Stephen Speicher

Seinfeld (1990)

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30 posts in this topic

My absolute favorite television comedy (and my wife's as well)! We just finished watching the fourth season on DVD, it was stupendous.

I posted the following to my blog back in May, thought I'd share it. If you haven't seen the episodes dealing with George and Jerry trying to get a pilot for their tv show with NBC, you may want to ignore what follows - it's much funnier with the actors. For those wishing to relive it, continue on.

WARNING, WHAT FOLLOWS CONTAINS A SPOILER

From season IV of Seinfeld: This scene had me rolling on the floor. The dialogue picks up after Kramer has vomited on one of the employees from NBC who was going to help Jerry and George get their show on the air:

JERRY: Look, just because Kramer vomited on her doesn’t mean the deal is dead.

GEORGE: What are you crazy? It’s a traumatic thing to be thrown-up on.

JERRY: Vomiting is not a deal breaker. If Hitler had vomited on Chamberlain, Chamberlain still would have given him Czechoslovakia.

GEORGE: Chamberlain. You could hold his head in the toilet, he’d still give you half of Europe.

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What I particularly love about this show is the trademark plot structure: a single event or item (pez dispenser, kashmir sweater with a red dot on it, Kramer putting a hot-tub in his apartment, George buying a Frogger machine, a single pen being given to Jerry) causes the plot to suddenly break into several sub-plots. Each one accelerates dramatically then comes crashing back together at the end usually to the ruination of George, Elaine or Jerry: Kramer on the other hand always seems to slide through unblemished :D

Michael Richards himself was an amazing actor: contrary to what his goofy character Kramer would indicate he was by far the most serious actor on the set. He NEVER broke character while they were shooting the show, even when one of his physical stunts would cause injury and draw blood, he would just play it off through the character. While if other actors broke character, he would often get pretty angry at them and gripe at them to get their act together: he took it VERY seriously, and the results prove it.

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This was my favorite comedy, and there were very few that I did not end up laughing out loud for.

One really funny and ironic occurrence happened when I was watching it on a Thursday night and my mother-in-law is with me, and "Master of his domain" (?), comes on. This is the first show of Seinfeld she is going to see, and all I can think of is that she is going to hate it. She laughed hysterically through the whole show, then asked what time she could watch this show again. When the series finally came to a close, she called me that day to tell me thank you for introducing her to it, and how much she was going to miss Jerry and his quirky friends.

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I think my favorite episode still has to be the one that plays backwards, from end to start, where the show begins in India (in the end) at a wedding that Elaine purposefully goes to to spite the people that deliberately sent the invitation late: "it's an un-vitation".

And the weird thing keeps going on between Kramer and FDR that you never can figure out the source of (FDR making a birthday wish for Kramer to drop dead, Kramer waiting on his rooftop for a shooting star to unwish the wish....*laughs* so on).

What are you all's favorite episodes? Peterman Reality Tour, the Blackmarket Showerheads, the Pez Dispenser, Puertorican Day Parade, etc...

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"One really funny and ironic occurrence happened when I was watching it on a Thursday night and my mother-in-law is with me, and "Master of his domain" (?), comes on. This is the first show of Seinfeld she is going to see, and all I can think of is that she is going to hate it. She laughed hysterically through the whole show, then asked what time she could watch this show again. When the series finally came to a close, she called me that day to tell me thank you for introducing her to it, and how much she was going to miss Jerry and his quirky friends."

This hints at one reason why I really liked this show: they didn't degenerate to easy crude-humor, thus allowing an episode like "Master of my domain" to not be offensive when it was clearly dealing with a potentially offensive subject; they constantly maintained a light-hearted, comic tone.

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Michael Richards himself was an amazing actor: contrary to what his goofy character Kramer would indicate he was by far the most serious actor on the set.  He NEVER broke character while they were shooting the show, even when one of his physical stunts would cause injury and draw blood, he would just play it off through the character.  While if other actors broke character, he would often get pretty angry at them and gripe at them to get their act together: he took it VERY seriously, and the results prove it.

