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The way in which George lies to his girlfriend is in my opinion the stand out of this overall excellent episode
I adore "The Cafe" and it is yet another episode of the third season that rides the show's newfound momentum very well. It is an excellent follow-up to "The Parking Garage" that returns the show to a more familiar narrative with multiple storylines that intertwine both effortlessly and quite naturally and it's also an episode where all its constituent parts are highly entertaining.
Probably the thing "The Cafe" is best known for is the introduction of the beloved character of Babu Bhatt, superbly played by Brian George, and while the entire Babu storyline is entertaining and very well done, my favourite aspect of this episode has always been George.
Yes, Brian George is hilarious and his transition from a restauranteur who is amicable to one who is cynical, frustrated and cold is hilarious (I especially adore how he just carelessly draws out a seat for Jerry during his second visit inside the restaurant) and Michael Richards shows some of his ability for physical comedy but I have always been very much a fan of George Costanza here in this episode. He opts to cheat on an IQ test, embarrassed about his lack of intelligence, even when the girl he's dating (whom he is doing this for as a favour to her) could not be less concerned about IQ tests. If the idea of George using Elaine to cheat on an IQ test to impress his girlfriend isn't funny enough, the direction it takes when the plan does not smoothly follow through is hilarious. The scene in which he continuously lies, almost in a pathological manner, to his girlfriend after he returns the paper (drenched in coffee, sandwich stains) is absolutely genius. Jason Alexander is on top form here and I absolutely adore the way he plays that scene in particular, and the means with which he lies is fantastic. For every question the girl asks, he almost responds with another question or a half answer, just enough time to contemplate where he will next take the lie. It's brilliant comedy, it's classic George Costanza and in my opinion, it's pure 'Seinfeld'.
"The Cafe" is excellent. Something prevents me from giving it the nine stars this time around that I had always given it but my enjoyment was not much less. Every storyline works very nicely here and the means with which they come together is yet another example of 'Seinfeld' writing at its best. Every character gets something great, George the most in my opinion, and arguably even more importantly, Elaine is becoming more and more a pivotal character in the series.
Seinfeld: The Library (1991)
The episode that introduces Bookman and the iconic Seinfeld phrase, "Cantstandya" into the show's lexicon
"The Library" might not be quite as polished as 'Seinfeld' episodes down the road but it is well remembered as a high point in the show's early years. This is where 'Seinfeld' was finally coming into its own and it's all on display in this fairly tightly woven twenty two minutes. There's very little that drags and while it is fondly looked back on for the character of Bookman, brilliantly played by the great character actor Phillip Baker Hall, it is entertaining all-round.
The episode begins with high pace and it sustains it quite well throughout the episode. What follows Seinfeld's opening stand-up piece is a phone call that Jerry receives from the New York Public Library whereby he receives the odd and distressing news that a book that he borrowed that he supposedly returned, is overdue and he will be met with a lengthy fine. The episode kicks itself into gear immediately and that too is refreshing and from here on in, the episode is an entertaining ride all the way through. Watching Kramer entice deeply buried feelings of love and lust in a lonely librarian is hilarious, as is the payoff later on where Kramer embarrassingly succumbs to tears while reading the librarian's poetry efforts. Michael Richards again nails the role and he makes even solitary phrases like 'memory burn' in this episode hilarious and memorable unto themselves. The character, the dynamic he adds to the show and the performance are all now at that ideal level.
While at the library, George discovers that his former gym teacher whom he had fired (according to Jerry, George 'sang like a canary') is now a destitute living outside the library. This is the sort of storyline that the show has done a number of times where George, either through no fault of his own or through a fault, has terrible consequences for someone else. It was present in the second season episode, "The Busboy" and will continue to make its presence known throughout the series. While the laughs on George's end may be a tad lacking compared to some of his more powerhouse performances this season, it's still very entertaining and it adds the classic 'Can'tstandya' to the 'Seinfeld' dictionary.
There's also Elaine, who gets the smallest role this episode albeit a still entertaining piece where she has trouble at work with her boss and fellow employees, who for some inexplicable reason seem to harbour feelings of resentment towards her. It's a very small story that gets a neat and amusing payoff later in the episode but arguably this storyline is most significant because it is early signs of Elaine's character becoming a more focal element of the series. Here we see her professional life and much like earlier in the season in "The Truth" where we saw her domestic life, it adds vitality to the character that makes her feel real, which is obviously of vital importance going forward with the series.
I enjoy "The Library" a lot even if my enjoyment does not quite match the reputation it has earned for itself. Phillip Baker Hall and his iconic character of Bookman is the obvious highlight of this episode but it manages to be entertaining beyond a powerhouse guest performance and character. I just don't *quite* consider it to be amazing.
This episode founded the classic Seinfeld fictitious film, 'Prognosis Negative' and for that alone it's worth it. Even beyond that, I find this episode gets a bad rep.
"The Dog" frequently finds itself sitting near the bottom of most 'Seinfeld episodes ranked' type lists and has generally earned a reputation as one of the show's worst episodes something I personally do not subscribe to.
Had "The Dog" appeared in the first or even second season, I have a strong feeling that the episode could and would rank among the lesser efforts of the show but here in the very good third season that finally gave 'Seinfeld' both life and an identity as a show very much its own, I think this episode is certainly elevated as a result.
The weakest parts of the episode for me personally are the titular dog that finds itself a resident of Jerry's apartment and the dog owner, a British drunk who for whatever reason does not really seem to fit in the world of 'Seinfeld'. He's not the only character in my opinion who feels a little disconnected from the universe of 'Seinfeld' (there's a lot of characters in later seasons too but especially in the first and second seasons) in my opinion.
This episode is renowned for the awful sound design of the dog barking and while it certainly is not great and is rather grating, it's almost as if writer Larry David is self-aware, especially when Jerry almost bluntly at one point declares whether or not he really thinks of his new co-resident as a dog. It works nicely, whether intentional or not, as an acknowledgement to something otherwise so absurd that it could barely be justified.
Most of the things that surround the dog are very good in my opinion. I adore finally seeing an episode outside of season two's "The Revenge" where George and Elaine actually share screentime on their own. Some find this storyline very much shoehorned into this episode and consider George and Elaine's awkwardness among one another inconsistent as far as continuity goes. To my memory, the only real occasion where they spent time alone up to this point was in the aforementioned "The Revenge" but that was a case where the two were working towards an end goal (George wanting to slip a mickey into his old boss) and in my opinion justifies the storyline here. It feels fairly organic and both Jason Alexander and Julia Louis Dreyfus have a fantastic rapport on-screen. It's so great to see Elaine finally get the screentime she deserves having so often received the shorthand treatment in the first two seasons where she barely ever got any screentime on her own.
The George and Elaine angle is such a fun dynamic to this episode and they play both the friendship angles (humourously, their friendship is found through making fun at their mutual friend Jerry) and the awkwardness of being in one's company so magnificently. I laughed quite hard in the scene in Jerry's apartment where George and Elaine re-tread previous grounds where George attempts to mock Jerry's way of vomiting!
Kramer has a bit of a storyline too where he attempts to break up with a girl, especially after Elaine and Jerry mention how dull she is, and ends up getting back together with her. It's really pushed to the side here but in my opinion that storyline is completely warranted in this episode, if only for Kramer's 'monologue' where he first breaks up with the girl and subsequently begs to be taken back. Michael Richards simply nails the physical humour.
