Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 19, 2006)
It took a year since the DVD release of Seinfeld’s sixth season, but we finally have Season Seven. Was it worth the wait? Read on and see! The plot synopses come from the DVD’s packaging. They’re short but good.
The Engagement: “As a result of a pact he made with Jerry to grow up, George proposes to Susan. A barking dog keeps Elaine up at night so she enlists Kramer and Newman to help her solve her problem.”
Obscure catchphrase alert: I’ve used “Happy, Pappy?” regularly ever since this episode aired. “It didn’t take” is a keeper as well. The main storyline of “Engagement” feels a little contrived – or a lot contrived, to be honest – but it launches Season Seven’s main character arc: George’s engagement. Better George moments will emerge as the year progresses, but this one has more than a few good moments.
The Postponement: “Jealous of George’s engagement, Elaine seeks counsel from her rabbi neighbor, who isn’t very good at keeping secrets. George panics about getting married and convinces Susan to postpone the wedding. Kramer tries to sneak his cup of coffee into a movie and suffers from burns when it spills.”
This episode provides a minor reunion from the lousy early Eighties SNL rip-off Fridays. Actor Michael Richards and executive producer Larry David bring along former Fridays castmate Bruce Mahler as the rabbi. He offers an amusing performance as the clueless loose-lipped clergyman.
George’s dilemma provides the show’s funniest elements, though. I love the depiction of the guy who can resist his girlfriend’s tears, and George’s subsequent behavior entertains. Add to that the Kramer subplot that indirectly mocks the woman who sued McDonald’s when she burned herself on coffee and this show soars.
The Maestro: “Elaine dates Kramer’s friend, ‘The Maestro’. Jerry becomes obsessed when ‘The Maestro’ tells him that there’s nothing to rent in Tuscany. Jackie Chiles represents Kramer in his lawsuit against the coffee company.”
A great new recurring character emerges with Phil Morris’s Jackie Chiles. Sure, he’s a blatant spoof of Johnnie Cochran, but he’s hilarious in his own right. An annoying personality comes via “The Maestro”, one of the series’ most pretentious roles. He’s amusing, though too irritating to be a real winner. How is it possible everybody likes him other than Jerry? He’s a jerk! I do love the extremely over-caffeinated Kramer, though.
The Wink: “Jerry’s healthy eating habits backfire when his grapefruit squirts into George’s eye. George’s involuntary winking leads to problems with the Yankees.”
While I don’t expect great continuity from Seinfeld, the rapid disappearance of the Maestro makes no sense. One episode Elaine goes to Tuscany with the guy, and the next he’s a ghost? Not that I mind his absence, but it’s strange. The titular winking also stretches matters. How long is George gonna wink after that little squirt of grapefruit juice. Or maybe I’m just bitter toward the episode’s negative judgement of folks who eat salads. Elaine’s cousin seems like a bitch for other reasons as well, but the salad thing irritates me. Anyway, “Wink” has some funny moments but doesn’t stand as one of the season’s best.
The Hot Tub: “Elaine hosts Jean-Paul for the New York Marathon. He has a history of oversleeping, so Jerry fixates on ensuring he’s up in time for the race. Kramer installs a hot tub in his living room.”
Jerry so rarely takes an interest in the welfare of others, and this show reminds us why, since his efforts always backfire. That makes his attempts to help Jean-Paul predictable but still amusing. It does seem a little odd to have two episodes back to back that rely on wake-up calls, though. I especially like George’s theory that looking irritated at work create an appearance that you seem busy; I’ve used that one myself. This is a fair show that never quite catches fire.
The Soup Nazi: “The group discovers an amazing soup stand that’s run by a dictatorial chef. Jerry must decide between his girlfriend ‘Schmoopie’ and the soup. Elaine buys an antique armoire from a guy on the street and asks Kramer to watch it until she’s able to move it into her apartment.”
