Friday, September 28, 2012

SEINFELD - Season 7, Episode 18 - The Wig Master

“The Wig Master”

First Script Read: February 18, 1996
Filmed: Wednesday, February 21, 1996
Aired: April 4, 1996
Nielsen rating: 20.0
Audience share: 32
Directed: Andy Ackerman
Writer: Spike Feresten

The running jokes in this episode have to do with the consequences and complications of assuming things are as they appear.

Elaine assumes her new boyfriend, Craig, is offering to get her a discount on a dress because he is a generous person and he likes her. She eventually discovers that Craig is assuming Elaine will sleep with him if he offers her a discount on the dress. Craig also assumes Elaine won't spitefully cut off his pony tail while he is napping. He assumed incorrectly.

George and Kramer assume that they won't have any trouble at their new, cheap parking lot, Jiffy Park. They assume they'll be able to access their parked car whenever they need it. They also assume prostitutes won't use their parked cars to have sex with their clients. They assume incorrectly, though the sketchy Jiffy Park attendant IS correct when he assumes Kramer's frustration at not being able to get his car keys, which have his house key on it, will be assuaged by being given the keys to a pink Cadillac.
Susan wrongly, though understandably, assumes George is paying for sex when she catches him handing money to a prostitute. You might assume George could exploit Susan's assumption to break off the engagement, but apparently his honor is worth something to him, and he explains that he was only trying to ask the prostitute if she was turning tricks in the cars.

The police assume Kramer is a pimp. This is understandable, too, because they find Kramer trying to fend off the punches of the prostitute he discovered in his pink Cadillac. He's also dressed like a pimp. Elaine gave him a walking stick that she had to write about for the Peterman catalog. Susan's friend, a wig master for Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, let Kramer borrow one of the dreamcoats. And Kramer found a fancy hat blowing down the street.

Jerry is frustrated with the assumptions others are making about him. He's mad that Craig assumed he and Elaine weren't together when they were shopping for clothes in Craig's store. He's also mad when a flower girl assumes Elaine is married to Craig even though Jerry is standing right next to her. Best of all, he's mad when a man tries to ask the wig master out right in front of him:

JESSIE: Hi! It's me Jessie. George Hamilton's personal assistant.
ETHAN:. Right, Right. How you doing?
JESSIE: Nice to see you.
ETHAN: This is Jerry.
JERRY: Hello.
JESSIE: Yeah, hey. Ethan, what brings you in to town.
ETHAN: I'm touring with Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
JESSIE: You're kidding! Listen maybe you and I should, um, get together. Have you been on the slide at Club USA? It's intense.
JERRY: Excuse me! Excuse me! Are you asking him out?
JESSIE: Yeah, I guess you could say that.
JERRY: Right in front of me! How do you know we're not together? Two guys, sitting, laughing, drinking champagne coolies?
JESSIE: I dunno. I just didn't think you were.
JERRY: Well we're sitting here together. Why wouldn't you think that?
JESSIE: I dont know. I just didn't.
JERRY: Well it's very emasculating!

Finally, it seems Jerry's homophobia (see "The Note," "The Outing," "The Jimmy," and "The Pool Guy") is starting to fade. He doesn't seemed bothered at all about spending the afternoon sipping champagne coolies with Ethan. And he is angry when Jessie DOESN'T think he's gay. Actually, he's frustration is more the culmination of the previous assumptions. The assumption that Jerry isn't dating or married to the person he is with suggests that Jerry isn't capable or worthy of having a girlfriend (or boyfriend). He feels emasculated because his assumed potential for being someone's partner is belittled. He'd rather someone assume he is gay than assume he is alone.

SEINFELD - Season 7, Episode 17 - The Friars Club

“The Friars Club”

First Script Read: Wednesday, February 7, 1996
Filmed: Wednesday, February 14, 1996
Aired: March 7, 1996
Nielsen rating: 21.7
Audience share: 33
Directed: Andy Ackerman
Writer: David Mandel

It's nice to see George happy every once in a while. This episode opens with him skipping down the street, singing, "It's June!" because a catering snafu forced him and Susan to postpone their wedding. He arrives at Jerry's to share the good news, and is further enthused when Jerry accepts his proposal that they double-date with Susan's best friend, Hallie.