I enjoy "The Dog" quite a bit. There's a lot of great dialogue that is typically 'Seinfeld' in nature. The morality discussion that Jerry and George engage in as their waiting at the movie concession stand is particularly funny and oddly riveting 'Seinfeld' dialogue. Almost everything that surrounds the dog here, in my opinion, is absolutely 'Seinfeld' and I enjoy it for the most part.
The show's only episode without both Kramer and George is still an early classic, courtesy of Larry David's fantastic script
I think this is a very good episode and just like with the two previous episodes of this season, "The Pen" worked surprisingly better for me a second time around. That said, this might be my least favourite of the three episodes so far purely for the fact that it is missing another additional zany element to this episode that would have made it even more dynamic. 'Seinfeld' has already experienced itself without Kramer in the acclaimed "The Chinese Restaurant" and while George somewhat tempered what otherwise could have been a particularly detrimental element to that episode, he too is unfortunately missing in this episode. "The Pen" features neither Kramer, nor George, arguably the two most memorable and dynamic characters whose sheer presence pretty much elevates any episode.
Thankfully, we have the Florida characters coming in to cover some necessary ground. Jerry's parents are absolutely a delight, Jack Klompus who is introduced here and Uncle Leo too makes a return. Each of these characters adds a particularly valuable dynamic to the episode that makes it an often hilarious ride but George and Kramer are such unique and irreplaceable entities to 'Seinfeld' that no compensation feels like enough compensation. It's just a pity given how good Larry David's screenplay here is that the Kramer and/or George element could not be integrated.
All that aside, this is an extremely funny episode. It largely centres on a pen, as the title would have you believe, and the episode pulls it off spectacularly. More and more, 'Seinfeld' is becoming "a show about nothing" even if creators Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld did not necessarily intend for the show to earn itself that label. It is just abundantly clear watching the first three episodes of this season, and "The Pen" confirms this belief even further, that 'Seinfeld' is finally finding its stride. The way in which Klompus' astronaut pen weaves in and out of the episode's narrative is particularly funny, as is Elaine's dilemma in this episode after she injures her back sleeping on the Seinfelds' sofa bed. Nothing feels particularly expendable within this twenty two minute episode and almost everything has that 'punch' factor. A notable example of this would be the episode beginning with Morty Seinfeld complaining about the missing scotch tape and even how effortlessly and naturally that pays off, almost not calling attention to itself. This is classic 'Seinfeld', even if it is 'Seinfeld' without neither George nor Kramer.
I adore "The Pen". Where the episode may not have quite the same pacing or energy of the previous episodes for my money, the writing is particularly strong and it needed to be strong if the episode were to work without both Kramer and George. Jason Alexander, as is particularly known now, was especially infuriated to have been left out of this episode that he threatened to quit if his character were ever written out of another episode. George Costanza was based on Larry David and Jason Alexander seemingly channelled his inner Larry David. It has now come full circle.
The X Files: Chinga (1998)
I am rather embarrassingly susceptible to doll tales in horror and yet, "Chinga" completely missed the mark for me. One of my least favourites
The idea of bringing an acclaimed and influential horror writer like Stephen King into the world of 'The X-Files' to do what is essentially intended to be a horror episode probably sounds like a great idea but I found "Chinga" anything but scary and that is an unusual statement coming from someone who has an embarrassing fear of dolls and their portrayal in film, as marked by the film Child's Play which still to this day remains a fairly effective horror film in my eyes.
"Chinga" could, and should, have been a lot of fun. Here is another episode that sees Scully and Mulder separated from one another as was often the case with the fifth season as the season's production was hampered by the ongoing production of the film, Fight the Future. The greatest thing to really happen to this episode is the way in which Chris Carter has written the dynamic of Scully and Mulder. Though it's no "War of the Coprophages" which did the same concept to greater effect, it's still very solid and there's plenty of humour in watching this, the best part of the script, come together nicely on screen thanks to an ever palpable chemistry between the stars.
And that's really all I particularly enjoy about "Chinga". Even the Scully/Mulder element is nothing profound but it's enjoyable in an episode that is otherwise somewhat of a chore. Stephen King's screenplay really misses the human element that is so often present in 'The X-Files' in that he fails at surface level characterizations, in this case the widowed mother who is going through hell with her young daughter. In most episodes, there would be a decent level of empathy that the viewer could project onto the supporting characters but there's nothing of the sort here.
Even more disappointing is how truly non-frightening this episode is and the doll in particular is terrible. The voice work done on the doll is the complete anthisesis of what it is intended for, which is to be creepy. Whenever the doll would say "I want to play" or whatever other remarks it would come up with, just prior to performing another killing, I was not scared but completely frustrated and uncomfortable that something so ineffective made its way into 'The X-Files', especially via the hands of an auteur (albeit in a different medium) like Stephen King.
"Chinga" isn't offensive but I was particularly frustrated watching this episode. What I sought was not what I got and while that's not an inherent negative, this episode offered little to no fun. The mystery is weak, the suspense is non-existent, there are no real palpable stakes at play here and the idea of having a passive protagonist, which the show often does superbly in episodes like "Die Hand Die Verletzt", is not well handled here. If what you seek is a fun Child's Play sort of remake from one of the genre's great writers, then "Chinga" will be sure to disappoint. It's a surprisingly non 'X-Files' episode of 'The X-Files' that is probably the result of Stephen King's guest writing opportunity.
George Costanza is the highlight in this tightly plotted and highly entertaining early season three episode
"The Truth" was written by Elaine Pope and directed by David Steinberg both of whom would only feature in a few additional writing/directing credits for the show. It's an interesting point, I think, to make given that "The Truth" is really the first episode in the series that was entirely helmed by crew members who would not maintain a particularly long lasting career with the series and therefore might not be as attuned to the sensibilities of the show. And yet, "The Truth" is very entertaining and funny and another good indicator of the third season of 'Seinfeld' as the point where the show really picked up. There's plenty to credit about Elaine Pope's fine script but it's also worth crediting the third season premiere as the point where the show really gained its voice and this episode rides that momentum high very nicely.
As with "The Note", the world of 'Seinfeld' is suddenly brimming with energy and characterization, dialogue and pacing are very well established here. All the storylines work very well, though none work anywhere near as well as that of George breaking up with a woman and calling her pretentious when she asked him for the truth about his reasons to break-up with her. It's just another absolutely classic George Costanza predicament and Jason Alexander once again knocks it out of the park. The scene in which he unleashes all his criticism of the girl he's dating is one of the show's funniest moments thus far courtesy of both Elaine Pope who realizes where 'Seinfeld' truly excels at and Jason Alexander for his impeccable delivery. He really has come to embody the character with these early season three episodes and it's no wonder that few characters in all of sitcom are arguably as beloved as he.
The other storylines are all very good supporting material. There's Jerry, who has unwisely put his faith in George dating the woman who happens to be an accountant after his recent tax gets audited. There's Elaine who is becoming fed up with Kramer and her roommate's sexual activities in her apartment. And lastly, there's a really minor side-plot of Kramer who finds a windshield on the side of the road and decides to make a coffee table out of it for his new girlfriend!
