Wednesday, August 1, 2012

SEINFELD - Season 6, Episode 5 - The Couch

“The Couch”

First Script Read: September 17, 1994
Filmed: September 21, 1994
Aired: October 27, 1994
Nielsen rating: 19.4
Audience share: 24
Directed: Andy Ackerman
Writer: Larry David

The previous episode, "The Chinese Woman," skirted around the issue of abortion as it discussed the possibility that Kramer or Jerry had ever impregnated women. This issue takes abortion head on. Jerry enjoys sparking a near riot at Poppie's new restaurant when he asks the Pro-Life Poppie about his views on abortion in front of the Pro-Choice Elaine:
JERRY: Poppie, I was just curious. Where do you stand on the abortion issue?
POPPIE: When my mother was abducted by the Communists, she was with child...
JERRY: Oh boy.
POPPIE: ...but the Communists, they put an end to that! So on this issue there is no debate! And no intelligent person can think differently.
ELAINE: Well, Poppie, I think differently.
POPPIE: And what gives you the right to do that?
ELAINE (STANDING UP): The Supreme Court gives me the right to do that! Let's go Jerry. C'mon.
WOMAN AT NEXT TABLE: I heard that. Let's go, Henry.
HENRY: But we just got here...
WOMAN AT ANOTHER TABLE: I'm with you, Poppie!
ELAINE: And I am not coming back!
POPPIE: You're not welcome!
JERRY: Well, I'm certainly glad I brought it up.

Larry David's script avoids any real political dialogue, and Poppie's argument relies not on a philosophical argument but a vague personal anecdote about his mother. Elaine is, understandably, offended by Poppie's "no intelligent person can think differently" remark. But her position towards Pro-Lifers is equally firm. She falls in love with Carl, a mover who she meets when he delivers Jerry's new sofa. Jerry spoils that relationship when he asks her if she knows Carl's stance on abortion. Elaine is heartbroken to find that Carl is, indeed, Pro-Life. That revelation ends their relationship.

Jerry's stance, and the attitude of the show overall, is that such extremity is ridiculous. In reality of course, that is a tricky argument to make against either side of the abortion debate. But David's script gives it a shot by using Kramer and Poppie's make your own pizza business plan as a thinly veiled metaphor:
KRAMER: Alright, put a little sauce on here. [SPEAKS UNINTELLIGIBLY WITH ITALIAN ACCENT] Some cheese.
POPPIE: Not too much!
KRAMER: And cucumbers!
POPPIE: Wait a second. What is that?
KRAMER: It's cucumbers.
POPPIE: No, no. You can't put cucumbers on a pizza.
KRAMER: Well, why not? I like cucumbers.
POPPIE: That's not a pizza. It'll taste terrible.
KRAMER: But that's the idea. You make your own pie.
POPPIE: Yes, but we cannot give the people the right to choose any topping they want! Now on this issue there can be no debate!
KRAMER: What gives you the right to tell me how I would make my pie?
POPPIE: Because it's a pizza!
KRAMER: It's not a pizza until it comes out of the oven!
POPPIE: It's a pizza the moment you put your fists in the dough!
KRAMER: No, it isn't!
POPPIE: Yes, it is!

Overall, the "Pro-Life" side comes off looking more foolish in this parody, with Poppie's absurd refusal to allow customers the right to choose any topping they want. In the end, the "when is it a pizza" question is equally absurd on both sides. It is the passion of the abortion argument that this episode teases, not the beliefs of either side. It is an argument to calm down through a demonstration of how strong stances lead to divisions, whether in the pizza business or in romance. It's not the opinion itself but the passion it inspires that causes problems. Elaine and Carl could have accepted each other's difference of opinion, but instead they allowed it to destroy their promising relationship.

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