George convene at the table spread to again debate which of the two of them is the bigger idiot.

Kramer solves the apartment problem by finding someone, a musician, with $10,000. “Occasionally I like to help the humans,” he quips. The episode closes with Jerry, Elaine and the building managers in Jerry’s apartment listening to the racket the musicians make at all hours of the day. So even though he solved one problem, now Jerry has another.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Season 2, episode 7: The Phone Message

“For me to ask a woman out I have to get into a mental state like the karate guys before they break the bricks.” – George

This is one of those George episodes where he’s somehow able to put himself together long enough and found the right amount of confidence to successfully acquire himself a date for an evening that doesn’t end completely in disaster. But his overachievement can’t last forever and he spends the last 20 minutes of the episode trying to save a relationship that for him is clearly a lost cause since he cannot possibly maintain the high level competence that got him the date in the first place. Only here there’s a twist…

The fall here begins at the end of the date when his girl, Carol, asks him up for ‘coffee’. Now, any man with only rudimentary social skills would know what this meant. George, however, turns down the invite for coffee since it would keep him up. Seconds after Carol gets out of the car, George makes the connection between coffee and sex and proceeds to beat himself up over it.

Later when George is in Jerry’s apartment recalling this moment he reflects, “people this stupid shouldn’t be allowed to live.” After some encouragement from Elaine he decides to call her for another date. He kicks everyone out of Jerry’s apartment and makes the call. Upon getting her machine he leaves a rambling, stammer filled awkward message that runs on and on that he is immediately unhappy with.

4 days and 4 increasingly agitated, aggressive and angry messages later George learns that Carol has been in the Hamptons and never got his messages. So George decides to implement a plan, with Jerry’s help, suggested by Elaine; switch the tapes. So the two meet Carol outside her apartment. In the apartment George distracts Carol while Jerry switches the tapes. After Carol checks her messages she tells George that her neighbor had already played her messages for her over the phone. But thinking George’s messages were hilarious she says, “I just love jokes like that.”

I don’t know about this ending. In spite of himself George comes through as clean as a whistle which is very un-George like.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Season 2, episode 6: The Chinese Restaurant

“For fifty bucks? I’d put my face in their soup and blow.” - George

Jerry’s stand-up is a completely dated bit about pay phones. In our current culture, pay phones and cell phones have to be the first technological difference when viewing movies and shows from the 20th century. 80% of the situations characters find themselves would be resolved in a dramatically different fashion with a cell phone. I was so wrapped up in my own thoughts about this that I wasn’t listening to the details of the material.

This, of course, is the classic episode, The Chinese Restaurant, and it’s a landmark episode for several reasons. It’s the first episode to take place entirely outside Jerry’s apartment. It’s the first episode in which Kramer does not appear. And it’s the first episode (possibly only?) to take place in real time. NBC hated this episode and pushed it back to the end of the second season because “nothing happens in it.” The more I watch these early episodes the more I realize that Seinfeld would have no chance of survival in the modern network television world. After the airing of this episode the network realized they should just leave Jerry and Larry alone.

Jerry, Elaine and George are on their way to watch a screening of Plan Nine From Outer Space! And they stop in at a Chinese restaurant to grab dinner beforehand. The maitre’d tells them a table will be ready in “5 to 10 minutes.” They never get a table and what follows is 22 minutes of Jerry fighting his memory over a woman at a table that looks really familiar to him, Elaine fighting starvation, and George fights off other patrons for use of the pay phone – first a man in glasses followed by a middle aged woman - so he can call his girl friend and tell her where they are.

When they arrive at the restaurant there is already a man on the pay phone. George waits patiently but he twice timidly asks the man how long he’ll be. Both times the man rebuffs George by silently turning his back to him. After the second attempt George goes to Jerry and asks, “If anything happens here, can I count on you?”

Jerry dares Elaine to go up to a table and just take an egg roll. He’s convinced no one will stop her and they’ll have a story to tell their children. She gets as far as walking up to the table before chickening out and coming back empty handed.

Meanwhile other people are being seated ahead of the group. Jerry and Elaine approach the maitre’d who assures them that those other folks were here first and that a Mr. Cohen is always here to which Elaine responds, “what does that mean?!” And with a perplexed look downwards speaking to no one in particular, “Where am I? Is this a dream?”

George eventually gets use of the phone but his girl friend isn’t home so he leaves a message to call the restaurant. A few minutes later the Maitre’d calls out for a Cartwright(!). George asks if the call was for Costanza. “Who’s Cartwright?” asks Jerry. A bewildered George responds, “I’m Cartwright.”
“You’re not Cartwright.”