The central attraction of this episode is undeniably George and writer Elaine Pope wisely understands this and builds up an episode that adequately supports that storyline. Jerry's tax issue is seamlessly blended into the narrative and there's plenty of humour watching the scenario unfold after George breaks up with the girl. Kramer gets some outlandish material and as a result, we are treated to some wonderful Michael Richards physicality. Even Elaine finally is starting to get some material of her own, however small it may be so far, it works very well.
I simply found "The Truth" to be very entertaining. It helps that 'Seinfeld' is certainly on the rise as early into the third season as it is and as a result, this episode is brimming with life and energy. The show no longer feels like the stagnant cringe-fest of the first two seasons and now feels like a show on the rise towards legendary status. The dialogue is strong, the characters are developing into their now renowned personalities and the chemistry between the stars is really forming. Even more impressive is the fact that this episode was written and directed by two people who made their debut for the series here and ended up doing very little for the series as a whole, at least as far as episodes are concerned. And yet, they formed a stellar team and perfectly understood what 'Seinfeld' does best.
This season three premiere immediately puts the series into a higher gear. This is more like the 'Seinfeld' I know and love!
"The Note", which is the third season premiere, is my favourite episode of the series up to this point. In my opinion, none of the previous seventeen episodes across the first two seasons (not even "The Chinese Restaurant" and "The Revenge") embodied the tone, rhythm, pace and humour that has made 'Seinfeld' such an influential piece of television.
"The Note" begins with Jerry's stand-up and one of the more impressionable ones up to this point in the series where he observes the strangeness of people constantly recommending their doctors to others as "he/she is the best, you should see them" and ponders where the 'worst' doctors are. It's probably one of the more memorable stand-up bits up to this point in the series and it effectively opens up season three with great momentum.
"The Note" was written by Larry David and directed by Tom Cherones, the man often credited with giving 'Seinfeld' its aesthetic sensibilities. This episode is right up there as David's best yet and fits perfectly in line with the 'Seinfeld' legacy of today while Tom Cherones at this point has really begun to nail the 'Seinfeld' look. Jerry's apartment no longer looks quite as pale and ghostly as it did across the first two seasons and the tone, at least on a visual level, is set into motion.
It also helps that this episode is genuinely funny and most of the humour feels well-earned and not so much on the cringe inducing end of things as was often the case in the first two seasons. George's predicament feels like a classic one for the character in retrospect and here it is played out in a really satisfying way. Jason Alexander gives one of his very best performances so far in the series and plays out the sheer awkwardness he feels to precision, especially in the scene where he receives his massage from male hands.
The most important thing to say about "The Note" is that it's funny and that is has such an eye for pacing and rhythm. Where the first two seasons often felt very stagnant, this episode feels that much more alive. The dialogue hums with such momentum and purpose, never feeling as though it is belaboured as was the case with the first two seasons, and the show has now begun to really find its voice. One notable example of this is the brief argument George and Elaine have after George discovers that his massage therapist is a man and wishes to swap with Elaine's, who is a woman. The dialogue feels absolutely palpable in that it is easy to imagine people getting into an argument like that but 'Seinfeld' being a comedy, it finds humour in the scenario.
While my memory on much of the third season is a little vague, this is definitely the season where 'Seinfeld' really begins to take on a mainstay presence and is a season filled with innumerable classic episodes.
Seinfeld: The Busboy (1991)
George's unintentionally harmful remark gets a busboy fired and Elaine dates a guy she hates for no good reason
And with "The Busboy", the trend of 'Seinfeld's' second season continues where the premise sounds both promising and attuned to the sensibilities of 'Seinfeld' as it is known today, but the execution as far as the writing is concerned is somewhat lacking and it mostly has to do with the show not yet finding a sustainable voice for itself.
For everything in "The Busboy" that feels either unsatisfying or mildly tedious, there's something I genuinely enjoy and for that alone, it is worth a watch particularly for 'Seinfeld' fans. George reporting the busboy's hazard is perfectly written and acted so as not to make George sound like a snitch and the manner in which Kramer carries himself inside the busboy's apartment is perfect for how it contradicts George's attempts at being socially appropriate. It is among the earlier episodes for me where Kramer genuinely adds an unavoidable and rare dynamic to the scene, even in the early couple of seasons of the show that feel a little lethargic.
The Elaine storyline suffers, as one user has already mentioned, by showing next to nothing of the story and allowing it to progress purely through the span of time. We see nothing of Elaine's exasperation with her boyfriend reaching any sort of boiling point and ultimately, it feels a little underwhelming. It's largely an issue with Seinfeld's second season where Elaine, such a distinctive voice to the series, is an afterthought, a little prop whose storylines largely take place off-screen. And despite that, there is one *great* little scene with Elaine where she wakes up late after her alarm had not gone off and frantically prepares her boyfriend for his flight in a desperate attempt to get him out of her life. Julia Louis Dreyfus gets arguably her second distinctive moment in the season (and the series thus far) as she nails the physical humour associated with the scene.
Largely however, "The Busboy" feels a little underwhelming. There's just not too many jokes at play here either and despite some great moments, it feels like an episode that is just that: an episode with great moments that doesn't really come together. Despite this not having been the original second season finale (that was "The Deal" which ended with Jerry and Elaine consummating their relationship once more at the insistence of studio heads), I'm glad to see the second season and the show take a rather major leap forward to the show that I know and love.
Seinfeld: The Chinese Restaurant (1991)
The best episode yet, a huge landmark of both television and the series, and definitely an early classic even if it may not hold up as well as later 'Seinfeld'.
"The Chinese Restaurant" is all that. It is the first really great 'Seinfeld' episode that happens to be a landmark episode in television given its bold intentions of creating an entire episode around an utterly mundane scenario, confined to a single setting. 'Seinfeld' would time and time, particularly in the two subsequent seasons, re-create the 'characters trapped in a confined setting for the duration of the episode' formula and in my opinion, often to greater effect in episodes like "The Parking Garage" and "The Limo" but that really defies the purpose and legacy of "The Chinese Restaurant.
This is the first episode that is mostly littered with a more classic 'Seinfeld' sense of humour. It begins with the gang, bar Kramer (whose absence is arguably one of the slightly diminishing factors in how this episode is viewed today in slightly lesser light) arriving at the titular Chinese restaurant, discussing the need for greater local law enforcement and garbage collectors. Jerry then proposes the idea of a dual cop/garbage man whose job it would be to clean the rubbish off the street when he's not doing his police work (i.e: often cleaning the rubbish off the street). It's a funny, natural and intriguing little conversation that quickly thereafter is concluded and "The Chinese Restaurant" has begun.
Bar a few moments that don't really work for me, notably Elaine's attempt to go through with Jerry's 'dare' of stealing food off from someone's plate (I especially dislike the 'effect' of Elaine whispering to the people at the table), this episode is endlessly fascinating and fun. It perhaps does not stand the test of time, at least in my opinion, as one of the show's funniest episodes but is nevertheless a mostly funny and impressive episode for the time, not just in terms of the television sitcom but also 'Seinfeld' as a series, which even in its second year, did not demonstrate particular confidence about itself.
"The Chinese Restaurant" is one of the earliest episodes that is befitting of Seinfeld's legacy as "the show about nothing" since so much of the episode is based around the utterly mundane and everyday happenstances that one could expect in social circumstances, be it people selfishly hogging public payphones or the seemingly endless wait in queues or recognizing someone in a public place that looks familiar, but one you may not necessarily know by name.
