Today, we look at how Seinfeld finally fully took this and added that with “The Deal.”
This is “All the Best Things,” a spotlight on the best TV episodes, movies, albums, etc.
This is a Year of Great TV Episodes, where every day this year, we’ll take a look at great TV episodes. Note that I’m not talking about “Very Special Episodes” or episodes built around gimmicks, but just “normal” episodes of TV shows that are notable only because of how good they are.
There are two basic Seinfeld plots. One is finding the insanity within the mundane (like getting lost in a parking garage or waiting too long to eat at a Chinese restaurant) and the other is tackling insane situations with rather mundane reactions (like Kramer turning his apartment into The Merv Griffin Show or Elaine meeting the nice doppelgangers of Jerry, George and Kramer).
However, forgetting the basic plots, what made Seinfeld great is the intricate writing WITHIN those plots. However, early on in the series, the writing wasn’t quite as intricate. Season 1 of the series was fine, but it wasn’t wowing anyone until the second season, and even there, the episodes were still a bit…normal. It was the back half of the second season that I think turned the whole show around (the second episode, “The Pony Remark,” was the first episode to really show what the show COULD be, but even there wasn’t quite what the show would become), with the clear evidence of this being the ninth episode of Season 2, “The Deal,” where Jerry and Elaine decide that they will go back to having sex with each other, but in a “friends with benefits” arrangement…
Boy, Julia Louis-Dreyfus is brilliant in that scene, right? However, the idea of taking something good (their friendship) and adding “that” (sex) reminds me of the way that the show became so exceptional, because the episode, written by Larry David, is filled with clever jokes, but most importantly, everything was brilliantly tied together by the end, something that became a standard presence for the series, but had not really been the case at the time. Callbacks became the show’s bread and butter, and few series ever did them quite as well. They took the “this” (funny jokes) and added “that,” as well (intricate plotting that tied all of the plots together in a humorous fashion), and they made it WORK.
Of course, that was a total coincidence, as the episode was actually filmed LAST of all of the 13 episodes of Season 2, and aired ahead of “The Chinese Restaurant,” which obviously would have been the first outright classic episode of the series had it aired BEFORE “The Deal.” Either way, it is fair to note that by the end of Season 2, whether it was this episode specifically or the show in general, the writing was tighter, and led into an excellent Season 3, which was filled with classic episodes (as would Seasons 4 and 5). “The Deal” and “The Pony Remark” were both nominated for Best Writing in a Comedy Series. How did “The Chinese Restaurant” not get a nod? Weird.
Okay, if I’m going to have 361 more of these, I could use suggestions, so feel free to email me at email@example.com!