Since my last diary entry, I’ve completed the remaining three episodes of Season 1 (which was only a 5 episode half-season), and the first five episodes of Season 2. I am starting to see episodes that I identify the entire show with; those ones that, to me, are famous and I expect every Seinfeld fan to know. Of course, one of the reasons that I am re-watching this show is because the experience of a thing is inherently different the second time around. That case is even more true when you are a good chunk older than when you first watched it.
The remaining episodes of Season 1 are interesting mainly due to episode #103, “The Stake Out”. While trying to track down a woman of interest that Jerry met at a dinner party whose name he did not get, Jerry and George stake out the lobby of her building. I chuckled warmly as I realized that this was the point at which the series’ Keyser Soze, one Mr. Art Vandelay, famed importer and exporter, was created. This name would be mentioned several times over the run of the series, frequently used as a fictional character that the group would rely on as a front to pull off a given caper. Also here we get Costanza’s first fabrication that he is an architect, another ruse that would become a staple of the show.
Season 2 is one of the more interesting elements of television and entertainment history. The first blip that went up on my radar in the new season was in Episode #203, “The Busboy”. My one criticism of Seinfeld was its incredible lack of diversity in anything other than complete caricatures of various ethnic stereotypes. I’ve never felt that the show was racist. I just felt like the cast and the staff never went out of their way to try to make the show more inclusive. “The Busboy” runs with a highly stereotypical portrayal of a Hispanic American as the titular character. It made me wonder whether an episode like this would have ever been aired by a major network like NBC in 2015. More importantly, I wonder if it had, in this era of intense social media, if the show would not have been literally run off the air by a voluminous outcry from the disenfranchised. The episode was still funny to me, but I wonder how much tolerance there is for that part of its content in today’s network world. This episode also featured Julia Louis-Dreyfus (still can’t spell her name without looking it up) in the breakout comedic performance that set her on equal par with the guys of the show. She is simply brilliant in this episode. This is one of those famous episodes that I immediately think of when this show is called to mind.
Episode #204, “The Baby Shower” sticks out to me again in amazement that it made it onto the air, but for slightly different reasons. One of the hallmark scenes in this episode is Jerry getting gunned down by several FBI agents for stealing cable as he tries to escape, getting shot in the back several times. It’s a dream sequence, which any viewer today should quickly realize. I’m not sure if viewers in 1991 did; the scene is a jarring swerve from the show’s themes up to that point. Even today, my jaw was slightly agape as I saw the scene unfolding. Kramer screaming “Cable Boy? Cable Boy? What have you done to my Cable Boy?!” lightens it up because…ya know…Kramer. Still, I was glad for the scene to be over. While the show’s writer sticks by its use in the show, I found it not very funny and could have done without it. Not because I found it offensive, just that I did not see any comedy in it. I’m guessing that with this past year’s number of public shootings and alleged police violence, it probably wouldn’t play well.
In Episode #205, “The Jacket”, we are introduced to Elaine’s father, Alton Benes. Played by Lawrence Tierney, who I recognized mostly as Cyrus Redblock from Star Trek: the Next Generation, Season 1, Episode 12, “The Big Goodbye”, Alton is a hard -nosed, no nonsense character who repeatedly catches Jerry and George off-guard in their effort to sidestep conversational discomfort with their trademark fabrications. Here we are introduced to Jason Alexander’s long-standing affiliation with stage theater, as one of the schticks is that George has a song from Les Miserables stuck in his head. George also mentions Bud Abbott, half of my favorite comedic duo of all time, Abbott and Costello, which I frequently think of Seinfeld and Alexander as replicas of. This episode had many of the bits from Jerry’s between scene stand-up routines that I find most memorable.
One other thing that sticks out in the episodes to this point in a rearward look is how frequently its characters are homophobic. I actually do not remember this too well from the show. But there are allusions to this being a running theme and direct call-outs of it with the Constanza character. I recall the “Not That There’s Anything Wrong with That” episode by name only, so I’m interested to see if they use that episode to turn this topic around. I know I could Google it, but I’ll leave it to my real-world re-view for the experience. So don’t spoil it!