The woman Jerry recognizes stops to say hello to him on the way out and – have you every had a conversation with a person you weren’t really sure how you knew them and you can’t even remember their name but they clearly know who you are and they bring up certain, specific things you should know, but not too specific such that you can fake your way through the conversation with ‘yeah’ and ‘I know’ and ‘totally…I agree…I agree…’ as your only responses? Because that is precisely what Jerry did here. It’s only after the fact that he could recall how he knew the woman (Lorraine, as it turns out).

Getting hungrier by the second, Elaine decides to bribe the maitre’d with $20. After taking a while to figure out how to split $20 between 3 people (George pays $6 because he’s ‘not going to eat much’) Elaine slips him the $20. when that doesn’t work she just plead with him to take the money. He takes it and seats another party.

Finally with no time to eat and go to the movie the group leaves. As soon as they walk out the maitre’d calls for them.

Wow. I don’t know what NBC was thinking when they said nothing happened in this episode. I’d never really thought that highly of The Chinese Restaurant. I’d looked at it was a good episode but not world beater or anything but now I understand why this is such a great Seinfeld episode. There was more going on here than any episode I’ve seen. I don’t know how they packed as much as they did into 22 minutes. And there was no wasted moment as the action moves from material to material, set up to joke to set up to joke. And every single one of them works; it’s pretty outstanding. It’s just too bad Michael Richards wasn’t a part of this one.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Season 2, episode 5: The Jacket

“We’ll say we’re frightened and we have to go home.”

Jerry’s opening stand up reflects on fashion of the future commenting that everyone in the future on TV and movies wears the same thing. Not to get on a tangent here, but the fashion on Star Trek always bugged me. Not the uniforms but civilian attire. Everyone wore the worst looking jumpsuits. Would it have been so hard to let some of those characters wear the occasional t-shirt or khaki pants? This is something I feel strongly about! Anyway, back to the present (or Seinfeld circa 1991)…

The story opens open Jerry and Elaine shopping in a men’s clothing department where Jerry finds the perfect suede jacket. Elaine asks Jerry to accompany her to dinner with her father (Lawrence Tierney).
Later George and Jerry are getting ready for the dinner. Jerry puts on the suede jacket, catching George’s eye. He asks Jerry how much it cost, guessing the price. Jerry doesn’t answer and George incrementally increasing his guess until it surpasses $1000 by which point he is completely flummoxed. Jason’s performance in this scene is tremendous.

The two meet Elaine’s father in his hotel lobby but Elaine is not there. They sit with him in the most uncomfortably funny scene of the series thus far. Not surprisingly this story is based on an event in Larry David’s life. George and Jerry independently find excuses to get up and convene in the restroom where they plan an exit strategy. Jerry wonders how they’ll get out of dinner to which George, in the most honest response he’s ever given to a question says, “We’ll say we’re frightened and we have to go home.”

Lawrence Tierney is the most inspired guest casting in the first two seasons, and apparently, Tierney was just as intimidating on set as his character was in this episode.

Elaine finally arrives and the group head out to eat dinner. It’s now snowing outside and Jerry is worried about his suede jacket. So he turns it inside out and is about to head out the door when Elaine’s father stops him. The Barbershop stripes of the interior don’t really appeal to his masculine tastes and he makes Jerry turn it back around.

In the end Jerry gives his now ruined suede jacket to Kramer.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Season 2, episode 4: The Baby Shower

“What you’re suggesting is illegal.”
“It’s not illegal.”
“It’s against the law.”
“Well, yeah!”

- Jerry and Kramer

The Baby shower opens in Monk’s. Jerry, George and Elaine are having lunch and Elaine is planning a baby shower for a friend who happens to be a former girlfriend of George’s whom he currently holds a grudge against for ruining his new red shirt (she spilled chocolate sauce on it during a performance art piece she was performing).

Jerry allows Elaine use of his apartment for the shower while he is out of town for a stand up show in Buffalo. He also allows Kramer to install illegal cable at the same time, though Kramer really has to work to convince him (56 channels, Jerry!). George, meanwhile, plots his revenge against the woman who ruined his shirt.

On the flight to Buffalo Jerry dreams that his illegal cable hook up results in the FBI raiding his home and putting about 4 dozen rounds in his chest Tarantino style. He wakes up on the plane sitting next to Earl Milford (you can always tell a Milford man!)

