Monday, May 21, 2012

SEINFELD - Season 4, Episode 14 - "The Movie"

“The Movie”

First Script Read: December 4, 1992
Filmed: Monday to Wednesday, December 7-9, 1992
Aired: 9:00 pm, January 6, 1993
Nielsen rating: 12.2
Audience share: 18
Directed: Tom Cherones
Writer: Steve Skrovan (only Seinfeld writing credit), Bill Masters (also wrote season 3’s “The Alternate Side” and season 6’s “The Chaperone”), and Jon Hayman (this was the only Seinfeld writing credit for the voice of the bubble boy)

This isn't a great or classic episode, but it amuses me beyond its overall quality, probably because I love Seinfeld's fake movies. It's also kinda fun to watch the characters miss each other as they go in and out of movies and theaters.

This episode also has a Seinfeld rarity - a secondary character that falls flat. As Jerry is crossing the city in an attempt to do two standup gigs at two different comedy clubs before he has to meet the gang at the movie theater for Checkmate, he keeps running into a fellow comedian named Buckles. The writing credits for this episode goes to a few comedian friends of Jerry Seinfeld, Larry David, and Larry Charles. They invited other comedians and comedy writers they knew to help refine the show's scripts. Occasionally, these associates would develop their own ideas into a script, earning a full writer credit for the episode. It makes sense that the writers for this episode would draw on their own backgrounds to examine Jerry's occupation. They also created a character who might have been an amalgamation of bad and/or annoying comedians they had encountered in their own work.

Buckles is sort of a proto-Kenny Bania, another struggling comedian who looked up to Jerry's success. Like Bania and other secondary characters, Buckles is quirky and irreverent. He is also slightly annoying to Jerry, a quality just about every recurring character on Seinfeld shares.

He makes random statements about the world:
BUCKLES: Jerry, I want you to do me a favor. No more fish!

Like Bania, he tries out bad material on Jerry:
BUCKLES: Hey, do you think this is funny? "Why do they call it athlete's foot? You don't have to be an athlete to get it. I mean, my father gets it all the time, and believe me, he's no athlete!"

Like Bania, he is hard to escape:
JERRY: I gotta get out of this cab.
BUCKLES: But Jerry, we're riffing!
JERRY: No, I'm not riffing. I'm ignoring! Do you understand the difference?
BUCKLES: ... Can you help me get on The Tonight Show?

But unlike Bania, Buckles is a forgettable character. I suspect that, if you haven't seen this episode in a while, you're having trouble picturing him. Dedicated Seinfeld fans might have even forgot he existed. Buckles lacks what Bania and so many other characters that achieved "recurring" status had - good schtick. Bania is easily quotable: "That's gold, Jerry! Gold!" He is memorable; he loves soup. Other than being kinda annoying, Buckles is hard to describe. He has no schtick. There is no classic Buckles line or moment.

Therein lies the degree of difficulty in writing for Seinfeld. Great characters were memorable and quotable. Great episodes were easy to discuss and quote at the water cooler. By the fourth season, Larry David, Larry Charles, and Peter Mehlman had figured out how to write great Seinfeld episodes. Other writers fell by the wayside.

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