Thursday, May 24, 2012

SEINFELD - Season 4, Episode 17 - The Outing

 “The Outing”

First Script Read: December 2, 1992 (Revised script read December 13. 1992 included repeated line, “not that there’s anything wrong with that.”)
Filmed: December 16, 1992
Aired: Thursday, 9:30 pm, February 11, 1993 (2nd show to air in time slot after Cheers)
Nielsen rating: 18
Audience share: 29
Directed: Tom Cherones
Writer: Larry Charles
Awards: Emmy nomination for best writing for a television comedy (lost to Larry David’s “The Contest”). Won a GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) award.

The U.S. military's "Don't ask, don't tell" policy went into effect on December 21, 1993, about a year after this famous episode was filmed. It was a hot button topic then, as it is now. NBC executives balked at the episodes concept after the first script read, worried about the gay and lesbian community reaction, but the larger issue, according to NBC's Glenn Padnick on the DVD's "Inside Look Featurette," was that the table read was unfunny and unhappy. Larry Charles continued to tinker with the sketch and eventually came up with the line, "Not that there's anything wrong with that." Imagine, the next time you watch "The Outing," what the episode would look like without that line.  

“It addressed the problem and also satirized it at the same time," said Jerry Seinfeld. As Jerry and George frantically deny the suggestion that they are gay, the repeated line acknowledges the larger societal battle for gay acceptance while underscoring Jerry and George's veiled homophobia. Without the repeated line, Jerry and George would merely be desperately trying to not appear gay. With the line, they still don't want to appear gay, but their desire to not be seen as gay is made to look ridiculous.

Still, I think this premise is dated by 2012. It's one thing for a character on a television show (or even a public figure) to strongly deny that they are homosexual. It's another for that denial to form the basis of an entire half hour comedy. On scripted television, if not throughout the nation, everyone pretty much agrees that there isn't anything wrong with that.

The episode deserves more credit for finding the humor in stereotypes. For his birthday, much to discomfort, Jerry gets tickets to Guys and Dolls from George and a Bette Midler CD from Elaine. Kramer thinks Jerry might indeed be gay because he is single, thin, and in his late thirties. Jerry points out the same is true of Kramer, causing Kramer to flip out in a typical Michael Richards fashion. (Wait...not THAT Michael Richards fashion of flipping out...)

Jerry finishes up the comical critique of stereotypes with his closing standup monologue:

JERRY: I am not gay. I am, however, thin, single, and neat. Sometimes when someone is thin, single, and neat people assume they are gay because that is a stereotype. They normally don't think of gay people as fat, sloppy, and married. Although I'm sure there are. I don't want to perpetuate the stereotype. I'm sure they are the minority though within the gay community. They're probably discriminated against because of that. People say to them, "You know Joe, I enjoy being gay with you, but I think think it's about time, you know, that you got in shape, tucked the shirt in and lost the wife." But if people are even going to assume that people that are neat are gay, maybe instead of doing this: "You know I think Joe might be a little... [WAVES HAND]," they should vacuum. "You know, I think Joe might be VROOOM! [PUSHES IMAGINARY VACUUM]. Yeah, I got a feeling he's a little VROOOOOM!"

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