Monday, September 10, 2012

SEINFELD - Season 6, Episode 23 - The Understudy

“The Understudy”

First Script Read:  March 10, 1995
Filmed: Monday, March 13-14, 1995
Aired: May 18, 1995
Nielsen rating: 20.7
Audience share: 32
Directed: Andy Ackerman
Writers: Carol Leifer and Marjorie Gross (Gross wrote four episodes and served as a producer for season seven. She died June 7, 1996 and is memorialized in the credits of the season eight premiere, “The Foundation.”)

Guest-starring Bette Midler, the season finale parodies the Tonya Harding-Nancy Kerrigan scandal which had unfolded a year before. Like Tonya Harding, Jerry's girlfriend, Gennice, is stuck in the shadow of a more famous coworker. She's Midler's understudy in the Broadway adaptation of Rochelle, Rochelle. Like Harding, Gennice's boyfriend and his friend are implicated in an injury that threatens to knock her rival out of the way of her ascendancy. George crashes into Midler at a softball game, putting the star in the hospital. Like Harding, Gennice, Jerry, and George are harassed by the press. But unlike the attack on Kerrigan, there was no conspiracy to harm Midler. George was just a little bitter about some trash talking he had exchanged with Midler earlier in the game.

The Tonya Harding parody is enjoyable, but the funnier storyline is Gennice's tendency to burst into tears and Jerry's annoyance that, as the boyfriend, he has the responsibility to comfort her. She is mad at him when he doesn't move across the room to comfort her when they are watching the Bette Midler film Beaches at the start of the episode, so whether its a dropped frankfurter or gratitude for George knocking Midler out, Jerry is ready throughout the rest of the episode to help dry her tears. He's even ready when she gets news that her grandmother has died, though this doesn't seem to bother her in the least.

Ultimately, Gennice's tendency to burst into tears lines up perfectly with Tonya Harding's story when she goes onto the stage for her first show. She starts crying when she notices her shoe is untied, just like Harding lost it when she noticed her skate was untied at the 1994 Olympics. Like Harding, Gennice begs the audience for a chance to tie her shoe and start over. The episode ends there and we never hear from Gennice again, although it wouldn't be surprising to learn she ended up dabbling in professional wrestling later in her life.

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