George's entire situation is particularly amusing to me, especially his ranting and exasperation at the people in front of him at the payphones and it provides 'Seinfeld' with some early vintage George Costanza. His entire complication that arose with the girl he was dating is also particularly amusing, notably in terms of Jason Alexander's fantastic performance and the writing, and how it to great comedic effect attempts to add an aura of dignity to George's precarious situation. The entire dialogue in that scene is particularly funny to me.
"The Chinese Restaurant" is certainly a classic, both of 'Seinfeld' and arguably the sitcom genre in television. It did something quite remarkable by staging its main characters into an extremely confined space and creating an episode's worth of comedy and depth out of something so trivial. In my opinion, there are better episodes that reuse this device in the coming seasons and it largely has to do with 'Seinfeld' finding a clearer voice for itself by then but "The Chinese Restaurant" is an admirably, funny and all-round entertaining early episode. Perhaps a little dated in instances, but an iconic classic of both the series and the medium of television.
Seinfeld: The Baby Shower (1991)
Elements of what make 'Seinfeld' great in the future are present here, but I don't think they come together well here
As the second season nears its end, 'Seinfeld' has come a bit of a way so far despite not yet finding its stride and identity. This episode in particular seems like a recipe for a classic down the road and while writer Larry Charles has some great ideas present here, they never come together in a way that feels particularly satisfying, especially given the intent for chaos here.
If we consider the numerous storylines at play here, then there's the expectation that the climax will be hectic and therein should lie the comedy. 'Seinfeld' is usually brilliant at intertwining separate storylines into one cohesive climactic whole but here in "The Baby Shower" as with many other early 'Seinfeld' attempts, it never really comes together.
So let's quickly consider the plot lines at play here:
- Kramer hooks Jerry onto illegal cable and promises to have his source get it up and running by the time Jerry gets back from a gig
- During his absence, Elaine borrows Jerry's apartment to run a baby shower for a friend
- George had a particularly bad experience with this woman and wants to use this occasion to crash her baby shower and get back at her
- Jerry's gig is canceled due to a blizzard and he makes his way back to the apartment (with George) as the baby shower is running, only to discover that the illegal cable is being installed at the time as well
That certainly is a formula for a 'Seinfeld' classic but I find "The Baby Shower" numbingly dull and low on energy. Even George's story with him attempting to get back at a woman for something so in the past should be hilarious but I never really found myself laughing at any of it, largely because the episode as a whole really lacks any zip.
Whether the criticism is unfair or not, I really dislike Jerry's 'nightmare' that he has on the plane over his fear about the illegal cable being installed in his apartment. It doesn't really fit the style and even tone of the series in retrospect, however unfair a criticism it may be.
The Elaine/Jerry interactions really drag the episode down too, especially the overlong scene early in the episode that ends with Elaine getting Jerry's apartment to run the baby shower. Perhaps I'm used to a more zippy and high pace 'Seinfeld' but an episode like "The Baby Shower" particularly suffers from a lack of intent. There's no real intent in pacing and the absence of even early Larry David hurts "The Baby Shower".
There's the recipe of a 'Seinfeld' classic that the series, still in its infant stages, cannot quite optimize to its fullest. It's a real missed opportunity in my opinion, as is a lot of the show's first two seasons.
Seinfeld: The Heart Attack (1991)
A disappointment for me personally, especially after "The Revenge" which almost indicated that 'Seinfeld' was finally figuring itself out
Before I go any further, I want to state that 'Seinfeld' is one of my favourite television series (something I feel as though I'm stating in every single episode) and I get the idea that especially among fans they seem very cautious to be at all critical of these early episodes, at least here in the review section.
I disliked "The Heart Attack" quite a bit, perhaps even to the point where this is one of, if not *the* weakest episodes so far (and probably the series in general). After "The Revenge" which felt like a very Seinfeld-ian affair in terms of dialogue, story and characterization, this episode felt immensely overwritten. There's a few points to back this up, one being the really annoying scene in the back of the ambulance van with the paramedic officers bickering about candy. It seems to go so far against what 'Seinfeld' as a show is mostly about, which is an observational comedy set against the backdrop of mostly mundane and routine everyday life. The idea of bickering paramedic officers is far too implausible in my opinion and really pushes the show too far into a cartoon world which I feel is not what 'Seinfeld' as a show should be. This is somewhat excused here since the show is still gaining an identity all its own but it doesn't help elevate my enjoyment of the episode.
Mostly, I find the episode largely dull and painfully unfunny. I dislike the scene(s) in the hospital, I dislike the extremely shoehorned in sub-plot of Elaine dating a doctor, I dislike the scene with the herbalist and mostly, I just dislike the episode as a whole. The episode seems to aimlessly wonder around, never really finding any substantial comedy or substance for its characters and it ultimately comes to a halt in a fashion that is largely ambiguous. Jerry having struggled throughout the episode to recollect the meaning of a joke he wrote in bed one night (after watching a television program that appears to be another Larry David cameo appearance, could be wrong however) finally figures out the 'joke' at the end, almost to immediately realize that it wasn't funny. Whether this is writer Larry Charles admitting at the end of the episode that it isn't funny and that it was a concept conceived into an episode out of desperation and frustration, I don't know, but I find "The Heart Attack" largely dull. It's simply too overwritten, whether it be the interactions between the main characters or the story itself.
This is a bit of a departure after the very impressive previous episode, "The Revenge".
The Simpsons: The Way We Was (1991)
The show's first flashback episode is a very powerful and heartwarming little experience and a testament to the show's range and capabilities
While I had a vague memory of what "The Way We Was" was about, the majority of the episode was pretty much erased from my memory and re-watching the episode here, it just struck me as to how powerful and beautiful an experience this episode was. There isn't very much humour in this episode, whether that is more a reflection of the first couple of seasons of 'The Simpsons' or the fact that the writers desired to tone down the humour in favour of drama, I don't know, but ultimately it works for me better than a lot of the episodes so far.
The flashbacks, which constitute pretty much the entire episode, are not a refreshing change of pace for the show as far as narrative is concerned but in general, it is beautifully done. For as loving as Homer and Marge have been to one another so far in the series (and continue to be down the road), it isn't entirely the most healthy relationship (largely for Marge) and yet this episode perfectly sells the innocence and the bond between the two. There are a couple of almost tear-jerking moments in this episode such as when Homer comes to Marge's house as the prom date or the episode's heartwarming ending and it's a testament to the very good writing in this episode.
"The Way We Was" is another early indicator that 'The Simpsons' was here to stay and it showed surprising range for a series that had already come quite a way with as little as twenty five episodes. It showed that 'The Simpsons' could be as much of a comedy (even if the comedy within the show is still in the process of figuring itself out) as a drama. The ending really affirms this notion and it manages to find a way to be as sentimental and heartwarming as it is mildly self-aware by Bart's 'choking' gesture that concludes Homer and Marge telling the story of how they fell in love.
Six Feet Under: A Private Life (2001)
The episode can be hilarious, uncomfortable, infuriating and near heartbreaking all within an hour's span
Note: I am currently going through 'Six Feet Under' for the first time so pardon any inconsistencies in this review.
Everything weird and wonderful about 'Six Feet Under' can almost be captured with this one episode. Being a dark comedy, the show has managed to ideally balance comedy and drama (often tragedy) with such remarkable precision and arguably nowhere is this more evident. On top of being an often hilarious and heartbreaking episode, I find "A Private Life" to be an immensely uncomfortable and often anxiety inducing experience as well as one that manages to be so effortlessly heartbreaking.
