30 Day Television Challenge: Day Twelve

An episode you’ve watched more than 5 times: Seinfeld, “The Marine Biologist”

In my previous post, I wrote about how The Simpsons influenced me. In the same vein, I would say Seinfeld is a close second. Referring only to the cream of The Simpsons‘ crop, the two series are quite even in regards to their quality. The Simpsons hold that slight edge for only because it just resonates more with my personal tastes. I guess if I were to try to put my finger on it, I would point to The Simpsons‘ animation style.

Like The Simpsons, Seinfeld rewards repeated viewings. Hence the success of its DVDs and why it has remained in syndication after all these years. Whenever I watch a rerun of Seinfeld I go to my happy place. It feels like hanging out with old friends. It’s the type of show you can leave on for the entire day, and no matter which point of a season or an episode you turn on, you’re immediately absorbed into the plot.

It’s actually taken me awhile to wrap my head around the idea that Seinfeld is “a show about nothing”. To me, the show is about everything and anything. Although, I suppose, aside from the characters’ various professions and milieus, the show has no consistent motif, unlike say 30 Rock or Fraser. Yet, despite this lack of motif, Seinfeld has some of the most eventful plots ever seen on television. Often riffing on social niceties and expectations, the characters are always getting themselves into absurd situations and exacerbating things by trying to save face.

But if I were to venture a definition, I would say Seinfeld is a show about the rituals, codes, and normativity of society. It’s about the collision between the masks we wear when when we leave the house vs. the faces we reveal only to ourselves or by accident. Seinfeld‘s comedy lies in the tension between our fabricated persona and our more dynamic personality. It’s about the consequences that come when these two worlds collide, to quote George Costanza.

“The Marine Biologist” is a perfect example of this. The central plot of this episode is George trying to start a relationship with a woman on the pretense that he’s a marine biologist. (Which of course he’s not. In fact, he prefers to lie about being an architect.) Instead of coming clean, George stays the course and proceeds to feed this woman bullshit about being a marine biologist – he’s trying to help the whales lose weight.

However, the shit hits the fan when, walking on the beach one afternoon, they come upon a beached whale. Someone shouts, “Is anybody here a marine biologist?” George refuses to break character and hilarity ensues. The subsequent dramatic retelling at the coffee shop is one of my favorite moments in television.

Oftentimes, the four different characters lead different plot lines. Sometimes they share plots, sometimes they’re separated. The great Seinfeld episodes are the ones where the different plot intersect in unexpected ways. In the case of “The Marine Biologist”, the collision between Kramer and George is classic Seinfeld.

Earlier in the episode, Kramer becomes obsessed with golf having come upon a box of balls. Unfortunately, he’s rubbish and only manages to hit one out into the ocean while teeing off from the beach. Through out the episode, Kramer is constantly shaking sand from his clothes. The writers do this to maintain the audience’s attention to the fact that Kramer was hitting golf balls on the beach. Why? Initially, this just seems like more of Kramer being Kramer. However, the payoff comes when George reveals that it was in fact a golf ball clogging the whale’s blowhole. Kramer squeaks, “What’s that a Titleist? A hole in one, eh?”

Truth be told, I’ve seen many episodes of various shows more than five times. I chose “The Marine Biologist” because it really showcases everything that made Seinfeld such a success: the hilarious performances of the cast and the creators’ masterful use of irony.




~ by braddunne on September 30, 2012.

One Response to “30 Day Television Challenge: Day Twelve”

  1. My fav. Character is George. Even when things start to go his way, he usually ends up worse than were he began.

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