An iconic episode, I like “Nazi” but think the whole relationship with “Schmoopie” doesn’t fit Jerry’s established character. It’s hard to believe a cynic with such a chilly personality would ever get all gushy about a girlfriend. At least the humor of the “Soup Nazi” himself provides very funny moments, as does Elaine’s attempts to acquire the armoire. Only the character inconsistencies slightly mar this otherwise strong program.
The Secret Code: “George refuses to give Susan his ATM code. Elaine is attracted to a man because he doesn’t remember meeting her. Jerry abandons George with Peterman, who drags him to see his dying Momma. Kramer gets an emergency band scanner to keep tabs on the local police and fire departments.”
I’m with George here – PINs should remain secret no matter what! Those elements create a lot of great humor, especially when Kramer harasses George and decodes the PIN. Elaine’s obsession with nerdy Fred also works well, as it shows her neuroses. This adds up to another fine episode.
The Pool Guy: “Elaine realizes that she has no female friends and makes an effort to get to know Susan, causing George’s world to collide. The annoying pool guy from Jerry’s health club won’t leave him alone. Kramer’s new phone number is one digit off from Moviefone and he decides to offer his own service to those who mistakenly call him.”
Once again, I feel forced to side with George. When I was engaged, I consciously avoided colliding worlds, and I can’t blame him for his desire to keep those elements separate. Of course, the concept receives amusing exploration here. I also love the how Kramer adapts to his multiple wrong numbers. The bits with Ramon the pool boy are a minor weak link, as the character seems a little too oblivious, but this remains a very good program.
The Sponge: “Elaine panics when she learns that her new favorite birth control device is going off the market. She now must determine if her boyfriend is ‘sponge-worthy’. Jerry dates a woman whose number he got off an AIDS Walk list. Kramer refuses to wear the red ribbon at the AIDS Walk and suffers the consequences.”
We seem to encounter more irritating guest characters than usual this year, as I don’t care for Jerry’s sanctimonious girlfriend. At least it’s good to know that they always vanish quickly. George is a little annoying himself, as I don’t think it’s really in character for him to buy into a “couples rule”. I do enjoy Elaine’s hoarding behavior, and I’m with Kramer on his refusal to wear a ribbon. I hate that group think that forces everyone to publicly show off their altruism – doesn’t that seem self-serving? Anyway, the show grates at times but has some funny moments.
The Gum: “Kramer participates in the revitalization of the Alex Theater. He encourages his friends to be sensitive to Lloyd Braun, who recently had a mental breakdown. Jerry winds up wearing glasses and buying a lot of Chinese gum just to convince Lloyd he’s not crazy. George’s ‘Jon Voight car’ catches fire.”
I can’t help but love the fact that Kramer trots out a pipe whenever he wants to appear erudite. It’s also hilarious to see such a nutty character attempt to placate Lloyd, a more clinically insane dude; that’s like Donald Duck teaching anger management classes. Isn’t it a little odd that the show already reuses the notion of George’s anger after the alleged loss of a $20 bill, though. Despite that recycling, “Gum” works, even when it goes for easy laughs with Jerry’s ridiculously thick glasses.
The Rye: “George’s parents bring a marble rye to dinner with Susan’s parents, which they don’t serve with the meal. Frank takes it with him, leaving George and Jerry the task of sneaking a loaf back into the Ross’s apartment. Kramer uses his ‘hansom cab’ to help return the bread.”
It’s good to see Susan’s parents back after a long absence, and the mix of them and George’s folks creates a hilariously combustible combination. I also love the sight of Kramer’s Price Club stash; it’s not an original gag, but it’s funny. I do find it disturbing that I agree with Frank Costanza on a couple of occasions. Why should he leave the bread if the Ross family didn’t want to serve it? Take it back! Throw in Kramer’s nutty history of New York and this is a good show.