Everything about this episode is absolutely fantastic as far as I am concerned. To begin with performances, Michael C. Hall and Frances Conroy are absolutely fantastic in this episode. The former beautifully sells his internal emotional dilemma with such sincerity, nowhere more so than when he breaks down in the final moments of the episode and begs forgiveness, mercy and love from God to whom he so often attempts to give his life towards. Conroy on the other hand continues to be a revelation in the series, here as competent with the drama (see her powerful exchange of dialogue with David) as she has been throughout with comedy, often arising from nothing more than her often awkward demeanor.
There's a couple of scenes that really stand out to me. One is the unbelievably distressing and frankly horrifying midnight break-in scene where Billy confronts Brenda once more. It's the first real instance for mine at least where the shows dwells into an entirely new genre, that being horror, but it's the most undiluted and powerful sort of horror, completely uncompromising and raw in its presentation.
Even within that scene, I love what little detail and that's how Brenda makes the 911 call. Having disarmed her brother by knocking him unconscious, Brenda asks the 911 operator for ambulance services as opposed to police services, which almost anyone else given her position would have done so. It sheds a light on where her feelings are for her brother, even in as extreme and horrifying a circumstance as this. It is almost as if she views herself as the perpetrator and her brother as the victim.
Any scene so far in the series to do with Claire's appointments with the school counselor come off as so incredibly sincere that I could probably watch an uncut episode's length of interactions between the two characters. There's also the phenomenal mother/son confessional exchange late into the episode where David finally summons the courage to come out to his mother and both Conroy and Hall are magnetic in their roles that the entire affair translates as intensely moving and palpable drama.
And lastly, there's the portrayal of societal discrimination and hate against homosexuality and of all the things that leave me lost for words as someone who cannot fathom such cruelty and lack of compassion from people (people obviously being those who launched violent slurs against gay people in this episode), no moment left me as heartbroken for some reason as the victim's parents receiving such vile hate from the scum-ridden crowd at the funeral.
This entire episode was one complete, relevant, beautiful, disturbing, frustrating and all out magnificent experience. I am absolutely enamored by 'Six Feet Under' and this episode is as good as any so far in the series.
Seinfeld: The Revenge (1991)
The best episode yet, unlike the previous episode this one really feels like a 'Seinfeld' episode
Even the second season on the whole has so far left me a little more disappointed than I initially expected after thoroughly enjoying the seemingly not well remembered premiere episode, "The Ex-Girlfriend". So it almost came as a great surprise that I enjoyed "The Revenge" to the extent that I did here and unlike much of the show to this point, this *really* felt like an episode 'Seinfeld' would do.
The brilliance of George Costanza is really on display here and it's comfortably my favourite episode of his yet. He makes an abrupt and passionate speech to his boss, announcing that he's quitting and then tirades off only to very soon realize just how wrong he is when he sees that he has little to no job prospects. So, per Jerry's suggestion, he returns to work the following day deciding to act as if the entire incident had not happened. When that fails, he plots his revenge as per the episode's title.
I adored this episode and not even in the mildly pitiful way in which I have been light in my treatment of the show thus far. 'Seinfeld' is absolutely one of my favourite television series but the first two seasons are generally not an accurate indicator of that love but "The Revenge" absolutely eludes that generalization. It's simply very funny and has aged a lot better than most of the earliest episodes.
George is fantastic and one of my favourite scenes in the episode is him and Jerry entering into a dialogue about his job opportunities. He even makes an off-handed remark about being a sports manager for a baseball team, which probably unintentionally foreshadows a major event in a later season. The entire scene has a great rhythm, is very well written and allows Alexander to shine as an actor while even Jerry successfully plays the scene as straight as he can.
I also adore the actual revenge storyline of the episode and finally Elaine is given some half decent material and Julia Louis Dreyfus looks gleeful in playing the part. Her whole overdone charade where Elaine tells George's boss (whom George is looking to slip a mickey!) that she is a nudist in an effort to distract him is funny as is her failed flirtations earlier in the scene. JLD does an excellent job of humiliating herself to great comedic effect.
I also adore Kramer and him plotting his own revenge against the laundromat owner is fantastic. It gives Michael Richards some fantastic physical comedy to work with and Jerry again very successfully plays his part of the scene as straight as possible, and thus heightens the hilarity of the scene.
If there's one little thing I disliked about the episode, it's the idea that Jerry left $1500 in the laundry bag which spurs on his little side adventure. It simply makes no sense, even in the world of 'Seinfeld', that he would leave as large a sum of money as that in a place like a laundry bag. Perhaps if the sum were something more to the effect of $100 it would be more plausible but it is mind-bogglingly silly.
"The Revenge" is a great episode, in my opinion, and not just of the earlier seasons of 'Seinfeld' but a great episode of the show in general. It is the best written (perhaps courtesy of it being a solo Larry David writing credit) episode yet, has ample energy as opposed to many episodes that seem to become lethargic and gives each actor something substantial to work with. The end result is an episode that is wholly entertaining and pure 'Seinfeld' in every sense. It also is the introduction of one of the show's most beloved characters, Jerry's maniacal and wide grinning arch nemesis from across the hall.
Seinfeld: The Statue (1991)
With the exception of one of Kramer's defining moments in the series, I find "The Statue" to be rather un-Seinfeldian in its humour. It doesn't quite work for me
"The Statue" features what is arguably one of Kramer's greatest moments in all of 'Seinfeld' where he puts on the guise of being a NYPD officer in order to infiltrate and the apartment of someone who may or may not have stolen the titular statue from Jerry's apartment in order to retrieve it. It is Michael Richards' most complete moment yet in the series and both dialogue and performance are arguably the best in the series yet. But defining moment aside, I find "The Statue" largely underwhelming and in retrospect, it feels very far off from what a 'Seinfeld' episode should be.
The supporting characters, in this episode Rava and her university boyfriend are far too colourful as far as their personalities are concerned and they hog far too much of the episode's screentime that I find the entire affair really gets bogged down. In a better and slightly later episode in the series, the supporting characters would be a lot more grounded to make way for the show's central characters to really shine and unfortunately, outside of Kramer (and to a lesser extent, George) there's far too little of value for the other key players, in this case Jerry and Elaine.
I simply do not enjoy the interactions between Jerry/Elaine and Rava/boyfriend in that they feel completely overwritten, both the scenes themselves and the supporting characters in this episode and unfortunately the problem with overwritten supporting characters into the world of 'Seinfeld' at this point is that the series is yet to really establish itself and as such, there's an intense disconnect for me personally with regards to what I'm watching.
I do adore some of the references that this episode and a couple of the earlier episodes from this second season with regards to George's parents, another one of the few key highlights so far in the series for my money. George's parents, despite not making their appearances until the fourth and fifth seasons, are perfectly written here.
One other minor point to mention is that I think this is the single worst Jerry Seinfeld piece of stand-up that I can remember on the series. Perhaps the third season or the second half of this second season may produce something worse but I found this to be an entirely sloppy and cringe-inducing fest. The opening stand-up and the transparent 'interaction' with his audience was very awkwardly handled. And this as someone who generally enjoys his stand-up but here, it adds very little both in terms of humour and connection with the plot.
