Friday, January 13, 2012

SEINFELD - Season 1, Episode 3 - Male-Unbonding

1st read: February 7, 1990
Filmed: February 13, 1990
Aired: Jun 14, 1990
Nielsen rating: 13.6
Audience share: 24
Directed: Tom Cherones
Written by: Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld

Question: would you consider Jerry, George, Elaine, and Kramer to be self-involved? People who spend all their time talking about themselves without paying much attention to the words, actions, and needs of those around them?

Take this episode. Jerry spends the entire story commiserating with George and Elaine over a relationship with a guy, Joel Horneck (Kevin Dunn), who he he has been friends with since they were ten. George convinces Jerry to try breaking up with Joel. When that fails, Elaine half-jokingly helps Jerry come up with excuses for Joel so he can claim he is busy if Joel calls to invite him to any location.

Meanwhile, George's fears that his girlfriend is about to break up with him soon come to fruit. He talks it over with Jerry, who is more likely to offer a snide remark than a sympathetic condolence.

Then there is Kramer who, already in the third episode, is trying to get his "Make Your Own Pizza" restaurant idea off the ground. George and Jerry offer their friend no support. "With all due respect," declares Jerry, "I can't imagine anyone, in any walk of life, under any circumstance wanting to make their own pizza pie!"

Yes, they are self-involved. More so, even, than most television sitcom characters (at least, up until the emergence and success of Seinfeld).

*  *  *

Why does Jerry dislike Joel so much? "He's so self-involved!"

Joel is a jerk. He's rude to the waitress when he and Jerry are having lunch. He awkwardly attempts to charm Elaine even after he discovers Elaine was his supposed best friend, Jerry's, ex-girlfriend. And, unlike the main characters in Seinfeld, he completely tunes out when someone else is talking.

Joel is more self-involved than Jerry and friends, but it takes one to know one. Self-absorption is, after all, at the heart of both Jerry Seinfeld's and Larry David's brands of humor. It's annoying when Joel talks about himself but it's hilarious when Seinfeld, David, and their characters do it. Why? Do we take pleasure in watching their miseries unfold? Or do we recognize much of their struggles in the world around us and in our own nature? Both, probably. Either way, Seinfeld and David have the rare ability to make self-involvement hysterical.

P.S. 2015 update: I might have been too harsh on this episode, ranking it second from the bottom of my list. If I did the list again, I might bump it up a bit for this classic exchange which gets at the "show about nothing" theme at a very early point:

ELAINE: Come on, let's go do something. I don't want to just sit around here.
JERRY: Okay.
ELAINE: Want to go get something to eat?
JERRY: Where do you want to go?
ELAINE: I don't care. I'm not hungry.
JERRY: We could go to one of those cappuccino places. They let you just sit there.
ELAINE: What are we gonna do there? Talk?
JERRY: We can talk.
ELAINE: I'll go if I don't have to talk.
JERRY: We'll just sit there.

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