The Caddy: “Elaine’s nemesis, Sue Ellen Mischke, ‘the braless wonder’, causes her great stress. George’s abandoned car in the Yankee parking lot leaves Steinbrenner to think he’s dead. Contrary to Jackie Chiles’ legal counsel, Kramer’s golf caddy offers advice both on the green and in the courtroom.”
“Caddy” gets dated with its overt OJ references, but it still amuses. Granted, I wouldn’t care about the humor, as the sight of sultry Sue Ellen is more than enough to compensate, but the show offers a mix of good bits anyway. I like the concept of taking all one’s advice from a caddy, and George’s method to get ahead at work entertains.
The Seven: “George announces that he wants to name his first child ‘Seven’ and loses it when Susan’s cousin decides to use the name. Elaine buys a bike but hurts her neck when it falls off the shelf onto her. Jerry’s girlfriend wears the same dress every time he sees her.”
Kramer’s side of things presents the biggest laughs. I love his “mooch jar”, especially when he tries to get away with just buying a half a banana from Jerry. His obsession with Elaine’s bike also works. The George line is pretty good as well, and I understand Jerry’s distress over his girlfriend’s lack of clothing variety. Overall, this turns into a consistently solid show.
The Cadillac (Parts 1 and 2): “When Jerry buys his father a new Cadillac, it leads to trouble for the Seinfelds at their Florida condominium. Through a friend, Elaine sets George up with Marisa Tomei. Kramer turns the tables on the cable guy.”
Throughout the series’ run, it only generally alluded to how Jerry’s career affected his life. Sure, we saw his various gigs and his stand-up played a role, but I really like this episode’s revelation about how much money he makes. Granted, I’d think his friends would have an idea, but it’s still hilarious to see their reactions unfold. The George subplot veers toward high concept, but it gives us a funny twist, and I like Kramer’s quest for revenge. I’m not quite sure this show needs to be double length, but it works most of the time.
The Shower Head: “Elaine tests positive for opium and loses her job at the Peterman company. George convinces his parents to move to Florida but they squabble with the Seinfelds, leaving everyone in misery. Jerry’s building changes all the shower heads to low-flow.”
I’m with the guys here: those low-flow shower heads are the pits! That element doesn’t add much to the story, but it provides some great sight gags with the boys’ flat, underwashed hair. Too bad Kramer’s end credits shower blatantly steals from 1986’s Club Paradise. I like the look at Uncle Leo, as we learn a little more about him, and Frank’s venom toward the Seinfelds is also hilarious. I could live without the Elaine subplot, but overall the episode works.
The Doll: “George discovers that Susan has a doll that looks exactly like his mother. Susan’s college roommate, Sally Weaver, screws up the bit Jerry had planned for his appearance on the Charles Grodin Show. Frank turns George’s childhood room into a billiards parlor.”
A while back, I showed a friend three nearly identical album covers. She claimed not to see the resemblance, and her denial drove me nuts! As such, I can completely identify with George’s frustration here. That side of the show amuses, especially when George argues with the doll. I like Sally, the annoying friend. Kathy Griffin goes with a broad performance that manages to work as she turns her into a hilariously obnoxious character. Too bad we get the return of the Maestro, though, and the parts related to the pool table don’t go anywhere. At least we find out why Elaine and the Maestro split.
The Friars Club: “Jerry tries to join the famed Friars Club but fears he’ll never be admitted after his crested blazer disappears at the Flying Sandos Brothers performance. A new Peterman employee with selective hearing bothers Elaine. Kramer tries out Leonardo da Vinci’s sleep habits, but they cause him trouble with his Mafia girlfriend.”
Of all Kramer’s crackpot ideas, I think his decision to emulate da Vinci ranks near the top. Unfortunately, the choice to give him a “Mafia girlfriend” smacks of cheese, especially when the episode veers toward goofy caper territory. The rest of the show remains uninspired. Rob Schneider is a lackluster guest star, and I never care about Jerry and the Friars Club. Add to that the annoying Pat Cooper and irritating Flying Karamozov Brothers and the show disappoints.