But a storm cancels Jerry’s show so George picks him up at the airport back in New York and offers to take him back to the apartment. Jerry would rather go to George’s apartment to avoid the baby shower. George insists they go back to Jerry’s apartment. Jerry notices that George is wearing his ruined red shirt and figures out that George has a plan to get back at the woman. They get back to the apartment but George chickens out when it comes time to confront her. But another woman at the shower confronts Jerry about not calling her back for a second date after telling her he would. As she storms out she brushes up against George’s nemesis which causes her to spill the cake she’d been holding on George’s shirt, thus ruining it for a second time.

Finally, Jerry confronts the Russian cable guys and tells them he doesn’t want the cable and won’t pay them $400. They respond by breaking his television. The characters sit around the broken TV reflecting on their lot in life.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Season 2, episode 3: The Busboy

“He’s a wonderful guy, but I hate his guts.” - Elaine

The Busboy was the third episode in the production order of the second season but aired as the finale because, according to the ‘notes about nothing’ captions for this episode, the NBC execs didn’t like that Jerry wasn’t really involved in either the A or B story. Hilarious when you think about the later seasons.

In story A, George puts out a fire at a restaurant and innocently tells the manager that the busboy left the menu too close to the candle which leads to the busboy being fired. George feels guilty (for the first and possibly only time in the series?) and goes with Kramer to the busboy’s apartment to apologize. But, while there, they leave the door open and the busboy’s cat escapes. I also want to point out that George’s reaction to the fire is in complete contrast with his reaction to a fire in the season 5 episode titled, uh…The Fire.

In story B, Elaine has a boyfriend staying with her for a week but by week’s end she can’t stand him and has hatched an elaborate plan to make sure he doesn’t miss his flight…which fails.

Both stories converge (a first for the series) at Jerry’s apartment when Elaine bursts in and tells the tale of how she almost got to the airport on time. Right after that the busboy shows up and thanks George. In a strange turn of events there was an explosion at the restaurant and if he hadn’t been fired he would have been killed. The Busboy leaves and runs into Elaine’s boyfriend in the hall. They have an altercation and both tumble down the stairs ending up in the hospital.

Aside from introducing some thematic elements that would become staples of the series later on and expanding on the lives all the characters not named Jerry Seinfeld, nothing really stands out about this episode. It’s not a good sign for the story when my biggest laugh is during Jerry’s stand-up.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Season 2, episode 2: The Pony Remark

“It’s not that I think you can’t. I know that you can’t and I’m positive that you won’t.”

The above quote is, of course, from the conversation where Kramer reveals to Jerry his plan for levels in his apartment. I’d completely forgotten that this was part of the Pony Remark episode. I thought for sure that it was several seasons later. Kramer never builds the levels and says the bet is off to which a stunned Jerry says, “But that was the bet!” This is the funniest material so far and it’s only the B story!

The main thread is the dinner Jerry’s parents (now with Barney Martin as Jerry’s dad) force him to go to where he has to put up with a bunch of people he doesn’t really know, plus Uncle Leo (in his first appearance). After some innocently awkward small talk Jerry blurts out that he hated anyone who had a pony, offending Manya who leaves in a huff, leading to Jerry stumble through a long, uncomfortable justification finishing with the classic line, “Who figure’s an immigrant’s going to have a pony?!”

That second classic line from this episode which Jerry later repeats as the final line of the story before the end stand-up scene. The best part about the line is the second time: Jerry, Elaine and George are in the coffee shop discussing Jerry’s worst softball performance in his life, which Elaine blames on Manya’s spirit when Jerry responds with that line. And even knowing the line is coming you can see Julia begin to smile before he says it, and just completely break character right before it cuts away.

What makes this such a classic is that it’s that perfect Larry David episode that straddles the line of being completely believable and completely unbelievable. Every event seems completely crazy on the surface but when you linger on it a few seconds you think, well I guess I could see that happening.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Season 2, episode 1: The Ex Girlfriend

So here we are in season 2 and there a plenty improvements here in the first episode alone. When Seinfeld got picked up for a second season it was too late for the fall schedule which gave the producers extra time to tweak the shows look. A few changes were made to Jerry’s apartment in the form of a paint job and some additional detailing with lighting and furniture. The bigger changes come in the scripts being tighter and characters being more refined and the chemistry of the cast having really coalesced at the beginning of this season. The timing of Jerry, Jason, Julia and Michael is a lot more natural here and the progression is fun to watch.

