Thursday, November 29, 2012

SEINFELD - Season 9, Episode 2 - The Voice

“The Voice”

First Script Read: August 29, 1997
Filmed: Wednesday, September 3, 1997
Aired: October 2, 1997
Nielsen rating: 21.5
Audience share: 33
Directed: Andy Ackerman
Writers: Alec Berg, Jeff Schaffer, and David Mandel

Jerry imagines his girlfriend's belly button talks to him in a funny voice at night while she is sleeping. He shares the joke and the voice with George and Kramer, and they all get a big kick out of doing the voice. Eventually, Clare, Jerry's girlfriend, catches him chuckling to himself one night in bed. She confronts him and he tells her about the voice. She is not amused and makes him choose between doing the voice and dating her. Of course, he chooses the voice only to discover George and Kramer have grown tired of the joke. Jerry manages to get back together with Clare until she's struck in the head by a giant ball of oil (a test run for Kramerica Industries' oil bladder idea) after not heeding Jerry's cries of warning because she thought he was doing the voice again.

The running inside joke of the voice rings true for me, not because I've ever come up with anything quite like it, but because I've had more than my share of long-running inside jokes that are essentially impossible to explain to people not in on the joke. In fact, on the DVD Inside Look featurette, Seinfeld writer Spike Feresten admits that the idea came from his own experience. He once admitted to his girlfriend that he imagined a similar voice coming from her butt at night while she slept. Her reaction, according to Feresten, was similar to Clare's.

When Jerry is deciding between Clare and the voice, he goes back to the pier where, once upon a time, first George and then he made a decision to get married. In fact, to complete the match, the exact same footage is used of Jerry running off the pier. As David Mandel points out in the commentary, it's a joke typical of Seinfeld's Late Period. Actually, the joke works in a similar way to most inside joke. The pier was funny the first time it happened ("The Engagement") because of the silliness of George sprinting. After a couple times, it becomes funny because it is recognizable as a repetition.

The danger of the repeated, inside joke is that it will eventually wear thin, as Jerry discovers with the voice, and some fans and critics felt about Seinfeld's Late Period. As someone who is the last to let go of the humor of an inside joke, I discovered the same thing Jerry does at the end of the episode - sometimes a tired joke can catch back on.

SEINFELD - Season 9, Episode 1 - The Butter Shave

“The Butter Shave”

First Script Read: August 20, 1997
Filmed: Wednesday, August 27, 1997
Aired: September 25, 1997
Nielsen rating: 24.6
Audience share: 37
Directed: Andy Ackerman
Writers: Alec Berg, Jeff Schaffer, and David Mandel

Have you ever noticed how often the Seinfeld gang fakes a physical disability or ailment? The technical term for this is malingering, and various characters have done it a handful of times:

  • In "The Lip Reader" Elaine pretends to be deaf in order to avoid the nuisance of having a conversation with her driver. The driver catches her and yells at her.
  • In "The Non-Fat Yogurt" George keeps up a fake arm spasm after Lloyd Braun catches him elbowing Jerry. George is confronted by Lloyd Braun's recommended doctor as a factor, but on his way out of the office he bangs his arm and his arm actually does start to spasm.
  • In "The Jimmy" Kramer is mistaken to be mentally challenged, and gets to be the guest of honor at a charity benefit featuring Mel Torme. He is never caught.
  • In "The Friars Club" Elaine suspects her new co-worker is pretending to be deaf to get out of work. Ultimately, it seems that her co-worker really is deaf - his hearing aid is functioning - but he also only pretends to be unable to hear sometimes.
  • In "The Fatigues" George successfully pretends to be blind, flunking an eye test to qualify for Reading for the Blind audiobooks.
  • This is a stretch, but in "The Little Jerry" George compares Elaine's boyfriend's habit of shaving his head bald for no reason to "using a wheelchair for the fun of it!"
Now in "The Butter Shave" comes George's biggest act of malingering in the series. At his new job, George's boss assumes he is disabled because he is carrying a cane. In fact, George is at the end of his recovery from the invitation accident that happened to him at the end of season eight. He doesn't correct his boss. He gets his own handicap bathroom and a handicap parking space. He even gets carried to meetings by a strong female coworker. Later, after he injures his opposite leg, his boss thinks his condition is deteriorating and gets George a motorized scooter. Finally, his boss catches him carrying his scooter. That sets up the following episode, in which George, enjoying the handicapped bathroom he still has the keys to as well as the paycheck, refuses to quit the job despite the harassment he receives by his duped coworkers.
All in all, it's about as despicable as George gets.

