Tuesday, October 30, 2012

SEINFELD - Season 8, Episode 8 - The Chicken Roaster

“The Chicken Roaster”

First Script Read: Thursday, October 24, 1996
Filmed: Wednesday, October 30, 1996
Aired: November 14, 1996
Nielsen rating: 22.2
Audience share: 33
Directed: Andy Ackerman
Writers: Alec Berg and Jeff Schaffer

A Kenny Rogers Chicken fast food restaurant moves in across the street, it's red sign bathing Kramer's entire apartment in harsh light. Eventually, after he pours tomato juice into his cereal, Kramer comes to a realization. "That looked like milk to me!" He tells Jerry. "My rods and cones are all screwed up." Kramer hangs up a sign that says "Bad Chicken" outside his window. Jerry doesn't want the Kenny Rogers to leave, though, because its the only place his friend Seth could get a job after getting fired for skipping a meeting to have lunch with Jerry. So Jerry and Kramer switch apartments.

Partially from the ever-present red light and partially from the oddities lurking around Kramer's apartment, Jerry can't fall asleep and begins acting like his neighbor. Kramer, on the other hand, is more relaxed and removed. He reacts coolly and sarcastically to his friend's problems. George turns to Kramer for dating advice, noting Kramer is more like Jerry. Meanwhile, Elaine gets caught up in a crazy scheme hatched by Jerry that seems a lot like something Kramer would come up with. The role reversal only lasts for a while; eventually Kramer gets hooked on the chicken and Jerry insists they move back to their respective apartments, confident Kramer won't try to get the Kenny Roger's to close.

SEINFELD - Season 8, Episode 7 - The Checks

“The Checks”

Filmed: Monday-Tuesday, October 7-8, 1996
Aired: November 7, 1996
Nielsen rating: 21.6
Audience share: 33
Directed: Andy Ackerman
Writers: Tom Gammill, Max Pross, and Steve O’Donnell (O'Donnell also wrote the script for episode 16, "The Pothole." He worked on most of David Letterman's shows in the 1980s and early '90s. More recently he was the head writer for Jimmel Kimmel Live for five years.)

This episode returns to a recurring joke - the misconception held by numerous characters that Jerry is struggling with his comedy career. Usually it is his parents who are trying to give him some money. In this case it is Brett, Elaine's Desperado-loving, Carl Farbman furniture-hawking boyfriend. He first notices Jerry is lacking good furniture in his apartment. Then he drives up to Jerry who is walking in the pouring rain. Jerry tells him he couldn't afford to buy an umbrella. He doesn't get a chance to clarify that it is because the street umbrella vendors, with whom he used to work, have turned on him for bailing on the industry. Brett also notices Jerry is on his way to cash royalty checks that are worth less than a dollar each; he's being compensated for the use of his image on a Japanese television show.

In the midst of the economic boom of the 1990s, poverty could be more of a laughing matter. When George loses his job, it's the subject of hilarity, not cause for concern for his well-being. Other than moving back in with his parents, he seems to be able to keep up his standard of living. Even Kramer who is, as far as anyone can tell, unemployed, seems to live a perfectly comfortable life. When he does have money, he spends it immediately, as he encourages his new Japanese tourist friends to do, misunderstanding the yen-to-dollar exchange rate. When the Japanese tourists run out of money they are forced to sleep in Kramer's big Carl Farbman drawers, but Kramer and the group keep on proceeding through all financial setbacks as though nothing has changed.

Monday, October 29, 2012

SEINFELD - Season 8, Episode 6 - The Fatigues

“The Fatigues”

First Script Read: September 26, 1996
Filmed: Tuesday, October 1, 1996
Aired: October 31, 1996
Nielsen rating: 20.3
Audience share: 32
Directed: Andy Ackerman
Writers: Gregg Kavet and Andy Robin

The running joke in "The Fatigues" is the existence of mentors. Jerry's girlfriend, Abby, has a mentor. Jerry berates the mentor when he discovers she is dating Kenny Bania. Bania eventually gets dumped. "The mentor saw my act," he explains to Jerry, who offers to help the struggling comic with his routine, in effect becoming Bania's mentor. Abby gets into a fight with her mentor. Mentor-less, she feels lost. George, seeing an opportunity for personal benefit (namely, he needs someone to write a book report on risk management for him), offers to be Abby's mentor. She eagerly takes up his challenge. Meanwhile, Elaine accidentally becomes a mentor to her fatigue-wearing employee when she continually promotes him, an alternative to the much more terrifying proposition of firing him.

The idea of the mentor is pondered with much confusion by George and Jerry:
GEORGE: I still don't understand this. Abby has a mentor?
JERRY: Yes. And the mentor advises the protégé.
GEORGE: Is there any money involved?
GEORGE: So what's in it for the mentor?
JERRY: Respect, admiration, prestige.
GEORGE: Pssh! Would the protégé pick up stuff for the mentor?
JERRY: I suppose if it was on the protégé's way to the mentor, they might.
GEORGE: Laundry? Dry cleaning?
JERRY: It's not a valet. It's a protégé.