The Wig Master: “Susan invites her friend, a Broadway wig master, to stay with them. George finds a cheap parking lot but realizes that prostitutes use the cars to conduct their business. Kramer convinces the wig master to loan him the show’s Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”
The theme with the hookers in the cars seems a little nuttier than I’d like, though it has some funny moments. The same goes for Kramer’s pimped out look with the Dreamcoat. I prefer Jerry’s irritation about how various folks don’t think he’s a boyfriend; Jerry with something to prove is an amusing Jerry. Susan’s houseguest is a little swishier than I’d like, though he’s pretty entertaining and makes the most from his few onscreen moments. “Ian” – pronounced “Eeen” – got me some good laughs in real laugh, as my best friend dated a guy named Ian not long after this episode originally aired.
The Calzone: “George introduces Steinbrenner to calzones but gets banned from the restaurant when he’s caught with his hand in the tip jar. Jerry points out that Elaine’s boyfriend is dating her without technically asking her out. Kramer enjoys wearing clothes fresh out of the oven.”
For the story about how Nicki gets whatever she wants due to her beauty to work, shouldn’t she be ultra, superhot? Frankly, she’s not that great; Jerry’s dated much sexier woman. I like the theme, though, and I’m digging on Todd Gack’s schemes to get dates without actually going through the motions of asking out a woman – it really is a great “dating loophole”. I enjoy the measures to which George goes to get calzones, though some of the moments get a bit too goofy.
The Bottle Deposit, Parts 1 and 2: “Elaine purchases John F. Kennedy’s golf clubs for Peterman at an auction by outbidding her rival, Sue Ellen Mischke. Jerry’s mechanic accuses him of being a bad owner and car-naps the vehicle with the clubs still in the backseat. Kramer and Newman find the missing link to their Michigan bottle deposit scheme and set out to make their millions.”
When confronted with the sight of higher out of state bottle deposits, who among us hasn’t conjured a moneymaking plot ala Kramer and Newman? Well, probably most folks, but I’ll admit I’ve found the concept enticing. I love that side of things in this well-executed double episode, and the other parts usually work well too. Sexy Sue Ellen returns to act as Elaine’s nemesis, and the issues with the mechanic create laughs. George’s attempt to fulfil his assignment without actually knowing what to do is also clever and amusing. This is a solid episode.
The Wait Out: “George makes a remark that breaks up a married couple. Jerry and Elaine pounce as they’ve been waiting out the relationship for years. Kramer slips into a pair of tight jeans and can’t get out.”
This episode includes one of my new favorite bizarre lines when Kramer states that he has “the body of a taut, pre-teen Swedish boy”. We also get the amusing site of Kramer in stiff, awfully tight jeans, a solid sight gag. Cynicism rules the day, though, as the story with Elaine and Jerry presents their somewhat coldhearted quest to snag new partners. These add up to a strong show.
The Invitations: “As his wedding nears, George picks the cheapest invitations in the shop. A woman just like Jerry saves his life, and he proposes marriage to her. Kramer disputes his bank over their offer of $100 if they don’t greet you with a ‘hello’.”
“Invitations” ends Larry David’s Seinfeld tenure on a sour note. I enjoy the series’ cynicism most of the time – indeed, that was a highlight of “The Wait-Out” – but matters get way too dark here even for Seinfeld. Granted, the show painted itself into something of a corner with the engagement storyline, but they easily could have come up with a less cold-hearted conclusion. Heck, this one doesn’t even make sense – if the envelopes were so nasty, why not use a sponge or some other method to moisten them?
That ending ruins an otherwise good show. I really like the twist in Jerry’s relationship life where he falls in love with himself, and Kramer’s obsession with the bank is also amusing. Add to that Kramer’s insistence that Susan should be called “Lily” and the show usually worked. That terrible conclusion kills it, though, and leaves us with a weak finish to an otherwise very positive Season Seven.