“Seinfeld” Notes

Blowhard, Esq. writes:

the-sienfeld-cast-2013

A few thoughts and observations after watching all nine seasons of SEINFELD, which were recently released on Hulu Plus.

1. A lot of episodes focus on clothes and fashion: the puffy shirt, the red dot on the cashmere sweater, George getting the suit on sale, Bania’s Armani suit, Elaine working for a clothing catalog (the urban sombrero, etc), Kramer’s cologne being ripped off by Calvin Klein, George’s cotton Yankee uniforms, Jerry’s suede jacket with the pink striped lining, Larry David playing the mysterious man wearing a cape, Morty Seinfeld and his raincoats, Puddy and his silly fur coat, the Bro/Manziere, Sue Ellen and her bra, Jerry dating the girl who only has one dress, Kramer and his skinny jeans. Not a plot point, but I remember Michael Richards’s wardrobe making a bit of an impact during the original run. I’m sure I’ve forgotten other examples. Even the very first episode of CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM is about David buying a pair of pants with an unsightly tent at the crotch that makes it look like he has an erection.

2. Jerry and the gang breaking up with people over silly quirks (the Low Talker, the Close Talker, Man Hands) became one of the show’s trademarks but those episodes didn’t stick out or feel as numerous to me. Maybe because I’ve seen them so many times? Are they inordinately popular in the syndication rotation?

3. George is the real star of the show and Jerry is the straight man sidekick. CURB is basically the George character getting the spin-off he deserves. I still haven’t come across an explanation for why they made George Italian when he’s clearly the most neurotic Jew who ever lived. He makes Woody Allen look like an Episcopalian minister.

4. The show is pretty unabashed when it comes to making fun of Alexander’s and Wayne Knight’s less-than-desireable looks. George is constantly described by himself and others as “short, stocky, and bald” and Newman’s apartment has that poster of a hot fudge sundae on the wall, which the show’s directors framed him beside. They frequently paired both of them with women who were out of their league, but that was part of the joke.

5. It’s kind of a bitter “fuck you” to the audience, but I liked the finale.

6. Hard to say which episode was my favorite. The two times I remember laughing the hardest are from Kramer lines — when he quits dancing around what everyone is trying to be diplomatic about and bluntly delivers the truth. The one that comes to mind is when George is dating the woman who would be hot but for her big nose. (Notice too how they’re talking about a jacket — another clothing reference I forgot.)

Another scene that sticks out in my memory — because it’s so Jewish — comes in the Bania Armani suit episode. Bania argues soup isn’t a meal but Jerry thinks it is. Jerry is talking to Elaine about it and they’re arguing back and forth about whether soup constitutes a meal. What kind of soup? Was it hearty? Did he eat bread with it? It’s a great example of legal reasoning. If anyone wants to know why there are so many Jews in the law, I’d show them that scene.

Still, I can’t say those were my favorite episodes. I guess this is a kind of a bullshit cop out answer, but my favorite thing about the show is the chemistry between the group. That’s why the show is so watchable — it comes on and you wanna settle in no matter which episode it is. Some episodes are funnier or spawned more pop culture references than others, but it doesn’t really matter which one I’m watching.

7. The show is also great for basically being the reason why Seinfeld and Howard Stern feuded for years. The episodes of Howard where Gilbert Gottfried mocked Jerry’s act and delivery are among the hardest I’ve ever laughed in my life.

8. Another thing I appreciated, which it has in common with THE SIMPSONS, are all the great secondary characters, some of which only appeared in one episode. The world it created feels richer. It’s also a good example of something Sax has pointed out — you don’t shoot for world-building, it’s a consequence of good storytelling.

9. This 3.5 hour interview with Jason Alexander at the Archive of American Television is very much worth watching if you’re a fan of the show. Funny to learn how Alexander learned the marine biologist speech an hour before he delivered it and the take we see in the episode was the first he ever performed it.

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About Blowhard, Esq.

Amateur, dilettante, wannabe.
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9 Responses to “Seinfeld” Notes

  1. Fenster says:

    I think I laughed hardest at this scene. I was talking to my wife on the phone when it came on and she thought something had happened to me.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Warren Sikes says:

    For reasons I can’t fully explain, it always makes me REALLY laugh when Elaine starts crying.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. jjbees says:

    Seinfeld, I always thought was a terrible show. The laugh track KILLS IT!!!! Whether it’s a live audience or not, I can’t stand the sound of annoying plebeians laughing. Worse than nails on a chalkboard, they are.

    Now, having said that, I have just almost finished marathoning all 8 seasons of Curb Your Enthusiasm, and it’s the funniest show I’ve ever seen.

    Larry David is 100% a crimethinker, I’m not sure why he’s gotten away with it his whole life? But I love it.

    Like

    • peterike2 says:

      I find “Curb” too grating, especially over time. For me, the funniest show ever is the British “Peep Show.” It’s a modernized “Odd Couple” with one very conservative fellow and his hipster/slacker room mate. It’s one of the very few shows that can make me laugh out loud.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Faaze says:

        I like laugh tracks. I like the pace they compel. I think “Curb Your Enthusisam,” as great as it is, would be even better with the discipline of a laugh track, and the need to produce laughs at that pace.

        Like

  4. agnostic says:

    After 15 years of not watching it, I was surprised by how much Elaine’s character changed somewhere around halfway / three-quarters of the way through. More antagonistic, while also playing up more va-va-voom appeal.

    Perhaps they were aiming for a “single urban woman on the verge of turning 40” arc, but this is supposed to be the show where none of the characters fundamentally change. It doesn’t ruin the later seasons, but it does make them feel out of place.

    In the first half of the show, she’s spunky and quirky without having to brand herself as The Spunky-Quirky Womyn character. She smiles a lot. She’s so tiny and easily overwhelmed by ridiculous situations, that her attempt to pull it together comes in a comically overdoing-it burst.

    (Like when she’s trying to hurry Mr. Pitt into an emergency meeting, but can’t stop staring into the Magic Eye picture. She snaps and breaks the damn thing, grabbing him by the lapels, only to leave ink on them which he cluelessly brings to his upper lip in a Hitler mustache.)

    Those touches gave her a real feminine charm, so much so that it was disarming when she told Jerry that she’d faked every orgasm with him. That episode wouldn’t have been possible in the later seasons, where it would’ve come off as another one of her flat-toned wisecracks. Delivered as a childlike girl accidentally spilling the beans, it shocked Jerry even more, and set up the mismatch between their reactions — he was devastated, while in her childlike innocence she thought it was honestly no biggie and couldn’t fathom why he’d feel that way.

    It was a treat to revisit the early Elaine episodes, she’s such a unique character, funny, and not artificial. George and Kramer are more hilarious, but without the strong supporting role of Elaine, Seinfeld would not have felt so one-of-a-kind.

    Like

  5. Fenster says:

    My wife and son and I just compared notes, ranking the four characters. We all differed.

    Me: 1) Kramer, 2) Elaine, 3) Jerry, 4) George
    Wife: 1) George, 2) Jerry, 3) Elaine, 4) Kramer
    Son: 1) Jerry, 2) Kramer, 3) George, 4) Elaine

    De gustibus.

    Liked by 1 person

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