Perhaps what is most baffling to George and Jerry is the idea of a person seeking self-improvement, particularly through a subservient, respectful relationship to another person. Personal development runs counter to the traditional sitcom genre, but this particular group's resistance to change is more deep-seated. George, Jerry, Kramer, and Elaine are a bit too lazy for self-improvement. They are too conceited, too self-important. Even George, who doesn't think highly of himself, seems to think even less of his fellow human beings. He could never lower himself to asking for help, and sees people as obstacles, not opportunity. George's worldview, not unlike that of his friends, is yet another reason for the isolation and lonely lifestyle of the Seinfeld characters.

SEINFELD - Season 8, Episode 5 - The Package

“The Package”

First Script Read: Friday, September 13, 1996
Filmed: September 15-19, 1996
Aired: October 17, 1996
Nielsen rating: 20.4
Audience share: 31
Directed: Andy Ackerman
Writer: Jennifer Crittenden (This is the first writing credit of six for Crittenden, who came over from The Simpsons to work on the show through seasons eight and nine. She went on to work for The Drew Carey Show and Everybody Loves Raymond before reuniting with Julia Louis-Dreyfus on The New Adventures of Old Christine.)

There's a lot of funny moments in this episode, from Uncle Leo losing his eyebrows to Kramer talking George into taking suggestive photos to impress a girl at the photo store, but the structure of this episode is slightly off-kilter. The events in the first act don't snowball directly into a cataclysmic collision in the final act, but rather jump like a frog from lily pad to lily pad. Jerry has a broken stereo so Kramer promises to take care of it. Jerry gets a mysterious package but refuses the delivery, pondering the possibility that it is a bomb. Uncle Leo signs for the package then opens it over the phone. Jerry hears an explosion (heading into a commercial break) but it turns out to be Leo's oven blowing up. Kramer admits the package was Jerry's stereo; he has a scheme to get a refund using postal insurance. While Leo gets wrapped up in Elaine's trouble with her medical chart saying she is "difficult" (a storyline that expands and complicates in a more Seinfeld-ian way), Jerry is now caught in a silly postal investigation headed by Newman, which stumbles on George's boudoir photos.

From broken stereo to possible bomb to postal investigation. The first act has very little connection to the bulk of the story. Actually, it's a bit like the structure of a typical Simpsons episode, which makes sense because the writer, Jennifer Crittenden, is a former Simpsons writer. For example, in one of Crittenden's final episodes of The Simpsons, "Scenes from the Class Struggle in Springfield," Grandpa Simpson breaks the family television set, which prompts a trip to the Ogdenville Outlet Mall, where Marge finds a bargain-priced designer suit, which she uses to springboard her into the upper crust of Springfield's society. Like "The Package," a broken appliance leads to a story unrelated to the broken appliance.

This style works fantastically in the quirky world of Springfield, it fails in Seinfeld where stories are more likely to crash together rather than spiral apart.

SEINFELD - Season 8, Episode 4 - The Little Kicks

“The Little Kicks”

First Script Read: Thursday, September 5, 1996
Filmed: Tuesday-Wednesday, September 10-11, 1996
Aired: October 10, 1996
Nielsen rating: 22.1
Audience share: 34
Directed: Andy Ackerman
Writers: Spike Feresten

Elaine dances at her office party, if you can call it dancing, and hilarity ensues. As George reports to Jerry, "It was more like a full-body dry heave set to music. As she reports on the Inside Look featurette for the episode, Julia Louis-Dreyfus was concerned about how she would look on television. She was worried she would look embarrassingly foolish but not funny. She practiced her dance ahead of time. When it came time to film, director Andy Ackerman coached her to try to dance off-beat to the music. That proved too difficult, so Ackerman decided to have Louis-Dreyfus dance without music playing. The result, of course, was magic, delighting reality's audience as well as her co-workers at the party and the New York City public who saw her dance at the end of Jerry's bootleg version of the (fake) film Cry, Cry Again.

The episode ends memorably with Elaine getting into a fight with Frank Costanza. The two run into each other at the police station. George is under arrest for his own attempt to bootleg a movie. He was trying to impress Elaine's employee, Anna, who was interested in George only when she thought he was a bad boy. It's a development George and Jerry ponder in the restaurant:

GEORGE: I'm the bad boy. I've never been the bad boy.
JERRY: You've been the bad employee, the bad son, the bad friend...
GEORGE: Yes, yes...
JERRY: The bad fiancee, the bad dinner guest, the bad credit risk...
GEORGE: Okay, the point is made.
JERRY: The bad date, the bad sport, the bad citizen...
JERRY: The bad tipper!

George fails at being the Bad Boy, bursting into tears at the police station. Perhaps his father is made of tougher stuff. At the police station, he mocks George's intelligence but then defends his son when Elaine agrees with his assessment. The two start yelling at each other and then charge at each other, fists flying, the shot freezing just before they collide. It's preposterous and silly and fun in keeping with the episode.