Thursday, 23 July 2009

Top 10 'Seinfeld' Episodes

The greatest TV comedy of all time, possibly even the greatest TV show of all time, is ‘Seinfeld’ – Anyone who tells you differently is an idiot.

Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David, two of the funniest men on the face of this planet created the most consistently funny sitcom in history. The show ran for nine fantastic seasons without diminished quality (even after David’s departure) and if Seinfeld hadn’t elected to stop, could have run for another nine and never got boring.

I’ve been writing this blog now for well over half a year and have failed to really mention my favourite show of all time at all really, so to remedy that I decided to put together a list of ten of my favourite episodes of the show – which believe me, was no easy task.

This type of list will be dividing people until the apocalypse, so this is no more than my own personal preference – because you know what they say about opinions – every asshole’s got one… or something like that…

10. The Beard

Not necessarily one of the greatest all round episodes, but I had to include ‘The Beard’ here purely for the fact that it contains the single greatest line in the history of the show, the immortal “Jerry, just remember, it’s not a lie if you believe it”.

Yes, with one single line of dialogue George Costanza cemented himself as the greatest sitcom character of all time. The line of course refers to George’s insistence on wearing an awful wig which he is trying to pass off as his actual hair to his latest girlfriend.

Elsewhere Kramer and Jerry spend time at a police station for very different reasons and Elaine acts as a beard for a gay guy who doesn’t want his boss to know of his homosexuality.

The new woman in George’s life turns out to be bald too and when he tries to reject her because of this, Elaine throws his wig out of the window… George is then dumped by the bald woman, for being bald.

‘The Beard’ also featured a rather risqué hand-job/yoghurt gag, which has to be seen to be appreciated. For that one line of unparalleled genius though, Season 6, Episode 16 – ‘The Beard’ thoroughly deserves a spot alongside some of the more celebrated episodes of the greatest TV show of all time.

9. The Puerto Rican Day

Again, on the surface, probably not one of the all-round strongest episodes of the show – although I am always a fan of the almost real-time episodes where the gang are stuck some place (see also ‘The Chinese Restaurant’ and ‘The Parking Garage’).

The reason I love ‘The Puerto Rican Day’ so much, in spite of the appearance of two of the show’s more ill-conceived supporting characters: Bob and Cedric, is the three-way encounter between George, Jerry and Kramer’s alter egos – Art Vandelay, Kal Varnsen and H.E. Pennypacker.

‘The Puerto Rican Day’ also gave birth to my penchant for referring to drivers by the colour and make of their car: “Maroon Golf”.

On their way back from a Mets game, the gang get stuck on Fifth Avenue in the middle of The Puerto Rican Day parade – Elaine gets trapped under a viewing stand, George is tormented by a guy with a laser pen and Kramer inadvertently sets fire to the Puerto Rican flag inciting a mob.

All three male characters then find themselves in an apartment that is available to let, posing as potential tenants – Kramer seeking refuge from the mob, Jerry to watch the rest of the Mets game (which picked up after they had left early) and George to wash the ink off his hands from the ink pen he crushed rather than the laser pen he was trying to destroy.

My favourite moment is when, Jerry and George encounter each other in the apartment, where just a simple “Art” from George and Jerry knows that it’s “Mr. Vandelay”. All in all, I think Season 9, Episode 20 – ‘The Puerto Rican Day’ was a worthy penultimate episode and a fitting send-off for the post-Larry David writing team.

8. The Yada Yada

‘The Yada Yada’ was Episode 19 of Season 8 and features one of the most well-known and oft quoted ‘Seinfeldisms’. It gets a spot on my list for the great moment of Robert Wagner calling Jerry an “anti-dentite bastard”.

Jerry is convinced his dentist has converted to Judaism purely for the jokes, Elaine manages to single-handedly scupper a couple’s chances of adoption and Kramer and his friend Mickey cannot decide which of the two women they are dating each should be with.

George meanwhile is dating a woman, Marcy, big on the titular phrase – but when he pushes her to be more accurate in her stories he soon discovers more than he would have liked to. Marcy is eventually arrested and jailed for shoplifting.

