Wednesday, May 30, 2012

SEINFELD - Season 5, Episode 1 - The Mango

“The Mango”

First Script Read: August 11, 1993
Filmed: Tuesday, August 17, 1993
Aired: 9:00pm, September 16, 1993 (replacing Cheers)
Nielsen rating: 19.3
Audience share: 29
Directed: Tom Cherones
Writers: Larry David and Lawrence H. Levy (Having written for over 15 different television shows from Fantasy Island to 7th Heaven, this is Levy’s only Seinfeld writing credit)
Awards: Nominated for an Emmy for Writing in a Comedy Series. Won a Writers Guild of America award for Episodic Comedy.

The theme of this episode is legitimacy. Elaine's admission that she faked orgasms while dating Jerry sends both Jerry and George into a spiral of self-doubt. Ultimately, Elaine consents to sex with Jerry to save the friendship. They remain friends, so it must have worked, though only after Jerry consumed some rejuvenating mango. George goes in the opposite direction. The mango boosts his sex drive but he wrongfully accuses his girlfriend of faking, ending their relationship.

Meanwhile, Kramer is having trouble with bad fruit. But how can you tell if a fruit is good from the outside? That's Joe's reply when Kramer tries to return his fruit. Kramer gets banned. Then Jerry gets banned trying to buy fruit for Kramer. They send in George, who gets away with buying bags of fruit for his deprived friends. So in the end, everyone is satisfied. (Except George, but he's never satisfied.)

SEINFELD - Season 4, Episode 23 - The Pilot

“The Pilot”

First Script Read: March 17, 1993
Filmed: March 22-26, 1993
Aired: 8:00 pm, May 20, 1993 (One hour lead in for Cheers two hour series finale)
Nielsen rating: 21.3
Audience share: 34 (32.7 million)
Directed: Tom Cherones
Writer: Larry David

The multiple layers, the show-within-a-show, come flying together in this fun season finale. At the end, most of the characters met throughout the season are sitting in front of their television to watch the pilot of Jerry, the sitcom written by Jerry and George. Television is the great unifying force in this universe. From JFK Jr. to the Bubble Boy. From Calvin Klein to Ping the Chinese food delivery man. From George's ex-girlfriend Susan to George's ex-girlfriend Allison. (Actually, they're in bed watching together.) They all watch and talk about what they are watching, just as, by this point, thirty million Americans were watching and talking about Seinfeld.

Larry David folds yet another layer into this episode, a la St. Elsewhere. Sandi, the actress playing the Elaine character in Jerry, is a dedicated method actress. She takes Jerry out to dinner seeking to experience everything Elaine has experienced, including kissing Jerry. Eventually, she creates her own reality where she thinks of herself as Elaine.

Meanwhile, Michael, who is played by Jeremy Piven, and who is playing the character of George in Jerry (this is getting confusing), isn't doing any method acting at all. To Jerry's delight and amusement, he just happens to be exactly like George in his clothing, neuroses, and demeanor.

When you mess around with all this postmodern layering, you can really get heads spinning. Sure enough, the unstable Crazy Joe Davola reappears, threatening Jerry and George as they pass by in a cab. When Jerry welcomes the fake studio audience (or is it the real studio audience acting fake?) to the filming of Jerry's pilot, Davola comes flying out of the audience to attack. He screams, "Sic semper tyrranis!" which, as Jerry later explains to George, was what John Wilkes Booth shouted when he shot Abraham Lincoln. But Booth himself was quoting Brutus's supposed cry when he killed Julius Caesar. So the actor Peter Crombie was playing the character crazy Joe Davola who was charging into another fictional universe of Jerry while quoting John Wilkes Booth's quotation of Brutus. That's five layers, baby!

Is that really the type of show the public wants, though? Even on the threshold of success, Larry David et al retain some skepticism, channeling it through the cynic of all cynics, George. Throughout the episode, George grapples with a fear of success. "God would never let me be successful," he tells his therapist. "He'd kill me first. He'd never let me be happy." Sure enough, NBC passes on Jerry. Rita, taking over at the network for the M.I.A. Russell, never liked the show. She never "got" it. 