When they do go out to dinner, George spends most of the time talking to Jerry while Susan is happily preoccupied with Hallie. George loves it, but only because he doesn't have to interact with Susan at all. He thinks his life could work out alright if Jerry somehow ends up with Hallie, but he's merely distracting himself from his dislike for Susan. His joy is an illusion.

At a show for their next double-date, one of the acrobatic magicians does some cheap magic of his own, disappearing the coat Jerry borrowed from the Friar's Club by flinging it off their balcony into the audience. When they don't collect the coat after the show, Jerry fears he'll never get the jacket back. His experience sours him on Hallie, to George's dismay. Ultimately, George's dream falls apart. He must face life with Susan more or less alone.

Elaine also attends a later performance, set up by Peterman on a date with her no co-worker, Bob (played by Rob Schneider). Elaine has suspected Bob is faking a hearing disability, and Peterman caught her testing his hearing aid by whispering provocatively behind Bob's back. Ultimately, she discovers Bob does have trouble hearing, but also seems to use his disability selectively to avoid work.

Kramer's new girlfriend has secrets too, as he finds out when his new plan to only sleep 20 minutes every three hours causes him to fall asleep when they are making out on his couch. She thinks he's dead. To make sure her other shady, potentially dangerous boyfriend (possibly her husband) doesn't find out, she has two guys put Kramer in a sack and dump him into the river. This wakes Kramer up - and leads to one of Michael Richard's best stunts as an underwater camera shows him escaping the sack and swimming to the surface. Kramer escapes, but George remains in his Susan prison, at least for a few more episodes.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

SEINFELD - Season 7, Episode 16 - The Doll

“The Doll”

First Script Read: Sunday, January 21, 1996
Filmed: Wednesday, January 24, 1996
Aired: February 22, 1996
Nielsen rating: 22.2
Audience share: 33
Directed: Andy Ackerman
Writers: Tom Gammill and Max Pross

One of the skills that make Tom Gammill and Max Pross such hilarious Seinfeld writers (and translated well when they moved to The Simpsons after this season) is their ability to write a visual gag. Here's a sampling of classic scenes they wrote that barely require dialogue to be funny (Note: directors Tom Cherones and Andy Ackerman also deserve some credit for pulling these scenes off):
Season 5, Episode 3 - "The Glasses" - George and a blind man, in bathing suit and underwear, respectively, run out into the street chasing a guy George thinks stole his glasses.
Season 5, Episode 15 - "The Pie" - The repeated image of various characters shaking their head "no" without giving a reason for their refusal when offered a dessert.
Season 6, Episode 3 - "The Pledge Drive" - Various characters eating their candy bars and other desserts with a knife and fork.
Season 6, Episode 10 - "The Race" - The climactic race between Jerry and his nemesis, Duncan Meyer, set to the Superman theme.
Season 7, Episode 10 - "The Gum" - My personal favorite, Jerry, Kramer, and Lloyd Braun sitting in Jerry's apartment chewing gum.

This episode revolves around the hilarious visual effect of a doll owned by Susan that looks exactly like George's mother. The prop department deserves a lot of credit, but it is Gammill and Pross who contributed the idea in the first place. The resemblance is disturbing for both the characters who recognize it and the audience watching at home. Ultimately, the doll meets a spectacular demise when Frank Costanza encounters it and tears its head off.

Meanwhile in this same episode, Frank puts a pool table in George's old room. There's a memorable montage of him and Kramer finding the room far too small to allow them to play; their sticks bang into walls and windows, and they barely have enough room to move around. Later, when Kramer swaps his stick out for the Maestro's baton, there is another montage of him cleaning up on the table.

The Maestro adds to the visual comedy by informing Frank, Kramer, and Jerry of his habit of taking his pants off when he sits down in order to keep the crease sharp. There's no sitting down in the billiard room, but Kramer, Frank, and the Maestro take their pants off anyway. Estelle finds the trio pants-less and listening to classical music. Her horror at the spectacle completes another classic scene.

I have focused a great deal on the writing throughout Seinfeld's brilliant run, and its easier to recap the dialogue from the episodes. But the actors, particularly Michael Richards, and the writers, particularly Gammill and Pross, were also brilliant at visual humor, making Seinfeld the classic series it was.