The gang all end up at Mickey’s wedding after he and Kramer finally decide which of the two women they actually want. Jerry ends up dating Beth – one half of the adoption couple, after they break-up, while Elaine is with the adoption officer in an attempt to get the, unbeknownst to her, broken up couple back in the adoption office’s good graces for the adoption.

After Wagner (playing Mickey’s Dad) makes his remark to Jerry, Beth, played by 'Will & Grace’s Debra Messing reveals she to is an anti-dentite, which Jerry is very happy about… until she reveals she is also a racist and an anti-Semite. Jerry promptly dumps her and quips that she went “to get her head shaved”. On their way out of the church, Mickey’s new wife whispers to Kramer that she really wanted him.

‘The Yada Yada’ is far more than a catchphrase and offers some very funny moments and running gags and some nice supporting character reappearances – definitely one of the best latter episodes of the show.

7. The Comeback

‘The Comeback’ features that old ‘Seinfeld’ staple of four individual storylines for each of the main characters – with a little tie-in at the end.

It is just one of these storylines that lifts ‘The Comeback’ on to this list however: George’s battle of wits with co-worker Reilly, and his attempt to zing him with the perfect comeback, hence the title.

During a meeting at the Yankees, in which George is stuffing his face with a shrimp (prawn) cocktail, Reilly puts him down with the one-liner: “Hey George, the ocean called; they’re running out of shrimp”. George being George cannot think of a good comeback until later on and becomes obsessed with delivering his line: “Oh yeah, Reilly? Well, the Jerk Store called, and they're running out of you”.

Jerry, Elaine and Kramer offer alternatives to George’s ‘jerk-store’ line, including Kramer’s suggestion of George simply saying he slept with Reilly’s wife. Undeterred and intent on recreating the scene, George soon discovers Reilly was let go by the Yankees and is now working at Firestone in Ohio so orchestrates circumstances to get into a meeting with Reilly again.

When he eventually fires off his line, Reilly retorts with “What’s the difference? You’re their all time best seller” – George having focused all his attention on ‘jerk-store’ can only muster Kramer’s line about sleeping with Reilly’s wife… he is then duly informed that Reilly’s wife is in a coma.

Elsewhere, Kramer worries about drawing up a will, Jerry gets embroiled with an Eastern European man and his wife at his tennis club and Elaine embarks on a weird relationship with an unseen video store employee (who turns out to be fifteen).

During the credits we see George, still angry with himself for messing up his big comeback, when he thinks up another one-liner and immediately swings his car round to travel back to Ohio to one-up Reilly again.

‘The Comeback’ is a great episode and ‘jerk store’ is one of the most memorable ‘Seinfeld’ quotes. All four stories are solid and the tie-in between Kramer and Jerry’s (and then Kramer and Elaine’s at the very end) is nice, but this is a very George-centric episode and he carries Season 8, Episode 13 – ‘The Comeback’ to number seven on the list.

6. The Junior Mint

‘The Junior Mint’ was Episode 20 of ‘Seinfeld’s fourth season. Season 4 was arguably the breakthrough year for ‘Seinfeld’ featuring several of the show’s most popular episodes.

One such episode is ‘The Junior Mint’ in which Jerry and Kramer inadvertently drop the titular candy inside Elaine’s artist boyfriend, Roy’s body during his splenectomy which they are watching from the observation area.

Roy soon becomes gravely ill due to an infection, which Jerry presumes was caused by the Junior Mint, hearing this news, George decides to purchase some of Roy’s art as the value will increase when he dies.

Roy soon makes a full recovery though, which is attributed to “something from above” and George is left to regret his purchase.

Meanwhile, in another of the show’s more memorable moments, Jerry struggles to remember the name of his new girlfriend – his only clue being that it rhymes with a part of the female anatomy. His attempts to remember (Celeste, Aretha, Bovary) prove futile and he eventually goes with Mulva. Enraged at his mistake the mystery-named woman storms out, only for Jerry to have an epiphany – he runs to the window and yells “Dolores!”

Jerry’s quest to discover his latest love interest’s name often overshadows the rest of this episode, but for me it is Jerry and Kramer’s interactions that make it one of the best.

