Monday, July 16, 2012

SEINFELD - Season 5, Episode 14 - The Marine Biologist

“The Marine Biologist”

First Script Read:  December 13, 1993
Filmed: December 17, 1993
Aired: 9:00pm, February 10, 1994
Nielsen rating: 22
Audience share: 23
Directed: Tom Cherones
Writers: Ron Hauge and Charlie Rubin (Both served as consultants in 1993-94 and are credited with story for season 6’s “The Fusilli Jerry.” According to the DVD Notes about Nothing feature, they contributed the Assman storyline for that episode.)

I was only 12-years-old, but I'm pretty sure I can remember laughing hysterically when George pulled the Titleist out of his pocket at the climax of this episode. Incredibly, as the "Inside Look" DVD feature for this episode explains, Larry David came up with the idea for the final monologue the night before this episode was filmed, tying George's marine biologist charade with Kramer's beach golfing. And Jason Alexander was such a quick study he nailed that speech on the first take. The result was one of the biggest studio audience laughs in the history of the show. According to Jerry Seinfeld, the only other comparable moments were Elaine's line, "Maybe I'll go visit my mother. She just bought me some new panties and they're all laid out for me" and Teri Hatcher's career-launching delivery of, "...and by the way, they're real and they're spectacular."

We'll see where I end up putting this episode on my personal rankings, but it is high in the running for all-time best. I love watching George get away with a lie for an extended period. Even though it comes in the midst of that absurd lie, one that would, moments later, prompt Diane DeConn to tell him to "Go to hell," saving that whale might be George's finest moment in the history of the show. Sure, he has a few good moments with the Yankees, but I'm not a Yankees fan...

The episode also sets up Michael Richards for some fun physical comedy, swinging and missing a golf ball, and then constantly wrestling with the sand that has infested his clothes after his trip to the beach. The only negative is the caustic Corinne character, the woman who is hit in the head when Yuri Testikoff throws Elaine's electronic organizer out the window of their limo. Corinne's grating New York accent and over-the-top uncouthness might be amusing to some, but I don't find it all that fun. It is also extremely baffling to me, given his usual type, that Jerry might be attracted to Corinne. Testikoff's Russian writer caricature is fun, on the other hand. I suppose we all like some of Seinfeld's zany characters more than others.

I can't find much cultural criticism to do about this episode. It rides on the pre-established characterizations of the gang more than any insightful observations of the world they live in. But perhaps that is what makes it so memorable, and one of the reasons this is something of a milestone episode. At just passed the halfway point in season five (of nine) this episode is almost exactly at the midpoint of the series' run. Seinfeld had, by now, fully matured as a television show. The characters were fully developed, and the style was settled. Thus this episode could tell a story about George lying to a woman, Elaine getting into trouble at work, Kramer flopping around like a lunatic, and Jerry making sarcastic remarks about it all without bothering with an explanation of why their behavior fit their characters. Increasingly, Seinfeld episodes could build on the audience's familiarity with the characters rather than clever social insights. I loved the self-referentiality and increasing cartoonishness of late Seinfeld, but I can also understand why critics felt the show's best years were somewhere between season four (the year George and Jerry pitched a show about nothing to NBC) and season seven (the year George was engaged to Susan).

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