Good point. Kramer was the only character I personally enjoyed. The others never seemed as interesting, funny or engaging.

There are so many Kramer lines & scenarios that make me LOL just recalling them. For example, when he writes the ad to sell Jerry's van, "Big juicy van for sale...interesting trades considered". Then he, himself approaches Jerry with a stolen celeb t-shirt to offer as a trade. And breaks the antenna checking it out. And then there's the whole "Peterman Reality Bus Tour"; or his Kramerica Corporation, "As far as I can tell your company is nothing more than a man with a dirty apartment which may or may not contain a chicken". Or when he finds the old Merv Griffin TV set in a dumpster & sets it up in his apartment. Man, that's good stuff.

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I agree on the points on Kramer. From the episode I mentioned already, Kramer has very funny lines.

Kramer: I'm out!

Jerry: What? Already!

Kramer: It's her Jerry, It's her. She will get you to Jerry!

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*laughs* yeah, that episode was hilarious :D

"There's a naked woman across the street, I'm dating a virgin, I'm in this contest--something's gotta give!"

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Ok, here's another hilarious segment, since we're all sharing (btw, thanks to everyone for bringing up those hilarious outakes :D ) This is from the 4th season, the episode, "The Shoes". This segment takes place after George gets caught oogling the cleavage of the daughter of the NBC exec who will determine whether George and Jerry's pilot "takes off".

JERRY: What were you doing?

GEORGE: It's not my fault. You poked me!

JERRY: You're supposed to just take a peek after a poke. You were like you just put a quarter in one of those big metal things on top of the Empire State Building.

GEORGE: It was cleavage. I couldn't look away. What am I, waiting to win an Oscar here? This is all I have in my life.

JERRY: Looking at cleavage is like looking at the sun. You don't stare. It's too risky. You get a sense of it, and then you look away.

GEORGE: Alright.

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I didn't really care for this show when it first aired. In fact, I thought it was horrible. The mundane lives of these horrible, cynical, dishonest self-absorbed (in a bad way) people -- why would I want to watch that?

Later, when the show went into syndication, I gave it another chance and I am so glad I did. It is beautifully crafted, riotously funny and you aren't really meant to like the characters at all (ok, well, you can't help but like Kramer). The overarching theme seems to be 'reality will always get you in the end'. And it does! No matter the lie or petty scheme, the characters always (or nearly always) get caught in the end.

I have to say that what I like best about the show are the interconnecting plot lines. The episodes are written so that everything that happens all comes together in the end. Nothing is ever extraneous or random -- which says a lot about a show that is supposedly about 'nothing'. I have yet to see a television show that is as consistently well plotted as Seinfeld was.

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"The overarching theme seems to be 'reality will always get you in the end'. And it does! No matter the lie or petty scheme, the characters always (or nearly always) get caught in the end."

I have a "Seinfeld and Philosophy" book with a chapter titled:

Aristotle, Virtue, and George's Failed Quest for Happiness :D

No matter how sneaky or complex his schemes get, George will always fail *laughs*

"which says a lot about a show that is supposedly about 'nothing'. "

I think whenever they claim the show is about 'nothing', they mean that there is no central theme, setting or background that dominates it.

For example: 3rd Rock from the Sun, it is about aliens living on earth, so every episode, no matter what it's about has to do with that. Frasier (which I think is nearly equal to Seinfeld, which says A LOT) is about a psychiatrist's quirks and arguments with a weird family and a competitive brother in the same field of study; every episode has usually something to do with that.

Seinfeld: it is about... well...four friends... and that is about it. So every episode is a new creation with usually no shared elements. Thus making a "show about nothing", really a show about everything (man-hands, low-talkers, high-talkers, sentence-finishers, Merv Griffin set, a screen door on Kramer's apartment, waiting rooms at doctor's office.....yada yada yada :D

As far as characters go, I do respect one a lot: Kramer.

