Season One, Episode One — “The Seinfeld Chronicles.”
Original air date: July 5, 1989.
Directed by: Art Wolff.
Written by: Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld.
On October 8, 2021, “Seinfeld” made it’s debut on Netflix with all 180 episodes available to subscribers. A few weeks previous to this, upon hearing the entire series would be on Netflix, I decided that I was going to write about every episode in the series. “Seinfeld” is a tv show I’ve seen a lot over the years, both with it’s original run and in syndication. I have a vague recollection of watching “Seinfeld” when it was on in the 90s, as I was mostly a kid for that decade, but through watching repeats, have come to love the show and personally consider it a top five show. When it was announced the entire series would be on Netflix, I had a lot of thoughts in my head. One was how a show like “Seinfeld” would be viewed for people younger than me, and in most cases for the first time. I thought about all the episodes I’ve not seen or don’t recall. Most of all, I thought about how the show would hold up for me. Would I still find the observational humor funny? Would I be able to relate to characters that are now my age? All of this led me to want to write about the show, brake down the narratives and find out what works and what doesn’t. This is not a series of reviews for each episode. I will not be grading, or scoring or giving out stars for individual shows. What I want to do is look at a beloved sitcom and find what my relationship truly is to it.
The pilot opens with Jerry Seinfeld and George Costanza sitting across from each other at a diner, discussing George’s shirt, which second button Jerry thinks, is too high. One of the interesting thing about this scene is we are introduced to Claire, the waitress, a character that appears in this pilot but is never seen from again. Then the conversation turns to a female that Jerry met, who is coming into town for a seminar. This leads to George telling Jerry that the woman has no intention of seeing Jerry, pointing out that she “has to come into town” and “maybe they will get together.” George gets Claire the waitress involved, and hammers home his point leading to George and Jerry going to the laundromat. This first conversation between George and Jerry absolutely holds up in both writing and content. As we know, the character of George is a representation of co-creator Larry David, and thus, this interaction is essentially Larry and Jerry sitting down for a cup of coffee. If you are watching this show for the first time, I can tell you this set up and these interactions are the core of the show. Whether it’s George and Jerry, Jerry and Elaine (who does not appear in the pilot) or Jerry and Kramer (who is on deck), the observational conversations about buttons on shirts and signals from women are the heart beat of this sitcom.
At the laundromat, Jerry brings up the woman again, and George goes into his signature flailing breakdowns, explaining further that Jerry and this woman have no plan and that Jerry doesn’t even know what hotel she’s staying at, and thus, is not able to call her. I think this is one of the things to mention about this show from what I recall (hehe); there is a lot of talking on the phone. Up till this point in the year, I have maybe talked on the phone a handful of times. The idea of calling people and phone conversations will come up a lot in this series. Some will be relatable and others will not simply because we don’t talk on the phone as much as we used to; hell most of us don’t even have a lan-line in our homes anymore. After George is done, he urges Jerry to check the laundry, and Jerry responds, saying the dryer will do its thing. George argues that he will over-dry the clothing. Jerry says you can’t over-dry leading to a very clever hypothetical in which Jerry describes over-dying. He says, once you’re dead, you’re dead. You can’t over-die. If someone drops dead, and then I shoot them, they’re not going to die again. You can’t over die, you can’t over dry. It’s the delivery, the pacing and phrasing that makes this a highlight of this episode, and will only get better as the show goes on. Of course, you can over dry something so Jerry is dead wrong on that point.
After a stand-up buffer, we see Jerry in his apartment, watching a Met game he taped from earlier, at one in the morning. He goes out of his way to tell a person calling his phone that he taped it, only to hang up the phone and have the outcome ruined by Kramer, his neighbor across the hall that has just walked in. Kramer then takes two slices of bread out of his robe pockets and asks if Jerry as any meat. This is our introduction to Kramer, the kooky, absurd and always scheming neighbor that comes in at all moments in time with his twitchy, schizophrenic movements and varied facial expressions. Kramer is an interesting character which we will cover more of in the future.
At the airport, Jerry and George wait for the arrival of Laura, the girl the two have discussed. The two go over the importance of the greeting, which George says is very important. He explains Jerry wants the hug, and doesn’t want the handshake. When Laura greets him, she takes each of his hands into each of hers and shakes them, causing Jerry to look at George for him to decipher what this means. This is another hallmark of the show. There’s always a discussion about what to look for, which is always stifled by something else happening that was not in the discussion.
Later Jerry and Laura are at Jerry’s apartment. We get a sense that maybe Jerry will be able to hit it off with this woman only to get a phone call in which Laura reveals she is engaged.
The episode ends with Jerry doing stand-up talking about men and woman and how men want women but we don’t know how to get them.
I don’t know what this series of writings are going to turn into, but I hope you’ll enjoy them and that you’ll do your own viewing of the show!