Sunday, April 8, 2012

SEINFELD - Season 3, Episode 4 - The Dog


“The Dog”

First Script Read:  Wednesday, August 21, 1991
Filmed: Tuesday, August 27, 1991
Aired: Wednesday, October 9, 1991
Nielsen rating: 12.3
Audience share: 20 (17.2 million)
Directed: Tom Cherones
Writer: Larry David

From a pure story standpoint, this is one of Larry David's weaker episodes. In the opening scene, Jerry is seated next to a drunk dog owner on a plane. Jerry gets stuck with the dog, Farfel when the guy falls ill. The dog proceeds to wreck both Jerry's apartment and his social life, thwarting repeated plans to see Prognosis: Negative with George and Elaine. Eventually the guy shows up and Farfel departs. The End. No satisfying story-line collisions at the end. No memorable twists.

Still, David's genius continues to evolve in intriguing ways. As in "The Deal" and "The Note" (and as he would do in "The Contest"), Larry David finds humor in avoiding the use of a rude word:

ELAINE: Hey, when you walk him, do you...
JERRY: Do I what?
ELAINE: Do you pick it up?
JERRY: Yes, I pick it up.
ELAINE: You pick it up?!?
JERRY: Well you have to.
ELAINE: Oh, boy would I love to see that.

Also, not for the first or last time, the characters are amusingly reflective on the English language:
JERRY: I'm telling you the guy's a drunk. He's probably on a bender.
ELAINE: What is a bender anyhow?
JERRY: I don't know, they drink and they bend things at the bar.

As a discussion about "nothing," that could be more of a Jerry Seinfeld joke. On the other hand, their comic sensibilities are so similar, and they worked so closely on scripts, it might have been hard to give credit for that joke even if you were with them for every second of the creation process.

Discussing their partnership, David says, "The show is actually much closer to my life than Jerry’s. But Jerry takes our darkest notion and makes it palatable to a mass audience." (That quote is from the "Notes about Nothing" DVD feature for this episode.) To put it another way, Larry David is responsible for the show's ability to feel simultaneously zany and realistic, while Jerry Seinfeld deserves the credit for making four fairly obnoxious human beings likable.

The exploration and development of those four characters is the most interesting aspect of this episode. While Jerry struggles to control Farfel, Elaine and George find themselves spending time together without Jerry. This is awkward and uncomfortable for both of them as they just can't seem to find anything to talk about. Elaine explains to Jerry, "...I relate to George through you. We're like friends-in-law." They soon discover they can only enjoy each others' company when they are making fun of Jerry.

As he explores the George-Elaine dynamic, David is accidentally mature and sensitive about human friendships. It's a subtle point at the end of the show, and it's delivered as a joke, but Elaine tells Jerry that she and George are getting together to talk about how they have nothing to talk about. They could have easily given up, deciding to only spend time with each other when Jerry was around. Instead, they actually invest time in each other to work on the most basic piece of a relationship: communication.

Talking is the lifeblood of the intimate relationships of the four friends in Seinfeld. If George and Elaine cannot talk, their relationship is doomed. After all, the most infuriating part of Jerry's Farfel saga is that Jerry doesn't hear from the owner for over a week. There was a lack of communication. (Indeed, we can infer from the state he finally shows up in that the guy was on a bender.)

It is the depth of communication between the foursome that keeps them together. They reached a much deeper level of detail in their own conversations then any of them ever could in a dating relationship. This is why they always ended up with each other, and not in a marriage or long-term romance. George never made plans to meet with Susan to talk about their communication problems.

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