Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 13, 2006)
With this Season Six package, we’re officially two-thirds of the way through Seinfeld. Rather than belabor that point or any other, I’ll leap right into my discussion of this year. The plot synopses come from the DVD’s packaging. They’re short but good.
The Chaperone: “When Jerry (Jerry Seinfeld) lands a date with a Miss America contestant (Marguerite MacIntyre), Kramer (Michael Richards) volunteers to chaperone. Mr. Pitt (Ian Abercrombie) hires Elaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) to be his personal assistant. George (Jason Alexander) encourages Yankee management to make the team jerseys from cotton.”
Season Six launches with a decent episode but not one of the more memorable ones. I like Kramer’s knowledge of Miss America strategies, and Mr. Pitt will prove to be an important character. That said, the show lacks a certain zing that would make it stronger.
The Big Salad: “George has issues when his girlfriend (Michelle Forbes) takes credit for buying Elaine a big salad. Jerry is disturbed to discover that his girlfriend (Marita Geraghty) was dumped by Newman (Wayne Knight). Kramer gets involved in a slow-speed car chase with a suspected murderer (Dean Hallo).”
Matters improve with the solid “Salad”. This one comes chock full of catchphrases and showcases the ways in which the characters sabotage themselves in relationships. (Though I’m with George: snooty Julie was wrong for acting like she bought the big salad.) Kramer’s subplot is dated and not so funny anymore, but the rest of the show works.
The Pledge Drive: “Elaine’s friend’s (Kelly Coffield) high-talking boyfriend (Brian Reddy) confuses everyone over the phone. Elaine witnesses Mr. Pitt eating a Snickers bar with a knife and fork and the trend catches on. George thinks everyone’s giving him the finger. Jerry hosts a PBS pledge drive.”
Perhaps it’s a bad sign that I just watched this episode 25 minutes ago but no particular highs or lows stand out to me. That makes me consider it a decent show but not anything better than that. It contains a mix of good elements that don’t congeal into anything special.
The Chinese Woman: “George’s phone lines get crossed with Donna Chang’s (Angela Dohrmann) and Jerry winds up dating her. Estelle Costanza (Estelle Harris) gets relationship advice from her. It turns out she’s not Chinese.”
I’d love to know if sales of Jockeys were affected by the Kramer plot here in which he’s told not to wear them anymore. The Donna Chang plot works well given its one-joke nature. Unusually, it leaves her relationship with Jerry up in the air. Normally a rift like this would cause a breakup, but we don’t see that. It’s a clever part of a good show.
The Couch: “Elaine dates a hunky moving man (David James Elliott). Kramer and Poppie (Reni Santoni) go into the make-your-own-pizza business together. George tries to rent Breakfast at Tiffany’s rather than reading it to impress his girlfriend. Poppie pees on Jerry’s new couch.”
Of all the series’ catchphrases, I must admit I’m especially fond of Poppie’s “on this subject, there can be no debate”. Actually, I don’t even know if this qualifies as a catchphrase; unlike “master of my domain” and others, it didn’t exactly sweep the nation. But it works well in many situations, and I find it amusing. This episode works well, and I particularly like how Jerry works to dismantle Elaine’s new relationship.
The Gymnast: “Jerry dates a Romanian gymnast (Elina Lowensohn). Elaine tries to tear Mr. Pitt away from the entrancing powers of a 3-D art poster. George’s girlfriend’s (Jessica Hecht) mother (Lois Nettleton) catches him eating from the trash. Kramer suffers from kidney stones at the circus.”
I once went out with a kind of nutty woman who had been a gymnast. Damn if I didn’t want to see her again to find out if she was… flexible. Things never went far enough for me to discover this, but I guess this episode teaches us I didn’t miss much. The show itself is quite good, especially when we watch George’s bizarre misfortunes.
The Mom and Pop Store: “George thinks he bought Jon Voight’s car. Kramer tries to save a ‘mom and pop’ store. Jerry crashes Dr. Tim Whatley’s (Bryan Cranston) party to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade”
How often do you find a show with a guest star who plays himself and then bites a series regular? That’s what we find when Voight encounters Kramer, and it’s a hoot. Plenty of other excellent moments show up as well, and I love Elaine’s dissection of the plan Jerry and Kramer think Mom and Pop enact. The show’s a little disjointed but strong overall. I gotta love a program with a clever Midnight Cowboy allusion at the end.
The Soup: “Kenny Bania (Steve Hytner) offers Jerry an Armani suit in exchange for a meal, but insists that soup doesn’t count.”
One of the series’ most irritating recurring guests, we get our first look at Bania here. He feels like a rehash of an earlier annoying comic, Pat Buckles from Season Four’s “The Movie”, but he manages to become his own jerk. It’s amusing to see how much he gets to Jerry, and he proves to be a worthwhile foil.
We see some other rehashing via Elaine’s British boyfriend; he echoes her brief fling with a guy who wouldn’t leave in Season Two’s “The Busboy”. Again, this one manages to stand on his own. Add to that George’s bizarre dissection of the word “manure” along with Kramer’s gluttonous girlfriend and we find a good program.
