Friday, March 30, 2012

SEINFELD - Season 2, Episode 6 - The Statue

"The Statue"

First Script Read:  January 23, 1991
Filmed: January 29, 1991
Aired: April 11, 1991
Nielsen rating: 16.1
Audience share: 26 (23 million)
Directed: Tom Cherones
Writer: Larry Charles

Kramer fans should part a star next to this episode. As Michael Richards says in the "Inside Look" feature of the DVD, "...the Kramer character really became Kramer." The key moment occurs when Kramer bursts into Ray's apartment. The actor who cleaned Jerry's apartment is shoved to the wall as Kramer fast-talks like Joe Friday, wearing the hat he noted at the beginning of the episode made him look like the Dragnet character. Richards takes over the space with his delivery, and Kramer takes control of the episode's problem. He snatches the statue Jerry and George think Ray stole (one weaknesses of this sub-par episode is it is never clear whether Ray actually stole the statue) and flees the apartment before Ray knows what is happening.

Writer Larry Charles thus liberates Richards from the relatively naturalistic style of Jerry and the others. Richards can thus play Kramer to his over-the-top extremes, simultaneously playing into Richards' comedic strengths.

Retrieving the statue for George is by far the most selfless act any character has committed up to this point of the series, especially considering Kramer wanted the statue for himself at the beginning of the episode. So far the most that can be said about these characters is they are willing to be talked into giving each other rides, and they are often interested in "tagging along" on various errands and exploits. Here Kramer essentially breaks the law in order to right a perceived injustice perpetrated against his friends. He is rewarded with one of the series' rare hugs, courtesy of George.

By the way, does anyone else think the statue in this episode looks a bit like this famous television statue?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

SEINFELD - Season 3, Episode 10 - The Stranded

"The Stranded"

First Script Read: January, 16 1991
Filmed: Tuesday, January 22
Aired: Wednesday, November 27, 1991, 9:30 (Originally scheduled to air July 17, 1991, NBC held it back to prevent wasting a new episode during the summer.)
Nielsen rating: 12.3
Audience share: 20 (18.5 million)
Directed: Tom Cherones
Writers: Larry David, Jerry Seinfeld, and Matt Goldman
Awards: Writers Guild of America Nomination

Jerry: “What could possess anyone to throw a party?  I mean, to have a bunch of strangers treat your house like a hotel room.”
Moments later...
Elaine: "How did I ever let you talk me into this? I must have been out of my mind!"

Elaine and Jerry are faced with the social horror of attending a party filled with people they don't know. George invited them, but he is busy pursuing Eva, a woman he works with. It's never clarified, but the attendees seem to be mostly George's office-mates. As far as the audience can tell, they are a white collar cross section, with ages ranging from mid-30s (Jerry says he is 36 in this episode) to older. These are typical Americans, at least in Seinfeld's New York City-centric universe. And, just as Jerry and Elaine fear, they are all more or less crazy.

Jerry speaks to one gentleman who, after discovering Jerry is a comedian, tells him, "You know, people tell me I'm a funny guy." The audience understands it's probably not the first time Jerry heard such a comment, and it must be an eye-roller for a comedian.

Meanwhile, Elaine is talking to a guy about George Washington Carver and peanuts. What Bubba is to shrimp, this guy is to the peanut.

Jerry and Elaine have established a signal for when they get caught in bad conversations, but the plan backfires as they are both simultaneously ensnared. Elaine, though, finds a different strategy effective for shaking off bad company. A woman who Elaine doesn't know begins to rant and moan about her missing fiancee. "I have lost the fiancee, the poor baby!" Elaine, with a disgusted look on her face, suddenly breaks into an Australian accent and quotes a 1988 Meryl Streep film, A Cry in the Dark. "Maybe the dingo ate your baby!"

It's an odd and untimely reference, and doesn't connect to Seinfeld in any way - past, present, or future. Streep was nominated for an Academy Award, but it's not a particularly famous film. It's just the sort of random pop culture reference that was sprinkled throughout Seinfeld, apropos of nothing, and typical of the postmodern television period it grew up in.

In the episode, it seems apparent from the reaction of the woman with the missing fiancee that she doesn't understand the use of the reference either. She is perplexed and quickly decides to get up and leave. Elaine grins triumphantly. She has beaten the insanity by joining it.

That is the lone moment of joy in an otherwise miserable evening for Jerry and Elaine. It gets worse as the two are left at the party when George goes home with Eva. They end up waiting for Kramer until 2:00 am, long after the other guests have gone home. Jerry, feeling bad about keeping his host up so late, gives the man his phone number and address in case he is ever in the city.

This friendly gesture to a person he doesn't know is a mistake, even to the man who seemed, by his witty exchange with Jerry, to be the most affable, sane person at the party. (And even though the man is played by future Emmy-winner Michael Chiklis.) A week later the man shows up at Jerry's apartment just as Jerry is heading out. Jerry lets the man stay in the apartment, returning home shortly thereafter to discover that, with a little help from Kramer, the man has gotten drunk and employed a prostitute. The man stumbles out without paying, leaving Jerry to get arrested as he is giving the prostitute the money she insists on having before she leaves.

In later seasons, crazy characters would play increasingly large roles in story lines. Jerry and Elaine's hesitancy towards interacting with people they don't know is constantly justified. In this early episode, the lesson is already clear; the stranger you don't know is much, MUCH worse to deal with than the quirky friend you do.