If Rita represents the educated, empowered female perspective, there's reason to believe Jerry didn't have enough breasts for the men. Russell, after all, threw away his NBC job to pursue Elaine; he fell hopelessly in love with her after seeing her cleavage back in "The Shoes." And ultimately, every man on the upper west side ends up in Monk's Café where the only thing bigger than the salads are the waitresses' breasts. Who needs Teri Hatcher's on television when you can spot half a dozen real and spectacular pairs at a local restaurant?

Wait...I'm mixing up my layers. Over the next year Seinfeld would explode in our reality. Jerry would fail in Seinfeld's reality. Not in Japan, though. But that's a twist further down the road.

SEINFELD - Season 4, Episode 22 - The Handicap Space

“The Handicap Space”

First Script Read: February 11, 1993
Filmed: February 18, 1993
Aired: May 13, 1993
Nielsen rating: 18.7
Audience share: 28
Directed: Tom Cherones
Writer: Larry David

This is not a classic episode, but it is classic Larry David. At Kramer's encouragement, George parks his father's car in a handicap space at the mall:

KRAMER: I got news for you. Handicapped people, they don't even want to park there! They wanna be treated just like anybody else! That's why those spaces are always empty.
GEORGE: He's right! It's the same thing with the feminists. You know, they want everything to be equal. Everything! But when the check comes, where are they?

The gang returns to find the car trashed by a bunch of vigilantes out for revenge on behalf of a woman who was injured when her wheelchair batteries ran out going up a parking ramp.

Meanwhile, the television purchased at the mall goes as a gift to The Drake and his fiancée. But when the wedding is called off, the Drakette takes the television. 

ELAINE: Drake gave her the TV?
JERRY: He gave her all the gifts. He felt guilty.
ELAINE: Well, she can't keep it. It's not fair. That's our TV!
JERRY: I know it is!
ELAINE: Boy, I am really starting to dislike the Drake!
JERRY: I hate the Drake! Maybe the whole thing was a scam. Anybody can just get engaged and get presents and just keep them all. Maybe they're on their way to Chicago tomorrow to do the whole thing all over again!
ELAINE: They don't know anybody in Chicago.
JERRY: Don't worry. They'll make friends fast with that nice TV.
JERRY: Hey, guess what? The Drake broke up.
GEORGE: The Drake broke up?! That's fantastic! Now we get the TV back! It'll help defray some of the cost of the wheelchair.
JERRY: I don't know about defraying.
JERRY: We're not getting that TV.
GEORGE: What do you mean? The engagement is off. We get the TV back. That's business.
ELAINE: The Drakette took it.
GEORGE: She can't take it. It's not hers, it's theirs. Once there's no “theirs” there's no “hers.” It
should be ours.
ELAINE: Well, she has it!
GEORGE: I told you the Drake was bad! I hate the Drake!

As revealed in both Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiam, Larry David's worldview can seem Machiavellian, but he also defends a code of fairness that is libertarian, even Ayn Randian.Through Kramer and George, he attacks the hypocrisy of both women's and disabled persons' rights, observing that both groups want to be treated different only when it benefits them. And all of the characters agree that a gift given for an engagement should be returned if the engagement is voided. That's business.

Kramer goes to visit the disabled woman who was injured at the mall and, presto, he's in love! It's usually easier for Kramer to see past differences that the other three characters would be preoccupied with:

KRAMER: Yeah, she is the most beautiful woman I have ever seen. I love her Jerry. I really love her. I'm gonna ask her to marry me. She's got everything I've always wanted in another human being. Except for the walking.

(You know there was a rough draft of this script where Kramer said, "Except for the legs.") But Kramer doesn't get married. The woman dumps him, saying Kramer isn't good looking enough for her. She breaks up on the less-superficial Kramer for superficial reasons. Superficiality counts in business. Luckily, she dated him just long enough to get a replacement wheelchair out of Kramer and George, although the last laugh is on her. The brakes give out on a hill and she crashes. George is sent by his philanthropist father (played by John Randolph in the original version, before being replaced by Jerry Stiller in syndication) to deliver the convalescing wheelchair woman a television donated by the Drakette. The gang takes the opportunity to steal the television back. It's only fair. The television was rightly theirs, and the wheelchair woman was cruel to Kramer. That's business.