Kramer: “Who's gonna turn down a Junior Mint? It's chocolate, it's peppermint - it's delicious!” Jerry: “That's true”. Kramer: “It's very refreshing!”


5. The Boyfriend

Technically, including ‘The Boyfriend’ as one entry is cheating as it was a two-part episode, but hey – my list, my rules.

‘The Boyfriend’ Part 1 and Part 2 are episodes 17 and 18 of season 3 and are notable for a number of reasons and Jerry Seinfeld has commented that ‘The Boyfriend’ is his favourite episode of the whole show.

Jerry meets his hero Keith Hernandez of the New York Mets and develops a bit of a bro-mance with him much to Kramer and Newman’s disgust. It is revealed that Kramer and Jerry’s nemesis believe that Hernandez spat on them some five years earlier; through a brilliant spoof of ‘JFK’ (in which Wayne Knight also starred) – the magic loogie theory, complete with grainy Zapruderesque footage, Jerry tried to prove the existence of a second spitter on the “gravely road”.

George meanwhile tries to remain unemployed a little longer by charming the unemployment officer and making up a fake job he almost got with the now infamous Vandelay Industries, who make latex products, which, even after George’s carefully crafted lie, Kramer manages to foil – “and you want to be my latex salesman?”

Elaine eventually begins dating Hernandez, Kramer tries to drag Jerry to “see the baby”, it is revealed that there was indeed a second spitter: Mets pitcher Roger McDowell and George decides he wants to sleep with a tall woman.

‘The Boyfriend’ was not the first episode that Jerry uttered his trademark “Hello, Newman” line but it was the first time he said it with the utter disdain that all subsequent utterances would have.

It’s hard to believe just how many classic moments and quotes this two-part episode contains and it is for this reason that it is ranked number five on my list of ‘Seinfeld’s Top Ten Episodes.

4. The Serenity Now

George’s Dad, Frank Costanza, played by the brilliant Jerry Stiller is advised to say “serenity now” every time he gets annoyed as a stress management technique. Yet Frank being Frank yells it every time, the technique soon catches on and has unfortunate consequences for George.

‘The Serenity Now’ was Episode 3 of Season 9 and features another of the most memorable Seinfeldisms – the titular “serenity now”. After Frank watches the gash Sandra Bullock (“that girl from the bus”) film ‘The Net’ he hits on the idea to start selling computers, to bring a reluctant George into the business Frank orchestrates a ‘Glengarry Glen Ross’-esque competition between George and his nemesis Lloyd Braun.

In a desperate attempt to win the contest with Braun, George stashes computers in Kramer’s apartment to make it appear to Frank as though he has sold them – however Kramer’s run ins with the neighbourhood kids and his adoption of the serenity now technique cause him to lose it and smash up the computers.

Kramer had fitted a screen door on his apartment and borrowed Frank’s technique when he was harassed by youths – Lloyd Braun eventually reveals that the technique just bottles up rage until you explode, which unfortunately for George happened on his fraudulent computer sales.

Elsewhere, Elaine realises she has “shiksa appeal” meaning as a non-Jewish woman Jewish men are attracted to her and after Jerry’s girlfriend pushes him to get angry it uncorks all his emotions and he ends up asking Elaine to marry him.

Frank ends up accusing George of nearly bankrupting him when it is revealed that Lloyd Braun was still clearly nuts from his previous encounter with the gang and didn’t even have his phone plugged in.

‘The Serenity Now’ is another stellar episode from ‘Seinfeld’s brilliant final year and I still find myself using the titular phrase today – a worthy entrant on the list.

3. The Contest

One of the most celebrated episodes of the show – ‘The Contest’ revolves entirely around masturbation yet the phrase is never mentioned. Episode 11 of Season 4, the titular contest originates when George’s Mother catches him masturbating or “treating his body like an amusement park” as she puts it.

When he and Jerry make a bet who can refrain from self-gratification the longest, Kramer and Elaine (at 6/4 odds) also want it and so using the “honour system” the contest is on.