"The Statue" is decent at best I think, and once again I'm being very generous with the star rating here as I understand the flaws here are largely due to 'Seinfeld' taking a while to really settle into itself. "The Statue" really doesn't work for me, but nor do I loathe it, and if I'm being honest, I love the idea that 'Seinfeld' was a show that took its time to really establish itself. It makes the story of its triumph into pop culture all the more endearing.
Seinfeld: The Phone Message (1991)
The perfect early 'Seinfeld' portrayal of George Costanza, he singlehandedly elevates this episode
I don't really consider "The Phone Message" to be a great 'Seinfeld' episode as much as I consider it to be a very decent and above average early episode of the show. I am sure that statement alone will have me crucified by many and while the laughs are slowly but surely beginning to land with the show, I am more impressed by the blueprint of the show becoming closer and closer to the show that it is today remembered as. The best thing the episode does, hands down, is absolutely nail the character of George Costanza and Jason Alexander gets to really dig into some very interesting material that absolutely screams classic George.
"The Phone Message" wholly works because of George and it's his episode out and out. Elaine has a few moments, nothing too remarkable and Kramer has a very amusing almost meta scene in which he is effectively mocking some of Seinfeld's stand-up routine (although I think this material would work later down the series, especially as the show really becomes a hit and Kramer would return to some of his mimicry of Jerry later on, to better effect in my opinion). Jerry himself gets a decent little piece about dating a girl and finding his relationship with her muddied after finding out she enjoys a television commercial that he despises. It really showcases the mundane nature of 'Seinfeld's' observational comedy as well as the utterly selfish nature of its characters and while the material here doesn't really reduce me to laughter, it's decent enough and more interestingly shows 'Seinfeld' edging closer to the show it would become.
Let's return to George here though as he is absolutely fantastic. First he manages to do the almost impossible, get himself a date with a woman who genuinely seems to enjoy his company. He's then invited into her apartment late in the night for "coffee" which he doesn't clue into its ulterior signal and then upon learning his mistake, attempts to fix it and ends up getting himself into far greater complications after leaving a series of increasingly angry messages on her phone.
This is it. This is the George Costanza that I absolutely adore and this is the real beginnings of the character whose pure brilliance has made 'Seinfeld' almost transcendent. This is a classic George predicament and it is achieved in the earlier days of 'Seinfeld' and "The Phone Message" is among the best episodes yet for my money. It doesn't quite nail the timing, the efficiency and the all-out hilarity of 'Seinfeld' down the road but it really showcases the overall series coming together in retrospect.
On a side note, I do think the 8.6 rating on IMDb can be somewhat problematic, especially to first time viewers of the show. While I consider this episode entertaining and funny with bursts of brilliance, a lot of it works for me in hindsight. A first time viewer might find his desire to continue watching Seinfeld a little halted should an episode as highly rated as this really underwhelm he/she.
The Simpsons: Bart the Daredevil (1990)
The climax to this episode is probably the funniest Simpsons moment up to this point in the show's run as well as being the genesis of The Simpsons as a legacy
"Bart the Daredevil" is close to, if not the best episode of The Simpsons up to this point in the show's run and it is largely influenced on the back of the show's iconic finale in which Bart whose attempt to jump Springfield Gorge are thwarted by his father. It's undoubtedly one of the show's most iconic moments as well as one of the earliest moments of The Simpsons where the humour is entirely effortless, omnipresent and confident of itself.
Even taking the episode's finale out of context, this is definitely among the finer outings so far in the series. Bart episodes have so far been the highlight of the show for my money at least and this ranks at least as good, if not better, than "Bart Gets an F" as his best episode. Where that episode focused on the heart of Bart, his determinations and struggles and his tendency towards failure, this episode explores his more adventurous, mischievous and rambunctious nature whereby he is inspired to become a daredevil after watching a performance by Lance Murdock.
Even the way the episode is structured works very nicely. As with a lot of episodes of The Simpsons, the main storyline doesn't really kick in until the halfway mark but there's plenty of funny moments and nice touches that build towards that moment whether it be the opening where Bart and his friends as well as Homer and his friends (at Moe's) are watching a wrestling match which Lisa deems is obviously rigged OR Homer and his family attending Lisa's recital for music band which almost coincides with a monster truck rally showing that Homer and Bart want to go to. The world of The Simpsons is really starting to come into its own and the animation and the surprising crispness of it already go a long way in making the world feel believable.
Then there's the finale which deserves another mention. It's absolutely hilarious how much of an unending setpiece that scene is and the animation which has already come a long way since the beginning of the first season really sells the humour, particularly in the moment where Homer begins to slide down Springfield Gorge on Bart's skateboard while trying to emotionally reconcile with his son. It's an absolutely hilarious, show-defining moment that's a definite classic in the series and it just happens to be a near perfect payoff to an episode in which Bart struggles to find a rationality to daredevil tricks.
"Bart the Daredevil" is a classic episode, if mostly for the iconic ending which showed just how confident The Simpsons could be in its full stride. It's another fine Bart episode and this is arguably where The Simpsons really begins to come into its own.
Six Feet Under: Pilot (2001)
A superb pilot episode that strikes a fine balance between drama and comedy, both of which revolve around the subject matter of death and mortality
Before I go any further, I must state two things. One, I have never before seen 'Six Feet Under' so the task of reviewing a pilot to a show that I have never been exposed to is difficult for me. And secondly, I have given this episode a distinguished star rating that I very rarely give to movies or TV shows/episodes and for this episode, a pilot, to earn it must say something about how much of an immediate impression the series has made with this one episode.
The opening credits is the viewer's first glimpse into this series and right here, I was glued to this show. The hypnotic, mildly dark and gloomy score combined with the elegant, stylized cinematography that invites the viewer into the world of the show completely spoke to me. By the end of the opening credits, I was invested into the series before a moment of 'actual' footage began. There's only one other pilot to a show that accomplished a similar feat for me personally and that was 'Twin Peaks'.
To combine such contrasting tones of humour and drama around the sensitive and deeply personal subject matter of death is a risky endeavour to put it simply and the end result could have very easily been a disaster. But because of realistic characters at the forefront as well as a restrained use of black comedy within the script, Alan Ball has created a wholesome work.
All the characters introduced here are simply fantastic and I mean no hyperbole. Among all, my favourites were Peter Krause and Michael C. Hall as brothers Nate and David Fischer respectively. There's immediately such high tension between the two characters that I cannot wait to see play out during the show and both Krause and Hall are simply magnificent here. I hope the quality level of their performances do not drop because they translate such wonderful humanity to the characters from script to screen.
The cinematography deserves another mention outside of simply the opening credits. This is a beautifully shot episode, superbly framed (many great uses of high angle shots and tight framing) and beautifully lit (whether it's having the camera bask in the warmth of the daylight or immersing the camera into gloomy scenarios) and the direction is equally fantastic. The cinematography serves the direction and the direction does a stellar job of bringing the material to life.
I absolutely adore this pilot episode. It's one I was hoping to enjoy but for it to have made such a high immediate impression was not something I was necessarily expecting. The world that is created here by Alan Ball is one that I find totally immersive once this first hour ends and the pacing within the hour is perfect. It's an episode that hits the nail on the head for both the drama and the comedy, an uneasy task and in doing so, creates such a uniquely engaging world. The characters all feel so sincere, credit to excellent writing and wonderfully honest lead performances. I cannot sing praises enough for this episode and am curious how it holds up in the context of 'Six Feet Under' as a whole.
