Monday, October 29, 2012

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.

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