Wednesday, May 30, 2012

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.

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