And I say this pretty seriously: he is just lovable, he is brutally honest, but in a way that is childishly innocent; he's always full of positive energy, never really gets down about anything; though he mooches heavily off of Jerry, he is still extremely benevolent and wouldn't hurt a fly; he is shameless and open with his thoughts and actions; and notice how is always willing to do the most insane tasks or projects or random fun things despite enormous criticism he receives from people about them, because to him, his standard of what is right is the only thing that matters.

These things weren't nearly as evident in the first few seasons because Michael was still getting into the role, and Kramer was still growing. In a 30 minute extra on "The making of Kramer" in a Seinfeld DVD I have, they explain this:

Originally Michael played Kramer kind of like Stanley Spedowski (misspelled) from Weird Al's movie UHF; that is to say, he played Kramer like everyone else was smarter than him. They say that the character really took off and started growing and changing marvelously when he decided to start playing Kramer like he was smarter than everyone else; and from that moment on they say, it was just pure genius work.

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What I particularly love about this show is the trademark plot structure:  a single event or item (pez dispenser, kashmir sweater with a red dot on it, Kramer putting a hot-tub in his apartment, George buying a Frogger machine, a single pen being given to Jerry) causes the plot to suddenly break into several sub-plots.  Each one accelerates dramatically then comes crashing back together at the end usually to the ruination of George, Elaine or Jerry: Kramer on the other hand always seems to slide through unblemished :D

I also noticed this plot structure when watching Larry David's newer series, Curb Your Enthusiasm, on HBO. Everything always comes full circle at the end. I speculate that is has to do with Larry David's and Jerry Seinfeld's roots in stand-up comedy.

A lot of stand-up acts work the same way, they have a central bit that is built upon and split into other lines of jokes and then the act returns to central (presumably funniest) joke in the finale at the end of the act.

Seinfeld has absolutely ruined me from watching other sitcoms on network TV because nothing can hold a candle to it. I actually think Curb Your Enthusiasm is better though, and I highly recommend any Seinfeld fans who have not seen it to check it out (the first three seasons are out on DVD).

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I also noticed this plot structure when watching Larry David's newer series, Curb Your Enthusiasm, on HBO.  Everything always comes full circle at the end.  I speculate that is has to do with Larry David's and Jerry Seinfeld's roots in stand-up comedy. 

Often the way the elements come together is ridiculously against the odds, which is what makes the show so funny.

Like one of my favorite episodes, where Kramar, unknowingly, buys a pimp outfit, owns an old Cadillac, and a prostitute happens to be in it! and so gets called out as a pimp by the police!

KramerThePimp.jpg

The down side to the show is the lack of ambition of many of the characters, especially George Costanza. Sometimes that can be a real turn off to me. Kramar is absolutely the best character. His unbridled enthusiasm for simple things is infectious.

Or, this on going battle...

Newman: Hello Jerrrrrry [sinister smile]

Jerry: Oh, hi Newman. [sarcastic intonation]

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"The down side to the show is the lack of ambition of many of the characters, especially George Costanza. Sometimes that can be a real turn off to me."

I don't think these things should bother us though. The show always remained purely comedic, there were never any serious moments in the sitcom, it was always meant to be approached light hearted, so I don't think the morality of the characters involved should ever be too serious of a deal.

No one ever paused in the middle of The Three Stooges and went "This show disturbs me: what are the moral repercussions of Mo repeatedly poking Curly in the eye unprovoked?"

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I used to watch the Seinfeld re-runs regularly but I got bored with them after awhile when I started seeing the same ones over and over again. But I recently started taping them again on my Tivo and I'm seeing quite a few I've never seen before.

I saw one just the other day that may be one of the best, called "Voices". Somehow they managed to cram 4 sub-plots into the half hour each involving extremely funny bits for all 4 of them. Jerry's hearing voices coming from his girlfriend's navel, Elaine getting back with an ex-boyfriend, George being fired from his job but he keeps going to work anyway, and Kramer taking on a business intern from NYU.

Kramer was always the real star of the show and it made me wonder if a comedic sit-com needed a completely wacky character to make it work, like the airline pilot on the first Bob Newhart Show or Larry, Daryll and Daryll on the second one or Lenny and Squiggy on Laverne and Shirley, etc.