Cannot recommend highly enough.
An entertaining look at the neighbour rivalry that is Homer vs Flanders
In my opinion, one of the best episodes of the first season was "The Call of the Simpsons" in which Homer, spurred on by jealousy of Ned's success, buys an RV and takes his family on a trip that ends with them having to endure in the wild. It was an early and brief look into Homer's jealousy and oft-contempt for Ned Flanders, the lovable yet irritating neighbour and was arguably my favourite element of that episode. "Dead Putting Society" takes those strengths a step further.
This isn't the greatest Homer vs Flanders episode (or perhaps more accurately, Simpsons vs Flanders) but it's an entertaining one in which Homer and Ned sign up their children (Bart and Todd) for a miniature golf tournament to see who is the better of the two. There's enough laughs, many of which are now starting to really come from Homer and there's enough heart and charm and humour elsewhere, namely the engaging dynamic of Bart and Lisa that help hold the episode together.
If there's any real criticism I have beyond the fact that this still isn't *quite* The Simpsons I love, it's the rushed and not completely convincing resolution to the conflict in which Bart and Todd agree on a tie over their miniature golf tournament. It's a moment that probably should work a lot better but the emotional aspect of the moment doesn't really ring true for me as the show will successfully pull off time and time again and even has done so a number of times up to this point in the series (see "Bart Gets an F" as a prime candidate).
Otherwise this is an entertaining episode with an engaging storyline, enough humour and a sense of charm to pull it together. The final scene is an absolute classic and the episode's final line is equally a classic. "Dead Putting Society" isa solid and early look at the conflict between Ned Flanders and Homer Simpson (most of the time spurred by the latter) and while not one of the best episodes, is still a relatively classic episode of the show's earliest days.
South Park: The Coon (2009)
This excellent parody of The Dark Knight is one of the more distinctive episodes of the show
"The Coon" is such an entertaining and excellent spoof of comic book movies, more specifically The Dark Knight which was all the rage (and still is to some extent) when it was first released in 2008. When a show goes on for as long as South Park has, it should be a welcoming refreshment to have an episode that is as atmospherically distinctive as "The Coon". None of this is to say that South Park feels recycled by this point because it doesn't but rather that "The Coon" is ever more so a uniquely entertaining episode of this show.
Cartman dresses up as a superhero and calls himself 'Coon' as he attempts to bring South Park's escalating 'crime' rate down but his time in the spotlight may be taken over by another masked superhero who calls himself Mysterion. This enrages Cartman who learns that Mysterion is one of his classmates.
"The Coon" is so visually spectacular that it completely nails the style and atmosphere of comic book movies, then and today, and more importantly, precisely captures the atmosphere of The Dark Knight as a parody. The visual of a silhouetted Cartman as Coon is one of my absolute favourite visuals of the show and the slithering manner in which he moves around is yet another excellent visual joke int he episode.
Some of my favourite elements of the episode include the broad parody of The Dark Knight and not just in terms of visuals, music and overall atmosphere but also in terms of the episode's 'commentary' of the Coon, whether or not he is a hero or a vigilante. Of course no one else besides Cartman services this parody and that's exactly why it works. After a night of saving the town of the degradation of society and its underbelly, Cartman is excited to spread the 'rumour' of Coon, the town's own personal superhero, and the awkwardly stiff manner in which he attempts to engage his friends into a political discussion was priceless. This is a great vocal performance by Trey Parker and I feel the need to say it simply because I have found his performance in the past couple of seasons a little more inconsistent but here, he's spot on.
We also get to welcome back Professor Chaos, his ally General Disarray and even the Police Chief character among others all of whom are appropriately used. There's hardly a wasted moment in this episode and that's why it works so well because of the ever present sense of urgency and momentum. It's a non-stop laugh riot that works because South Park as a series has a tremendously fleshed out world that even the broadest of parodies of a movie, nothing more, can feel genuine and even palpable.
All in all, "The Coon" is an excellent, imaginative and precise parody of The Dark Knight that puts some of its beloved characters into new and interesting territory.
South Park: Eat, Pray, Queef (2009)
Far from the snooze-fest of earlier T&P centric episodes, there's actually a sense of humour and purpose here
I expected truly terrible results from "Eat, Pray, Queef" given terrible earlier experiences with the show's Terrence and Phillip centric episodes, namely the second season premiere and the episode from the fifth season. They simply are not interesting characters in the least and the only joke that comes from their constant fart humour is the fact that the boys love it so much and watch it as if it were a prestigious piece of television.
Thankfully, "Eat, Pray, Queef" has an actual purpose. It's best stuff is everything that takes place within the town of South Park and the ironic humour that comes from just how grossed out and offended the boys get over the girls finding some mild sense of joy and humour from queefing is hilarious. The Marsh dinner table scene with Sharon queefing a number of times is a great example of what works about this episode. Not only is it funny seeing Randy and Stan so offended by her actions but to see one of the show's more grounded characters acting in a slightly immature fashion is fantastic. It really drives the message that the episode ultimately arrives at which is how easily men (I happen to be of the male gender myself) can get offended by humour where they are put into the place of being the butt of the joke.
Unfortunately, there's a part of this episode that doesn't work as well and that's the entire Terence and Phillip angle for me. I never enjoy these characters on-screen, and for the most part that's part of the point (we're supposed to see how stupid they are and how stupid South Park in its purest form of 'toilet humour' can be) but in episodes that revolve more strongly around them, I usually lose interest.
There's still a few moments that are great in this part of the story, namely the fight that erupts between Terence and Phillip AND Katherine and Kate while/after having sex. There's a funny moment where you realize that the place they're staying at has two beds in the same room and that both couples have been having sex practically next to each other!
For the most part though, Terence and Phillip bore me and while there's a nice message in this episode, this part of the episode is bogged down a bit. Otherwise, "Eat, Pray, Queef" surprised me and I certainly don't see it being anywhere near as bad as some of South Park's other attempts. There's a strong and relevant modernist feminism statement that is cleverly realized.
South Park: Margaritaville (2009)
The people of South Park respond to an economic crisis as Randy begins a cult!
"Margaritaville" backs up "The Coon" to give the thirteenth season of South Park a very nice start. This is a fantastic episode, perfectly aligned in spirit to the great episodes South Park consistently produced during its peak, and is a hilarious and rather ingenious parody of the final days of Jesus Christ.
Randy begins a cult to withstand the economic crisis and begins inspiring the townsfolk into living lives whereby they abandon any and all economic temptations. The results are absolutely hilarious, nothing short of what has become expected with the character of Randy Marsh.
Stan meanwhile goes on a seemingly endless journey to return his father's margarita machine, Margaritaville, during the economic crisis. It's another fantastic storyline and employs what has become one of my favourite little devices on the show which is contrasting the behaviours of Stan and his father through their actions. Randy being the idiot that he is buys one of the most unnecessary purchases he could imagine and Stan, the surprisingly mature young son, goes all over the place fruitless in his attempts to return it. It reminded me of season nine's "Bloody Mary" where Stan was taking care of his alcoholic father!
Then there's Kyle and his attempts to convince the people of South Park that abandoning the economy as a way of living through its struggle is not the way and it has the most perfect pay-off that parodies the final days of Jesus Christ. "He died for our debts" says one individual after Kyle pays off all their debts with his newly purchased credit card and in doing so, puts himself in a pit of debt for his future. He's such a wonderful moral centre for this show and this is among his finest acts.