SEINFELD - Season 8, Episode 22 - The Summer of George

“The Summer of George”

First Script Read: Saturday, March 29, 1997
Filmed: Monday-Wednesday, March 31-April 2, 1997
Aired: May 15, 1997
Nielsen rating: 29.7
Audience share: 33
Directed: Andy Ackerman
Writers: Alec Berg and Jeff Schaffer

The season eight finale brings George's year full circle. He began the year "punished" for the freedom he gains by Susan's death by poison wedding invitations. Susan's parents put him in charge of a foundation in Susan's memory. By the end of the finale George ends up in the hospital with his legs badly injured after slipping on an invitation. His dreams of living off the severance package the Yankees gave him are dashed as he will have to spend all summer in rehabilitation.

Before that punishment hits, George spends much of the episode running around helping Jerry maintain his relationship with his new girlfriend, Lanette:

GEORGE: No, listen. We are always sitting here. I am always helping you with your girl problems and you are helping me with my girl problems. Where do we end up?
: Here.
: Exactly! Because neither one of us can handle a woman all by ourselves.
: I'm trying.
: I've tried. We don't have it. But maybe the two of us, working together at full capacity, could do the job of one normal man.
: Then each of us would only have to be like a half man. That sounds about right!

George pitches in, helping Jerry cover the details of his relationship. He buys tickets for the couple, helps choose Jerry's wardrobe so Lanette approves, reminds Jerry to complement Lanette on her manicure, gives him mouth spray, and buys party invitations. Until George's accident, the partnership works great. Lanette is pleased with Jerry's punctuality, the fact that he notices her nails, and his clothing choice.

Theoretically, then, a relationship is only as strong as the amount of labor hours put into covering the details. In reality, of course, all kinds of relationships take time to grow. But according to this episode, the type of time needed is time spent on completing tasks on behalf of the girlfriend as well as time spent making sure the girlfriend approves of her boyfriend's appearance and attention to detail. It's not the time spent together that is important so much as it is the time the male spends on the relationship when the female isn't even around. It's no wonder George longed to be free of Susan! In Seinfeld, a successful relationship eats every facet of a male's being: his identity and his every waking second. That makes both Jerry and George very unhappy.

SEINFELD - Season 8, Episode 21 - The Muffin Tops

“The Muffin Tops”

First Script Read: Wednesday, March 19, 1997
Filmed: Tuesday, March 25, 1997
Aired: May 8, 1997
Nielsen rating: 20.9
Audience share: 32
Directed: Andy Ackerman
Writer: Spike Feresten

Believe it or not, Jerry has a new girlfriend! At first sight, George is impressed:

GEORGE: Where are you meeting these women? When they get off the bus at the port authority?
JERRY [POINTING TO HIS HEART]: Right here, George. In here. Try opening this up. You'll find the biggest dating scene in the world.
GEORGE: Thanks. Thanks a lot.

George doesn't open up his heart. Nor does he head to the port authority. But a series of events lead him to meet a woman who thinks George is the one from out of town. First, George agrees to watch a guy's luggage on the street, then takes the suitcase home with him when the guy doesn't return. George starts wearing the clothes, which make him look like a tourist. A beautiful woman who works with a tourist organization, Mary Anne, meets him and, as George plays the part of the tourist, takes him around New York.

JERRY: So you're pretending to be a tourist?
GEORGE: It's beautiful. She makes all the plans. I'm not from around here so it's okay if I'm stupid, and she knows I'm only in town visiting so there's no messy breakup.
JERRY: How do you explain your apartment?
GEORGE: I got a hotel room.
JERRY: You moved into a hotel?
GEORGE: Well I don't know anyone here Jerry. Where else am I going to stay?

Eventually, George tries to pursue a serious relationship but Mary Anne isn't interested in dating someone from out of town. When he suggests that he's thinking about moving to New York, she warns him that the city will eat him alive. Nevertheless, George decides to pretend to move to New York:

JERRY: You're moving to New York? That's fantastic. I can see you all the time now.
GEORGE: Eat me alive, huh? We'll see who can make it in this town.
JERRY: What is it she think you can't do?
GEORGE: Find a job. Get an apartment.
JERRY: How did you do those things?
GEORGE: Never mind. They're done. All I have to do now is redo them. You know if you take everything I've ever done in my entire life and condense it down into one day, it looks decent!

Of course, it backfires spectacularly. It's bad enough that Mary Anne tells him the apartment he has been living in but claims he just found is over-priced and smells bad. Then, when he brings her to his office at Yankee Stadium, she mentions the job he was pretending to have at Tyler Chicken to George Steinbrenner. Impressed with George's work ethic, Steinbrenner calls Tyler to get them to release George to the Yankees. But Tyler plays hardball and ultimately Steinbrenner trades George to the company he never had a job with in the first place. So ends the longest, best job George ever had. He started with the Yankees at the end of season five and kept the job three years to the end of season eight.