Friday, May 25, 2012

SEINFELD - Season 4, Episode 18 - The Old Man


“The Old Man”

First Script Read: January 17, 1993
Filmed: January 19-20, 1993
Aired: Thursday, 9:30 pm, February 18, 1993
Nielsen rating: 16.1
Audience share: 24 (First show to go up in viewers after Cheers since Taxi did it in early 1980s)
Directed: Tom Cherones
Writer: Bruce Kirschbaum (story) (also credited for writing season 5’s “The Conversion” and season 6’s “The Switch”) and Larry Charles (teleplay)

Here we go again...the gang sets out to do offer some selfless help to other human beings and, well, you can guess where it goes from here. (See, for example, "The Cafe," and "The Bubble Boy.")

Elaine finds George whining about life to Jerry at the restaurant. She tells them she's signed up to spend time with a senior citizen. The idea of doing a good deed is revolutionary to George:

GEORGE: Really?!
ELAINE: Yeah. God, I can't tell you how I feel! I mean, I feel so good! I really feel good! The strange thing is, I mean, I haven't even met the woman yet.
GEORGE: Volunteer work, huh?
JERRY: What're you gonna do down there?
ELAINE: Well, they say all it is is that you go over to their apartment and, I don’t know, you take them for a walk and you get a cup of coffee and it's supposed to make them feel good.
JERRY: That's what I do with him. [POINTS AT GEORGE]
GEORGE: When did you get this idea?
ELAINE: Last time I had lunch with you here. You were going on and on and on about how you wanted to meet somebody who didn't speak English.
JERRY: What, do you break it in with her, then you try it out on me?
GEORGE: And... and anybody can do this?
ELAINE: Yup.
GEORGE: Helping people. Of course. Of course! It makes perfect sense! How could I not be doing this!? I am gonna help somebody, damn it!
ELAINE: What about you?
JERRY: Nah, it's not for me.
ELAINE: Jerry, if anybody should be doing this, it's you.
GEORGE: What kind of a person are you?
JERRY: I think I'm pretty much like you, only successful.

Jerry gets talked into it and the three of them are matched with senior citizens. The flaw in their plan is that their motives are not selfless but rather therapeutic; they want to serve senior citizens because it will make them feel good about themselves. It doesn't work out that way. Jerry's guy, Sid, is bitter, crotchety, and paranoid. He is unpleasant to be around, so Jerry vows to dump him. He does go back once more, but only so Kramer and Newman can take Sid's vintage records to sell and so George can meet Sid's exotic Senagalese maid. In the course of the visit, Sid's false teeth are incinerated in the sink and Sid disappears from his apartment.

Elaine is matched with a woman who, to Elaine's amazement, once had a torrid affair with Ghandi. This story is briefly enough for Elaine to get over her disgust at looking at the woman's face; she has a large goiter.

George's experience is briefest of all. Instead of listening to Ben, George makes Ben feel worse by moaning about his own fear of death:

BEN: No, I feel great for 85.
GEORGE: You know, the average life span for an American male is like, 72. You're really kinda pushing the envelope there.
BEN: I'm not afraid of dying. I never think about it.
GEORGE: You don't? Boy, I think about it a lot. I think about it at my age. Imagine how much I'll be thinking about it at your age. All I'll do is keep thinking about it until it drives me insane.
BEN: I'm grateful for every moment I have.
GEORGE: Grateful? How can you be grateful when you're so close to the end?! When you know that any second-- Poof! Bamm-O! It can all be over. I mean you're not stupid. You can read the handwriting on the wall. It's a matter of simple arithmetic, for God’s sake!
BEN: I guess I just don't care.
GEORGE: What are you talking about? How can you sit there and look me in the eye and tell that me you're not worried?! Don't you have any sense?!! Don't you have a brain!? Are you so completely senile that you don't know what you're talking about anymore!!?! [BEN GETS UP] Wait a second, where are you going?
BEN: Life's too short to waste on you.
GEORGE: Wait a minute, please…
BEN: Get out of my way!

As usual, Elaine, Jerry, and George are trapped in their own self-absorption. They cannot serve the community as long as they are only interested in serving their own immediate interests and desires.

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