The Secretary: “Jerry spots his dry cleaner wearing his jacket. George’s unattractive secretary out-earns him. Kramer gets Uma Thurman’s phone number. Elaine discovers that Barney’s uses skinny mirrors to hook their customers.”
Ada turns into one of the funniest girlfriends seen on the show, mainly because she’s so damned efficient. This episode also makes me tempted to shout “I’m giving you a raise!” during sex. That’s the best of this show’s storylines, though Elaine’s issue also works well.
The Switch: “Jerry tries the impossible: to pull the roommate switch. George dates a bulimic. Elaine agonizes over Mr. Pitt’s busted tennis racket. Kramer’s first name is revealed and we meet his mother (Sheree North).”
Few TV moments have been quite as anticlimactic as the reveal of Kramer’s first name. All that build up and… “Cosmo”? I wish they’d just kept it a secret. Maybe anything would have come as a disappointment, but “Cosmo” remains a dud.
At least the rest of the show works fine. The “Switch” theme is awfully good, especially when Jerry confronts the concept of Orgy Guy. This leaves us with an inconsistent show.
The Race: “Superman superfan Jerry finally dates a woman named Lois (Renee Props), whose boss turns out to be his high school nemesis (Don R. McManus). Elaine dates a communist (Todd Grant Kimsey) and George hopes to as well. Kramer works as a department store Santa with Mickey (Danny Woodburn) as his elf. Jerry races Duncan Meyer once more to settle their teenage score.”
Not only does “Race” give Jerry the chance to date a Lois, but also it turns him into something of a superhero due to his alleged speed. Those parts succeed, and the whole commie thread infiltrates the show in a fun way. What could be better than Santa Kramer’s attempts to spew propaganda to tykes? His fake Swedish is also a hilarious nod to Miracle on 34th Street. The program manages to be quirky and believable all at once.
The Label Maker: “Elaine and Jerry discover that Tim Whatley ‘re-gifted’ a label maker. Kramer and Newman engage in a ferocious game of Risk. George feels threatened by his girlfriend’s (Jessica Tuck) male roommate (Cleto Augusto). Everyone’s got Super Bowl fever and Jerry’s sickened by who ultimately joins him at the game.”
Another enduring catchphrase: “regifting”. I don’t think that term existed before this episode, but now it’s in common usage. How did newspaper writers deal with the concept before 1995?
“Maker” also features one of Jerry’s most frequently quoted monologues; he discusses how sports fans root for clothes. All I know is that I’d love to own a Label Baby Jr. I don’t actually want a label maker per se, but I’d love a LBJ. Add to that another bit I love to quote – “Oh – tube socks!’ – and you have a winner.
The Scofflaw: “George learns the truth about a friend’s (Jon Lovitz) illness. Kramer helps bring in a notorious scofflaw.”
I must admit I’ve never been a huge Kramer fan, but occasionally the character stands out as particularly good. That occurs here, as Kramer gets most of the show’s best moments. I like his attempts at a new look, and his connection to the scofflaw is also funny. Toss in a great cameo from Lovitz and we find another solid show.
The Highlights of 100 (Parts 1 and 2): “An hour-long look back at highlights from the first 100 episodes.”
I hate clip shows, and I hate double-length clip shows twice as much. At least some of them – like those on The Simpsons - include some interesting new footage. Other than a brief intro from Jerry, this one provides nothing like that. It’s wall-to-wall clips, which makes it a total waste of time/
The Beard: “Elaine poses as a beard for a gay male friend (Robert Mailhouse) and then attempts to convert him to heterosexuality. George wears a toupee and turns down a woman because she’s bald. Kramer makes money by posing in police lineups. Jerry must take a lie detector test to prove he’s not a fan of Melrose Place.”
We don’t get a lot of moments between George and Elaine, but “Beard” offers one of the best. Their confrontation when she rips off his rug stands as a classic. I also like Elaine’s attempts to heterosexualize her friend Robert, and Jerry’s Melrose Place-related humiliation entertains. With George’s rejection at the hands of a bald woman, this one finishes up as a strong show.
The Kiss Hello: “Elaine’s physical therapist friend (Wendie Malick) loves to ‘kiss hello’ but Jerry despises the practice. Kramer decides to adorn the apartment lobby with resident photos to encourage tenants to know their neighbors.”
I’m with Jerry on this one. I don’t want to put my picture up in an apartment lobby and I don’t particularly want to see those of my neighbors either. If that makes me a bitter curmudgeon, then so be it.
I’m also with Jerry in his opposition to kissing hello. I’ll smooch a girlfriend, but someone else? This makes no sense. A hug, a pat, sure, but not a kiss. It doesn’t help that a lot of ugly women live in Jerry’s building – I wouldn’t want to kiss those cows either.
All these elements of irritation aside, “Hello” is a good show. I love George’s attempts to bill the therapist for her absence – makes sense to me! It’s also great how Elaine’s plan to get Kramer to slam Wendy’s hairdo backfires. Factor in George’s rants about “delicate genius” and Jerry’s atrocious lobby picture and we wind up with a fine program.