SEINFELD - Season 7, Episode 15 - The Shower Head

“The Shower Head”

First Script Read: Sunday, January 14, 1996
Filmed: Tuesday-Wednesday, January 16-17, 1996
Aired: February 15, 1996
Nielsen rating: 21.9
Audience share: 33
Directed: Andy Ackerman
Writers: Peter Mehlman and Marjorie Gross

What a difference a week can make! Last episode Jerry was buying his father a Cadillac. This episode his family is merely an obstacle to be pushed out of the way or a pawn to be manipulated to further his own interests. Jerry's parents came to town to see their son on The Tonight Show but, seeking some "seclusion" after Morty's impeachment from his condo association in "The Cadillac," they've extended their visit. They're staying at Uncle Leo's apartment because Leo moved in with his girlfriend. Their proximity is starting to bother Jerry. Without the buffer created by the long distance charges they accumulate from Florida, his parents call him for even the smallest questions or comments, like where they can get ice. Furthermore, Jerry is annoyed at the constant dinners he has to have with them as well as their unexpected pop-ins.

Eventually, Jerry decides he has to get Leo to break up with his girlfriend so that his parents have no place to stay and will be forced to head back home. Hilariously, deviously, Jerry does this by convincing his Uncle that he shouldn't be limiting himself to one woman:

UNCLE LEO: It's about time you called your uncle. We've got to do this once a week.
JERRY: [to himself] Once a week? [to Leo] So how's Lydia?
UNCLE LEO: Ah, she's a real tiger.
JERRY: I don't know how you do it.
JERRY: A man like you, limiting yourself to one woman. I don't know. But it's none of my business.
UNCLE LEO: What are you talking about?
JERRY: Well...
UNCLE LEO: Look at this, I told them medium rare. It's medium.
JERRY: Hey, it happens.
UNCLE LEO: I bet that cook is an anti-Semite.
JERRY: He has no idea who you are.
UNCLE LEO: They don't just overcook a hamburger, Jerry.
JERRY: All right. Anyway, the point I was making before Goerbbles made your hamburger is a man like you could be dating women 20 years younger. Come on Uncle Leo! I've seen the way women look at you. When's the last time you looked in a mirror? You're an Adonis! You've got beautiful features, lovely skin. You're in the prime of your life here. You should be swinging! If I were you I'd tell this Lydia character, “It's been real,” move back into that bachelor pad and put out a sign, “open for business.”
UNCLE LEO: Believe me, I thought about it. But she is so perfect in every way. I can't see a flaw.
JERRY: Well, keep looking.

Leo is not convinced, but when he and Lydia watch Jerry make fun of Leo's paranoia about everyone being an antisemite, Lydia bursts out laughing. Leo thinks SHE is an antisemite and breaks up with her, forcing Jerry's parents to move out. Unfortunately for the Seinfeld family (but to George's delight), George's parents have decided to move into their same neighborhood in Florida. Jerry's parents hate the Costanzas. "We can't stand them," says Morty. So they move into Jerry's, and his buffer shrinks from 1200 miles to two feet. George, who spent a couple years of his adult life living with his parents, is unsympathetic. But Jerry decides to try to get Leo back with Lydia; at least that way his parents won't be living in his apartment:

UNCLE LEO: Move back with Lydia?
JERRY: Come on! You're lucky to have anybody.
UNCLE LEO: Last week you told me I was in my prime, I should be swinging.
JERRY: Swinging? What are you, out of your mind? Look at you. You're disgusting. You're bald. You're paunchy. All kinds of sounds are emanating from your body 24 hours a day. If there's a woman that can take your presence for more than ten consecutive seconds, you should hang on to her like grim death, which is not far off, by the way.
UNCLE LEO: But she's an anti-Semite!
JERRY: Can you blame her?

Apparently it works, because Helen and Morty move back into Leo's apartment. However, their return is short lived. Just like the landlord at Jerry's apartment whose installation of low-flow shower heads sends Kramer, Newman, and Jerry on a search for illegal, black market, high-powered shower heads, Leo's super apparently wants to conserve water in his building. The new shower heads, coupled with the Costanza's decision that they would miss George too much in Florida, finally convince the Seinfelds to leave town. To Jerry's pleasure and George's chagrin, the status quo is restored.