22. ‘The Bizarro Jerry’ (Season 8, episode 137)

bizarroWorld

Well! I can’t spend the rest of my life coming into this stinking apartment every ten minutes to pour over the excruciating minutia of every single daily event…

The central plot thread running through Season 8’s ‘The Bizarro Jerry’ is one of the Series most philosophically and personally complex ones. It centers around Elaine Benes finding herself severing ties with a boyfriend who surprisingly accepts the usually off-the-cuff “let’s be friends” parting with enthusiastically open arms. This on itself isn’t that out of the ordinary; Seinfeld had dealt humorously with the diner/dinner break-up on several occasions, even finding multiple uses for the “it’s not you it’s me…” routine, but here there was somewhat of a twist. Rather than having the scene end there, or even having the episode centered around the revengeful fallout of the breakup (see Season three’s ‘The Truth’ for example), this episode decided upon a more wildly inventive turn.
Continue reading

23. ‘The Doodle’ (Season 6, episode 106)

Christa-On-Seinfeld-The-Doodle-christa-miller-4002692-720-576

You see Elaine, Billy was a simple country boy. You might say a cockeyed optimist, who got himself mixed up in a high stakes game of world diplomacy and international intrigue…

Seinfeld, while often zany and outrageous, was still nevertheless remained a show rooted in highlighting the humor in the eccentricities of the everyday realities humans so often find ourselves in. The joke could be a situation everyone has had to endure, such as seemingly waiting forever for a table at a Chinese Restaurant when you’re starving, to a simple gesture which escalates beyond your control (being mistaken for picking your nose at a crowed intersection for just one example). Then there’s the unmistakable irony of fate (cigars you’ve gifted can end up burning down your father’s antique cabin) to the simple setting of so many everyday locations; the coffee shop, the living room, the bathroom, the parking garage, or even better yet, the infinitely more minute: the parking space. It was the first show to deal with people doing real things and not only in passing, but as whole basis of shows; Roseanne often showed the reality of doing laundry but it was mere setting (the laundry room) amidst other more stock ‘sitcom worthy’ action being central to the plot. Seinfeld, by comparison, could argue that setting the action about doing laundry was valid enough (see ‘The Revenge’). Thus drawing much from the gleeful celebration of creativity; starting with stark reality and staging anything you damn well please. Plus, this way they were more likely to go in a creative direction, rather than most shows that start unrealistically then attempt to become more commonplace (and therefor phony) as the episode/series evolved.
Continue reading

24. ‘The Library’ (Season 3, episode 22)

maxresdefault_bookman

Well I got a flash for ya, joy boy: Party time is over. Y’got seven days, Seinfeld. That is one week!

Seinfeld, like many great episodic sitcoms before and after it, is a show heavily reliant on the bit character. A character created for a single episodes use that is both funny enough to provide a necessary function within that episode and eccentric enough that it would probably overstay their welcome if extended beyond that (elsewhere I state that my favorite ‘non-reoccurring character’ is ‘The Wig Master’s (Season 7, episode 129) Jiffy Parking lot attendant, mainly for his assured aloofness to any of his customers many woes). Sometimes they’re mere caricature providing outlandish mannerisms or physicality, sometimes they’re so odd that their mere existence is comedic fodder (the previously talked about Donald, better known as the Bubble Boy, would fit nicely here) and sometimes it’s an entirely singular ethos that is so steadfastly assured on an inconceivably trivial point that its outlandishness is sourced for belly busting laughs.

Such would be the case with perhaps the greatest single bit character in the Seinfeld universe, and it almost goes without saying. Trod out my opening paragraph above without any episode title over it and most Seinfeld aficionados would immediately being prepping a discussion on Robert Altman/Paul Thomas Anderson regular Philip Baker Hall and his remarkable turn as strong armed pseudo-sleuth Mr. Bookman. Appearing with dialogue patterns straight from a pulp novel of the 1940’s (and a trench coat to match), Hall’s performance is one of sustained hilarious aggressiveness. He’s always lurking, whether it’s to break up the possible romantic shenanigans of Kramer and the attractive, demure short-haired Librarian or to burst into Jerry like a pit-bull in desperate need of the five cent overdue fee. The substance of his arguments never matches the tenacity at which he’s ready to spout them, but that only adds all the more to the manic intensity of it all. It’s a bit performance for the ages.
Continue reading

25. ‘The Bubble Boy’ (Season 4, episode 47)

bubble-boy-header

So anyway, you’re his favorite comedian. He laughed so hard the other night we had to give him an extra shot of hemoglobin.

‘The Bubble Boy’ is a relatively regular classic era Seinfeld episode; a statement both on the consistent top notch quality the show was then humming along at, and a statement on how designating favorite episodes is an activity specifically designed for the connoisseur. Small variations on plot and theme are all that separate—and then order in rank—such consistent brilliance. Not unlike the Western, Seinfeld is a show with a working template of subtle variation; a very small network of intertwined regular characters with well maintained quirks and reactions doing much the same over the weekly 22 minutes. You know the world in store for you when the various Seasons are queued up, but still the common situations, with a concise eye, can be easily sifted through, differentiated and sorted out (the Western, it was famously said, was the ultimate genre for the connoisseur for this very reason. Only someone with an intense and encyclopedic eye can tell the difference between highly similar situations, conflicts and presentations). What then in ‘The Bubble Boy’ is minute enough to fit the model quality level (and have the uninitiated potentially take for granted), yet glaring enough to stand out?
Continue reading

“If you named a kid Rasputin do you think that would have a negative effect on his life?”, a Seinfeld introduction

Much ink has been spilled untangling the references that bore the American and British Punk rock movements of the mid to late 1970’s, often correctly stating that what it was was as much about what it was not. What they weren’t (bloated and tired arena rock) was why they needed to exist so forcefully; rock music had reached a point in its history where the early rebellions of the 50’s and mid 60’s were such a distant memory that many now believed the point of rock music was to try and make enough money so that you could tour in a 747. Punk took the music and the topics of songs back into where it should have been at that point of its evolution. Finally, over almost a decade in the wilderness, rock was ready to recommence its originally stated thesis: to be subversive music for oppressed working class (young) people.
Continue reading