Incidentally, another one I'd recommend is "Mad about You" which had a can't-beat-it starring cast of Helen Hunt and Paul Reiser. Unfortunately it apparently only had a short run of maybe one or two seasons.

Someone mentioned HBO's "Curb Your Enthusiasm" with Larry David (one of the producers of Seinfeld). I thought it was hilarious. That one didn't need a wacky character. It had Larry. :-) Does anyone happen to know if they are planning any more?

Fred Weiss

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Someone mentioned HBO's "Curb Your Enthusiasm" with Larry David (one of the producers of Seinfeld). I thought it was hilarious. That one didn't need a wacky character. It had Larry. :-)  Does anyone happen to know if they are planning any more?

Great show. You can really see how much Larry David influenced Seinfeld by watching his show. I only discovered it last season so I guess I have a bunch of older episodes to look forward to.

As to new episodes ... I know they started shooting for a new season several months ago, and I would expect the new episodes to air very late Summer or early Fall.

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I recently watched the "Voices" episode for the first time. It was pretty funny!

The most memorable episode to me though is with Elaine dancing at an office party. :D

I like Seinfeld and Friends the same.

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Elizabeth,

That show was hilarious, the dancing and the thumbs. Jerry and George are also there, and start asking "what the hell is that with the thumbs". I laughed out loud to that one.

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Great show. You can really see how much Larry David influenced Seinfeld by watching his show. I only discovered it last season so I guess I have a bunch of older episodes to look forward to. 

Larry David is George Costanza. The way he portrays himself in Curb Your Enthusiasm is exactly how George Costanza would act if he were a multi-millionaire living in Southern California.

As to new episodes ... I know they started shooting for a new season several months ago, and I would expect the new episodes to air very late Summer or early Fall.

That's the best news I've heard all day. I know there was some doubt whether or not there was going to be another season.

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I like that one where Jerry had fleas in his apartment.

"Oh yea I had fleas in my apartment, too" said Kramer.

"Well what did you do about them?" Jerry asks, the Kramer replies "what do you mean?"

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I just watched "The Parking Garage" today, I liked this part, if you watch the episode it is a peek at the greatness of Kramer :D:

GEORGE: Oh, what's the difference? We'll all be dead eventually.

KRAMER: Does that bother you?

GEORGE: Yeah, it bothers me. Doesn't it bother you?

KRAMER: Not at all.

GEORGE: See, now that bothers me even more than dying bothers me, cause it's people like you who live to be a hundred and twenty because you're not bothered by it. How could it not bother you?

KRAMER: I once saw this thing on T.V. with people who are terminally ill, and they all believed the secret of life is just to live every moment.

GEORGE: Yeah, yeah, I've heard that. Meanwhile, I'm here with you in a parking garage, what am I supposed to do?

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I also watched "The Letter" today where Kramer gets a portrait done by Jerry's girlfriend. Jerry breaks it off with her and she sends him a letter with a love note in it, Jerry reads it out loud to Kramer and George; Kramer's reaction is a perfect example of the comedic gold-standard that is Michael Richard's' acting:

JERRY: No one's ever written me a letter like this. Maybe I was wrong about

her!

KRAMER: (pushing Jerry towards the phone) Yeah! Get in there and give her a

call. Pick up the phone and call her!

JERRY: Should I?

KRAMER: (screaming) YES! YOU'RE D**N RIGHT YOU SHOULD! (hysterically) Fight

for her, Jerry, she's sure as h**l fighting for you!

JERRY: ALL RIGHT, all right! I'll call her.

(I bleeped out the profanity because I'm not sure at all how to interpret this "b. Profanity. There are definitely occasions for what Ayn Rand called "the kind of language I do not like to see in print" -- but not on THE FORUM. If you want to express profound and extreme evaluations, be clever and create your own alternatives to the usual overused and offensive curse words." from the guidelines in application to posting quotations from a tv show. It probably wasn't necessary but I don't want to push the guidelines on a forum that isn't mine: What is your feed back on this Dr.Speicher?)

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