The Doorman: “Mr. Pitt’s doorman (Larry Miller) intimidates Jerry. Elaine and Jerry concoct a plan to cover themselves when a couch is stolen from the lobby. Frank Costanza (Jerry Stiller) moves into George’s apartment. Kramer and Frank develop a bra for men but argue over what to name it.”
“Doorman” gets more than a little absurd, but in a humorous way. I don’t really buy the methods the titular character uses to taunt Jerry, but Miller tosses out such a great performance I can forgive those issues. At least Jerry’s attempts to avoid the doorman ring true, as I can understand his extreme efforts to stay away from a situation that makes him uncomfortable.
The show’s names for male bras turned into some of the series’ more enduring catchphrases; I’m not all that wild about them, but I think that’s mainly due to their repetition over the years. Maybe it’s also because the thought of Frank Costanza’s big knockers makes me a little nauseous. I prefer Kramer’s pretend robbery of George and the great Marathon Man reference it engenders.
The Jimmy: “George goes into business with a basketball buddy (Anthony Starke) who refers to himself in the third person. Jerry discovers that Tim Whatley keeps Penthouse in his dentist office waiting room. Kramer comes off as mentally challenged at a charity benefit featuring Mel Torme.”
“The Jimmy” walks a fine line in its treatment of the mentally handicapped here. However, unlike a Farrelly brothers movie, it provokes laughs since it uses the Kramer-related confusion as a springboard. Jimmy himself turns out to be one of the series’ more annoying characters, but in a funny way. This isn’t a classic, but it’s a good show nonetheless.
The Doodle: “George is upset by his girlfriend’s drawing of him. Jerry’s flea-infested apartment forces his parents into Elaine’s luxury hotel suite.”
This episode presents an interesting question. Would you rather have a woman think you’re good-looking but unlikable, or would you rather she want to be with you but not find you attractive? I might be with George on this one; as shown by the thoroughly detestable Tony back in Season Five, you can be a total jerk but still score with the babes.
Philosophical issues aside, “Doodle” offers a mediocre episode. Of course, mediocre for Seinfeld is still pretty darned good. The show presents little that seems particularly memorable other than the discrepancy between the woman dated by George and Jerry. Usually Jerry gets the hotter of the pair, but George lands the true babe here; Jerry’s girlfriend isn’t all that attractive.
The Fusilli Jerry: “Elaine’s new boyfriend Puddy (Patrick Warburton) uses one of Jerry’s sexual moves. Kramer mistakenly receives vanity license plates that read ‘Assman’.”
Here comes our first glimpse of Puddy! Warburton owes his career to this role, as he’s played somewhat similar characters ever since – and done quite well for himself. I like his take on the moderately dense Puddy; he’s a good-looking guy without much intellect, but he’s got a certain something that allows us to understand his appeal to Elaine.
Stretch of reality: I don’t think there’s any way a state would issue plates that read “Assman”. It’s a funny concept, though, and it leads to some fun material. The title statuette is also quite good; it seems like a throwaway reason to title the show, but it’s so amusing that I can’t complain.
The Diplomat’s Club: “Jerry’s plans to meet a gorgeous model (Berta Waagfjord) for an airport rendezvous are derailed. Kramer bets on flight arrivals with a rich Texan (O’Neal Compton). George attempts to prove to his boss (Tom Wright) that he’s not racist. Elaine plans on quitting her job with Mr. Pitt – until she realizes that she’s in his will.”
Acting-wise, Jerry was always the series’ weakest link. However, he occasionally got his time to shine, and his freaking out here stood as one of those occasions. It helped that Debra Jo Rupp set up his emotional outbursts with the way she babied him. Kramer’s funny gambling subplot contributes to this one’s success as well.
The Face Painter: “Puddy prepares for a hockey game by painting his face like a devil. George tells his girlfriend (Katy Selverstone) that he loves her. Kramer gets into a fight with a monkey at the zoo.”
Happily, I’ve never experienced the “I love you” Matzoh ball suffered by George. I’ve Matzohed a girlfriend – what was she thinking? – but haven’t been Matzohed myself. Let’s hope I keep that streak intact in the future.
Personal connections aside, “Painter” is a strong show. Puddy’s face-painting antics get over the top, but Warburton makes them work. I like the thread with Kramer vs. the monkey; if there’s any character who’s on that level, he’s the one, and this plot is quite funny. It’s a very good program.
The Understudy: “Jerry and George are accused of injuring Bette Midler during a softball game so that Jerry’s girlfriend – her understudy – can take the stage in their Broadway show. Elaine convinces Frank Costanza to translate her manicurist’s (Bok Yun Chon) suspicious conversations. Depressed, Elaine meets J. Peterman (John O’Hurley) on the street and lands herself a new job.”
“Understudy” features another concept to which I can relate: the weepy girlfriend. I’ve not dated anyone quite as absurd as Gennice, but some have come close, so I understand Jerry’s experience. That truthfulness makes “Understudy” funnier, and Midler adds a great guest turn as herself. She’s got a mean streak that translates well into the character, especially when she butts heads with George. Add in “Macaroni Midler”, the introduction of J. Peterman and “Understudy” concludes Season Six on a very positive note despite its dated allusions to the Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan affair.