“The Parking Space”
First Script Read: Sat, March 21, 1992
Filmed: Tue-Wed, March 24-25, 1992
Aired: 9:00 pm, Wednesday, April 22, 1992
Nielsen rating: 12
Audience share: 19
Directed: Tom Cherones
Writer: Larry David and Greg Daniels (Yes, the same Greg Daniels who wrote for Saturday Night Live and The Simpsons before going on to create King of the Hill, The Office (American version), and Parks and Recreation. This was his only Seinfeld script.)
Award: Writers Guild Award Nomination for Larry David and Greg Daniels
Season two's famous "The Chinese Restaurant" was Larry David's first experiment with a "bottle episode" - a show set entirely in one location, where the characters are trapped or otherwise fixed for the duration. Earlier this season, David brought us "The Parking Garage," another bottle episode although one that didn't take place in real-time. Larry Charles got into the act with "The Subway." It's not technically a bottle episode, because the characters go on their own adventures that take them above ground, but the writing challenge was to tell four stories with the essential setting being the subway.
"The Parking Space" is more of a bottle episode than "The Subway," actually. Once George gets locked in his battle of wills for the parking space with Kramer's friend Mike, the action of the episode is fixed to the street outside Jerry's apartment, with some interaction into the apartment via Jerry's window. I love this episode; trapping the characters on the street outside Jerry's building creates the comedic tension of a bottle episode while at the same time allowing other recurring characters show up. Wayne Knight had by now appeared as Newman in two episodes, "The Suicide" and "The Boyfriend," both times serving as an important piece of the plot. This time he just happens upon the parking space dispute, and offers his own assessment of the scene, just as other characters who we would never see again have offered their opinions. Sid, the guy who moves cars from one side of the road to the other, and who we met in "The Alternate Side," also appears to berate George. It was his last appearance in the series, but we didn't know it at the time. And we meet, for the first time, Matthew and his mother, Maryedith, who would play a key role in the season five classic, "The Non-Fat Yogurt." The casual inclusion of people we had met in previous shows, as well as characters who would appear again, makes this episode a milestone in the importance of recurring characters for the feel of the show.
The world of Seinfeld is a place where mere acquaintances can pop up at any moment. (I discussed this a bit in my post on "The Suicide.") It is New York City. The setting is important for this episode, established through the work of Seinfeld's second unit and the shots they capture in New York City, as well as director Tom Cherone's use of Tom Azzari's production design. Cherones and Azzari (who provide the commentary track for this episode on the DVD) wisely decided to film this episode outside. In conceiving of a deadlock over a parking space, David veers towards a silly side of Seinfeld that not everyone might have loved (I did!), but the insanity fits with the setting. Again, it is New York City.