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

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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.

What then happens when we daydream a bit beyond this reality and hope for something bigger, or dare I say, ‘better’? For Seinfeld it’s still almost entirely based in reality; we envision potentially different settings to our lives, different social relations, different concerns. Mildly different sensual experiences, but still, never can we remove the here and now and its oppressive realities when the punchline inevitably pulls us back to earth (and, as we’ll see, outcomes push us into the future in much the same reality). To me the episode that best articulates this is ‘The Doodle’, a fun bit of surreal whimsy built on imported peaches and flea-bombed apartments. It’s still built almost entirely upon an exploration of the fantasy, the desire to live amidst a perception of utopia, or to exist within a setting not remotely resembling your reality. It’s not to say the cerebral one of role playing or advanced graphics virtual reality, nor is it seeking solace in the blurred sensation of psychedelics or other illicit drugs, no, its concerns are all of a very concrete mental state, which perhaps makes the episode all the more worthwhile in the end.

In it we see all the interwoven plot lines explore this theme; Kramer seeks foreign, once-a-year (“like the Aurora Borealis”) Mackinaw peaches as a treat, even going as far as saying their taste resembles a “circus in his mouth”. Newman, the obese character that he is, is also trapped in this purely diet based indulgence (his lifestyle doldrums are evident almost time we see him in the Series, so his escape seeking is obvious enough). Elaine seeks a brief departure within the swanky downtown Plaza hotel, itself an additional perk to a new interview she’s landed for her dream job at Viking Press. George is seen finally realizing a dream of his he’d stated episodes earlier by “draping himself in velvet” (in this case a velvet tracksuit befitting a retiree), while the Seinfeld’s live life to the fullest with their brief realization on the lifestyle “Frank Sinatra” would have had when they explore all the available amenities that the Plaza hotel has to offer. (How all these plots intertwine is remarkable itself; Jerry must move out of his apartment briefly while an exterminator is fumigating it because Newman has unknowingly brought fleas into his home. His parents were set to arrive from Florida and now need a place to stay, which Elaine very reluctantly offers the Plaza Suite she’s taken from a Viking Press interview perk [interviewees from out of town are put up in the Plaza, so she just claims to not be a New Yorker to obtain it]. Kramer meanwhile, has entered the toxic apartment for part of the afternoon unknowingly and read a transcript sent from Viking Press for Elaine’s pre-interview packet. The gas leaves him unable to taste his annual peaches, but his time spent at ground zero wasn’t all for naught: Elaine, unable to find the story in the packet while quickly searching the boarded up apartment must pick—and then use—Kramer’s brain for a humorous synopsis of what he’s read. It almost works, until Viking Press gets the Plaza bill, which they think is from her stay there, and deny her the position.)

Oh course Seinfeld, in its celebration of the minutia of the everyday, will always have the (real) day win out. George’s dream of lazy individual coziness turns to nightmare when it becomes actually cozy for all, while Kramer’s ideal is robbed from him when his tastebuds diminish for several days after breathing in too much gas while lounging in Jerry’s quarantined apartment for “an hour-and-a-half”. Elaine has hers ripped away twice; once before it even starts (Jerry’s parents take the Plaza Suite when they can no longer stay with him in his flea-bombed place), then again when they run up an exorbitant bill of champagne, nuts, massages, and “several adult features” that costs here the job of her dreams. Jerry, outside this theme, but still inside his head of anxieties (he’s unable to use a girlfriends toothbrush while staying over while his apartment is being fumigated), remains the only one somewhat immune to the premature bout of fancy.

What each chosen fantasy (for lack of a better term) the individual character chooses says all that more about the character too; Kramer is pure indulgence, George is pure laziness as a heightening of acceptance for otherwise perceived shortcomings of physical appearance, Elaine is pure posh, then getting down to work a job more befitting her intellectual gifts, while Jerry is there to make sure it all happens as the fulcrum of action, just like a show bearing his name would imply. You must approach the episode with the understanding that his dream has already came true in the most meta of understandings: he has a show of his own.

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