Written entirely by the genius that is Larry David, ‘The Contest’ won David an Emmy for his writing and remains one of ‘Seinfeld’s most fondly remembered episodes, it also made the phrase “master of my domain” a catchphrase not just among ‘Seinfeld’ fans but throughout popular culture.

Kramer is first to be eliminated after a beautiful woman in the apartment block across from Jerry continues to walk around naked – “You know, you better be careful, buddy. She’s gonna get you next…”

Elaine is next out after she takes an aerobics class with JFK Jnr. and he shows an interest in her. It is never revealed in the episode who wins out of George and Jerry, although it is later implied that George won, however in the last ever episode as the gang think they are about to die George reveals he cheated.

The episode is praised virtually universally for its inoffensive depiction of a subject that could have caused a great deal of offence. Many have also theorised, including Seinfeld himself, that had they actually used the word masturbation then the episode would have been nowhere near as funny.

George’s mother Estelle appears on screen for the first time in this episode and starts as she means to go on and ‘Fraiser’s Jane Leeves continues her recurring role as Marla the virgin.

There are some great moments in ‘The Contest’ irrespective of the contest itself – Kramer singing “the woman across the street has nothing on” to the tune of the wheels on the bus and the numerous insert shots of the gang either tossing (no pun intended) and turning or sleeping soundly depending on whether they’d caved or not being the highlights for me.

A deservedly award-winning episode deservedly ranked very highly here too.

2. The Bubble Boy

Yet another episode from the all-conquering, award-bogarting fourth season – ‘The Bubble Boy’ was episode 7 of season 4.

On the way up to Susan’s family’s cabin, Jerry has his arm twisted into visiting the titular character who is force to live in a germ free quarantine, but is a big fan of Jerry and is celebrating his birthday.

George speeds off into the distance, against Jerry’s orders, as he is “making great time” and Jerry subsequently gets lost – leaving George and Susan to make small talk with the bubble boy and his parents.

The bubble boy, is not as you would imagine, a sympathetic character and he is far from a boy – he ends up in a quite heated game of Trivial Pursuit with George.

The game ends somewhat prematurely and under a cloud when George poses the question “who invaded Spain in the 8th century?” – the bubble boy correctly answers “The Moors” but the card is misprinted and reads “The Moops”. George will not accept that “The Moors” is the answer and the bubble boy attacks him, as Susan tries to get him off of George – his bubble inadvertently bursts.

As the bubble boy is taken away on a stretcher, Jerry finally arrives and does in the end get to wish his fan happy birthday. The gang beat a hasty getaway though as an angry mob arrives ready to get George for hurting the bubble boy.

Kramer and his love interest have already arrived at the cabin though and Kramer succeeds in burning it down with one of his Cuban cigars (which George was given by Susan’s father and he subsequently palmed off on Kramer) the rest of the party arrive just in time to see fire engines arriving to put out the fire.

‘The Bubble Boy’ is the one episode I always laugh at just by thinking about it. I can’t believe “The Moops” didn’t catch on as a catchphrase more than it did and if there isn’t already a band out there called The Moops then there really should be.

This is ‘Seinfeld’ at its unflinching darkest and Larry David’s fingerprints are all over it – a brilliant episode from a brilliant season of a brilliant show, there’s no simpler way to put it.

1. The Merv Griffin Show

Perhaps a surprising choice for my number one pick but that image of Kramer with the talk show set erected in his living room is one that I will always remember.

‘The Merv Griffin Show’ was episode 6 of season 9 and if this list has taught me anything its that seasons 4 and 9 were definitely home to the majority of my favourite episodes.

We begin with Kramer discovering the old set of ‘The Merv Griffin Show’ in a dumpster and erecting it in his flat. He then proceeds to treat visitors like guests and even plays the show’s theme when they walk onto ‘set’.

Hosting the show takes its toll on Kramer though and he starts to try different ways of keeping the show fresh, which include adding Newman as a co-host and adopting a new format of “scandals and animals” which leads to the destruction of the set, much to Kramer’s eventual relief.

Elsewhere, George battles animals with his car and ends up tending to an injured squirrel, Elaine tries to make a sneaky co-worker more detectable and Jerry starts plying his girlfriend with turkey and wine to make her sleep so he can play with her expansive toy collection.

