Friday, May 4, 2012

SEINFELD - Season 4, Episodes 3-4 - The Pitch/The Ticket

“The Pitch/The Ticket”

Filmed: August 3-5, 1992
Aired: 9:00 pm, September 16, 199
Nielsen rating: 12.6, 12.4
Audience share: 20, 20 (Seinfeld lost its first head-to-head battle with Home Improvement on ABC, which got an 18.6 rating and a 29 share)
Directed: Tom Cherones
Writer: Larry David

An hour-long special kicked off a full season self-reflexive stories, as George and Jerry attempt to create and produce a sitcom for NBC that mirrors Seinfeld itself. Simultaneously, every episode this season referenced a past episode in some way, rewarding its faithful viewers more than any other sitcom that had come before.

This exchange from early in the episode is revealing of the type of humor Seinfeld increasingly used in season four:

GEORGE: They want you to do a TV show?
JERRY: Well, they want me to come up with an idea. I mean, I don't have any ideas. 
GEORGE: Come on, how hard is that? Look at all the junk that's on TV.

I will not break down the ostensibly obvious reasons why this is funny in the hopes of revealing something more. To appreciate the jokes, all the viewer needs is to be conscious that he is watching characters on a television show about their lives, and then notice that these characters are talking about making a television show about their lives. It also helps if the viewer knows the character Jerry Seinfeld, who is a comedian from New York, is played by a real life comedian from New York named Jerry Seinfeld. If a viewer also knows the show has already based many of its stories on events that happened to Jerry and some of his friends, he might appreciate the joke on an even deeper level. Thus, the more a Seinfeld viewer knows about the reality behind the show, the more there is to the joke. To put it another way, the more a viewer knows the more irony he will notice.

George's initial comment is laced with surprise and skepticism, which is ironic because the real Jerry Seinfeld's show is succeeding. Jerry's nervousness is ironic for the same reasons. George's second comment about the quality of TV is the most noticeably ironic. If he knew he was a character on a television show, George's comment would be self-deprecating. He doesn't know, so the joke is on him. The studio audience's laugh underscores the obviousness of the humor of this line.

Again, the more you know about Seinfeld, the more there is to appreciate in its humor because of the quantity of inside jokes. Postmodern culture is filled with inside jokes. I think part of the pleasure of the inside joke is narcissistic; we experience pleasure when someone shoots us a wink, acknowledging that they know that we know something that they know, something that not everyone knows. The exclusivity affirms our own knowledge.

Interestingly, Jason Alexander, interviewed on the Inside Look DVD feature for this episode, was concerned about the narcissism inherent in the direction the show headed in season four, creating an entire arc based on its own reality. In retrospect, he admits he was wrong that it was a mistake for Seinfeld, but he was NOT wrong in his categorization of the arc as "self-aggrandizing." Not only are the characters of Seinfeld narcissistic, but the creators of the show seem equally self-absorbed. This characteristic is one of the main reasons why Seinfeld is considered a classic of post-modern culture.

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