There's plenty to love about "Margaritaville" and the entire episode works superbly. Each storyline flows very naturally and the writing is crisp sharp, more in line with the show's peak years than the previous season (which I still enjoyed). Whether it be Randy and the cult he creates or Cartman in a parody of Quint from Jaws, this is a superb episode.
South Park: About Last Night... (2008)
Certainly nowhere near as sharp-witted as South Park can be but there's something entertaining about this rather stupid and messy episode
Here is an episode that parodies the aftermath of the 2008 US presidential elections which as everyone knows, Barack Obama emerged victorious in. It largely satirizes how completely consumed people become in matters such as this in its immediate aftermath, whether it be people who are completely depressed by the result or the people jubilant of it.
However, what this episode is mostly about is a satire of Barack Obama and the other significant members of the 2008 presidential campaign including Senator McCane and Sarah Palin. And that's probably the weakest part of this episode too.
When compared to many of the show's most memorable and brilliant satires of celebrity figures, namely Mel Gibson in "The Passion of the Jew", Rob Reiner in "Butt-Out" and Tom Cruise in "Trapped in the Closet", this episode feels somewhat pathetic. There is literally nothing of substance here in the satire of Obama and wife Michelle being actors pretending to be married and their ambition in life being pulling off successful jewel capers. As far as biting satire and mockery is concerned, this episode truly feels very tame compared to some of the show's achievements and even taking into consideration on its own, feels very weak.
In this respect, the final five minutes is far and away the worst part of the episode as Obama having successfully pulled off the caper bids his farewells to his team and decides to try a term in office. It's extremely weak and ineffectual writing and as I was watching the episode, I assumed the episode would take a direction in the story where Obama and his crew fail their heist and he is ultimately forced into having to run office. That could have been a much stronger note to end the episode and could have made way for some great continuity material down the road. Anyways, "About Last Night..." decides to instead have Obama humbly accept victory and accept the challenge of trying a new life as the president of the US.
I find that angle extremely weak but what I do find moderately entertaining here is the angle of the actual heist itself which while lacking substance feels entertaining on a very superficial level. What I do absolutely love abotu this episode is Randy and the crazy shenanigans he gets up to as he celebrates Obama's victory. To a lesser extent, I also enjoy the angle of Matt & Trey satirizing the public's reaction to the news in the immediate aftermath and how both sides, the victorious and the defeated, are portrayed.
Randy makes me laugh really hard and he saves this episode from the same fate that was much closer to being an actuality in "Pandemic 2: The Startling". In both episodes, he is the strongest positive and one of (or the only in the former's case) the only enjoyable angles to an otherwise bad episode. "About Last Night..." is stupid, shallow, lacks the real bite of South Park at its finest and yet, I gain a moderate level of enjoyment about this episode.
Don't be fooled by the title, this is a very entertaining and astute episode of South Park
As someone who has so been greatly underwhelmed by the twelfth season (feelings I have yet to experience with this show), I strongly feel "Elementary School Musical" is one of the best episodes of the season. As the title makes clear, it is a parody of High School Musical and astutely observes pop culture obsessions and how they can become integrated into peoples' everyday lives.
One day, the kids discover that High School Musical is the cool new thing in town as all the other students become all singin', all dancin'. Except for Stan, Kyle, Cartman and Kenny who cannot begin to understand what is so special about it.
There is one real criticism I have about this episode and it has to do with how Wendy is characterized in this episode. She is the cool girl, the one who leads all the sing alongs and the one who gets the main female role in the theater production. Within the context of the episode, Wendy has to be the popular girl (something that I feel another character, perhaps Bebe is more suited to being) so that the parody of High School Musical and its story coming into fruition for Stan works. It feels a little distracting to see Wendy's characterization be inconsistent here.
Otherwise, I adore this episode. There's a newly introduced character here, Bridon, who leads the boys in the sing alongs until he reveals to Stan his displeasure with leading the sort of life that he does not want. It leads to some drama and more importantly, humour with the father that is rather memorable.
To see Stan, Kyle, Kenny and Cartman resist the fad until its pressure and temptation consumes them is great and the final scene is equal parts memorable and humiliating...and boy is it fantastic. The final punchline for this episode is very memorable too and the idea that the boys finally embracing all singin' all dancin' as the source of the fad dying out (alongside the fact that Bridon obviously signs up for basketball instead of theatre) is brilliant.
There's some great and funny musical numbers in this episode and a nice commentary on fads relating to pop culture obsessions that is entertaining. With the exception of how Wendy is characterized and the forceful Stan/Wendy angle (I felt it could have been omitted for a smoother episode) which does actually feed into the parody element of High School Musical, "Elementary School Musical" is very entertaining and among the better episodes of this rather disappointing twelfth season.
South Park: Pandemic (2008)
A very decent South Park episode that strangely does little for me
Why I do not particularly care for "Pandemic" is something that I have struggled to understand. It by no means is anywhere near the abominable "The China Probrem" nor even the problematic "Eek, a Penis!" which both to varying extents indicated South Park's inevitable decline and yet, "Pandemic" leaves me largely indifferent.
The most enjoyable aspect of this episode for me is actually Randy and his newfound sense of joy with owning a video camera. He goes around and decides to film every single thing he deems important, whether it be helping his father (or is it father-in-law?) go to the toilet or a desperate conversation among the adults after Stan, Kyle, Kenny, Cartman and Craig mysteriously disappear. It's such a silly yet amusing side story that added a lot of entertainment value for me and I cannot deny the sense of joy I had watching terrified parents talking about the whereabouts of their children only to then reveal that Randy had been filming it all!
The main story involves Stan and co (this time including Craig) frustrated with the growing epidemic of Peruvian flute bands and fed up with the inability to cease this growing crisis and realizing the potential for easy cash, set up their own band. Only soon afterwards, the government begins deporting all Peruvian flute bands and with it the kids back to Guantanamo Bay.
This is the sort of blown-up satire that South Park have handled many times previously such as in the famous "Christian Hard Rock" for example but here, the satire feels perhaps a little stale. The idea of bringing Craig, one of my favourite side characters on the show, to a more central focus for this two-parter seemed like a great decision to keep the show feeling fresh and vital even into its twelfth season but unfortunately, Craig feels a little poorly handled. Perhaps it is the almost inevitable consequence of giving him a little too much screentime but I really didn't find him particularly enjoyable in this one. His constant frustration towards the kids, which is perfectly justified, felt like rather poor material for the character and unfortunately, that is almost all he does throughout the episode: whine about his misfortunes, again justified, but repetitive. At least the ending gives what may be a sense of importance to the character in this two parter.
There's also the idea that Kenny in particular appears to quickly become very fond of these flute bands and the visual of him dancing felt particularly out-of-character. It feels at once too exaggerated and too out-of-character which might be a by-product of him being one of the least utilized and lesser interesting characters (at this point) on the show.
"Pandemic" certainly isn't that bad but the satire and comedy just did not hit as well as many other episodes for me. Randy is fantastic and he gets an entertaining side story that eventually intertwines into an amusing parody of the film, Cloverfield but for the most part, the central story which I'm sure was a compelling issue of sorts at the time felt a little stale. It feels like South Park re-treading familiar territory, just handled less precisely here.