George and Jerry’s storylines come to a head when Kramer invites Jerry’s girlfriend on to the show and gets Jerry to admit he’s been drugging her – furious he dumps Jerry and leaves. George then arrives with the squirrel to get animal expert Jim Fowler’s opinion (the animals part of the new format) Fowler has a hawk with him though and it attacks the squirrel – leading to the destruction of Kramer’s non-existent show.

‘The Merv Griffin Show’ is the perfect example of some of the more surreal and ‘out-there’ storylines that ‘Seinfeld’ adopted in the post-Larry David years and it works brilliantly. Jim Fowler’s line “where are the cameras?” sums up just how bizarre Kramer’s idea was and the usual ‘Seinfeld’ tie-in worked even more brilliantly with the talk show format.

All in all a great episode and the one that I definitely look back on most fondly (at this present time).

Other Televisual Musings this Week:

- In last week’s penultimate episode of the sublime second season of ‘Californication’, music mogul Lew Ashby tragically died.

Now, due to how fucking far we are behind the States, I knew this was coming, but no amount of knowledge could have prepared me for how sad it played out. I very rarely feel moved by TV these days, mostly because most of it is gash, but Thursday night I was almost reduced to tears, almost.

When Lew’s ‘one that got away’ Janie Jones arrived at his party and Hank went to get him, armed with the knowledge I had, I expected Hank to find him O.D.’d, but when he was still alive it threw me for a loop and the realisation we would actually see him die was quite a shock, so the spoiler hadn’t quite taken all the surprise out of the scene for me.

This week’s episode is the last of what has been another great season of a show that I have already waxed lyrical about on a number of occasions, season 3 is just around the corner in the States and I for one can’t fucking wait.

- HBO’s ‘True Blood’ began its UK run on FX Friday night and much like its deep south setting, it’s dirty, sweaty and a little bit weird – but in a very good way.

The vampire has always been the most interesting mythological ‘monster’ as far as I’m concerned, and in the wake of the tweeny dogshit that is ‘Twilight’, ‘True Blood’s arrival has been very welcome indeed, if not to just remind people that there are still interesting vampire tales to be told.

Although I would have preferred an actual scary looking vampire, rather than the now seemingly commonplace vampire/catalogue model look that has been pioneered by ‘Twilight’, but that’s a minor gripe about a show that seems to have great potential.

- Tim Roth’s ‘House’-lite ‘Lie to Me’ continues to be a modern day, live action ‘Scooby-Doo’.

Every week the same formula is followed: introduce minor character early on, plant slight seed of suspicion, ignore for rest of the show, investigate numerous other suspects – each time gathering a new clue, before eventually (five years after the audience) revealing the culprit.

I don’t think I’ve failed to guess the villain and/or most of the show’s twists yet, it really is a shockingly lazily written show and the combination of that, poor ratings and the fact it’s on FOX make it a prime candidate for an impending cancellation if you ask me.

Although I’m being negative, it has been a reasonably enjoyable series – I just think it’s finally running out of steam as it nears its close. I feel sorry for Tim Roth, he’s a great actor and the best thing about ‘Lie to Me’ by a country mile (apart from the awesome theme tune) and he deserves better than this – he must’ve thought ‘Lie to Me’ would turn out to be his chance at Hugh Laurie-esque success Stateside… either that or they threw a shit load of money at him.

- ‘Sons of Anarchy’ is poised on a knife-edge at the moment as we head into the final episodes of what has been a fantastic debut season for this great show.

ATF Agent Stahl has gone from sexy to psychotic seemingly overnight, and that’s not just down to the black eyes, she has developed an obsession with bringing down the sons and is seemingly prepared to do anything.

Sadly, I already know what to expect from next week’s ‘Sleep of the Babies’ episode, but I still can’t wait to see how it plays out, and if it means we get more Opie then that’s alright by me because he has quickly developed into the most interesting character by far.

TV Moment of the Week:

- Frankie Boyle on ‘You Have Been Watching’. Seriously, this man is a comedy genius – he could appear on ‘Two Pints of Lager and a packet of Crisps’ and make it funny, he’s just that good.


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