In the premiere, George is planning to break up with his girlfriend, Marlene, but is nervous (of course) about going through with it. He does, and is ecstatic about it, but he has one problem- he left some books in her apartment. So he asks Jerry to get them. This leads to Jerry dating Marlene, which George has no problem with. George does have a problem with Jerry secretly paying his chiropractic bill. “He didn’t do anything. Touch this, feel that, seventy-five dollars!”

Elaine’s story has her dealing with a guy she knows who doesn’t say ‘hello’ to her when they pass each other leading to the best Seinfeld-esque line of the series so far (but it will be passed in the next episode): “’I just didn’t want to say hello anymore, all right?’ And I said ‘fine, fine. I didn’t want to say hello either. But I wanted you to know that I’m aware of it!’”

Kramer meanwhile has a melon obsession. Jerry gets a bad one and Kramer wants to return it. He later brings a golf club into Jerry’s apartment. Both of these scenes are reminiscent of numerous future episodes including The Mango, The Caddy and The Marine Biologist. The episode wraps up when Marlene breaks up with Jerry after she sees his act. This whole episode from beginning to end is great and we’re getting to see the cast and crew at its full potential when dealing with the minutia and trivial events in our lives.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Season 1, episode 4: The Stock Tip

Superman! Finally- At least in the dialogue. The episode begins with a conversation between George and Jerry over whether Superman has a sense of humor. And in the Kramer’s crazy idea department, he tells Jerry about a roll-out tie dispenser he wants to invent. Aside from those points this was the weakest of the first season episodes.

There’s a story about a stock tip that George gets. And Jerry goes to Vermont for the weekend with the woman he met in The Stakeout. Neither turns out well for Jerry as he sells his part of the stock after losing most of his investment and the trip ends disappointingly as well. But we do get to see a little more from George as he goes from panicky to smug when the stock falls and then rises again. Elaine, meanwhile, has a boyfriend with cats that she is allergic to and even that is barely worth mentioning.

Thank God I’m done with season 1. I know there’s some good stuff ahead in season 2 but this episode was just boring. I don’t plan on making a bottom 10 list but this would probably be on it.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Season 1, episode 3: The Robbery

In The Robbery we finally get an episode where the plot branches out into multiple storylines rather than focus solely on thread. First: Jerry goes on vacation and has Elaine house sit for him. But upon returning Jerry discovers that he’s been robbed, due to Kramer leaving the door open after borrowing a spatula. Jerry files a police report but Kramer wants to make it up to Jerry by solving the crime himself.

Simultaneously: George has an apartment that might interest Jerry but after they look at it George wants it as well. Elaine, meanwhile, wants to move into either George or Jerry’s old place if one of them takes the newer apartment. But since they can’t decide who will take it they let a waitress at Monk’s have the apartment.

This was a fun episode. Nothing is resolved; Jerry doesn’t get his stuff back (it magically returns in the next episode) and everyone stays in their original apartment, though Elaine is out a couch – but the episode is made on Kramer’s antics. Kramer is really the star of this first season even if he’s only in one or two scenes an episode. We never see his investigation into the robbery but his explanation is more colorful than anything we would have seen and his entrances into Jerry’s apartment are beginning to take on a life of their own.

We’re still not at the quality of the later seasons but we’re getting there.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Season 1, Episode 2: The Stakeout

Wow. So the first thing I have to mention here is Jerry’s jacket for the first stand up scene. The best way I can describe it is that it looks like space. And what I mean by that is, is if you were looking up at the night sky from a remote location you see blackness with tiny white dots all around. That is this jacket. I’m not even listening to the material… Amazing…

Moving on…

So this was the first episode that made it to air after the pilot. It starts off with Jerry and Elaine at a video store!(remember those?) They make a deal with each other to accompany the other to an event they don’t want to go to. The first is a dinner party for a friend of Elaine. Jerry is attracted to a woman at the dinner and there’s a great internal monologue he has in trying to determine if the guy she’s with is a boyfriend while memorizing the woman’s law firm and attempting to avoid, without success, a conversation with Elaine.

Next Jerry is back home and we meet his parents- except, wait- who the hell is Jerry’s father?! THAT IS NOT Barney Martin!

The highlight of The Stakeout is the conversation George and Jerry have while waiting to ‘run into’ the woman from the dinner. George is still in real estate but when coming up with a cover story he decides he’s a—that’s right—an architect. And the person he and Jerry are supposedly meeting? Art Vandalay. So it begins…

Bonus Picture: