Tuesday, July 31, 2012

SEINFELD - Season 6, Episode 2 - The Big Salad


“The Big Salad”

First Script Read:  Thursday, August 18, 1994
Filmed: Tuesday, August 23, 1994
Aired: September 29, 1994
Nielsen rating: 21
Audience share: 32
Directed: Andy Ackerman
Writer: Larry David


By early in season six, the pace of Seinfeld sped up considerably, allowing all four characters to have stories in the episode. George's latest relationship crumbles after he complains about not getting credit for paying for Elaine's big salad. Elaine tries to thwart the romantic advances of a stationary store guy by giving him Jerry's number. Jerry agonizes over the fact his girlfriend was once dated and dumped by Newman. And Kramer is convinced that he drove (fictional) ex-baseball player Steve Gendason to murder.

Kramer's storyline evolves into a parody of the OJ Simpson murder case. The Hall of Fame football player's famous high-speed chase took place on June 17, about two months before this episode was conceived and filmed. OJ Simpson is never mentioned in the episode, but the final image of Kramer driving a white Bronco with Gendason in the back seat is one every viewer would recognize. The Simpson car chase was an event watched by perhaps close to 100 million Americans. It was a mass media moment, and while the ensuing court case would confirm the continued presence of racial division in America, the experience of June 17 was something most Americans had in common. These are the type of media events that shape national identity. In the summer of 1994, a man from Alabama could walk into a bar in Seattle and start a conversation about OJ Simpson, certain that his Seattle counterpart knew about this topic. In referencing the famous case, Seinfeld was adding its voice to the conversation.

Though not to the same extent ("only" 30 million viewers saw this episode the first time it aired), Seinfeld was itself an important piece of American national identity. And Seinfeld fans could find countrymen and women anywhere in the nation to talk about the show. So while Seinfeld echoed American culture by referencing OJ Simpson, it added to American culture, posing ideas and observations that originated with its writers, such as this exchange about dating:

ELAINE: Maybe I should just get married.
JERRY: Dating is really starting to get embarrassing isn't it?
ELAINE: I know. You know, whenever I'm on a date I feel people can tell.
JERRY: People on dates shouldn't even be allowed out in public.
ELAINE: You can say that again.
JERRY: It's embarrassing for them. It's painful for us to watch. I'm going out with someone later. I'm not even taking her out of the house.
ELAINE: Good for you!
JERRY: I don't need a bunch of people staring at us!

I don't think most viewers took the time to ponder the meaning of this exchange, but that doesn't mean it didn't influence their thinking, weaving into their perception of the world. As much as Seinfeld is about single life, and as quickly as the characters go through partners (as discussed in my blog post on Season 6, Episode 1 - The Chaperone), Elaine, Jerry, and George all express a yearning for marriage. Being married is the ultimate "normal" state of life that the the trio all sense they are supposed to reach. It looms over their lives, and as they age they become more and more embarrassed that they haven't gotten there yet. So even Seinfeld promotes the marriage as an expected goal for every American. Amidst the neurosis and cynicism expressed towards their lives in front of a mass audience, that is at least one traditional ideal that Seinfeld falls back on.

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