Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Episodes 34 & 35 - The Boyfriend

The Plot:  A two part episode featuring the first appearance of Keith Hernandez.  After a basketball game at the gym, Jerry meets one of his idols, former New York Mets baseball player Keith Hernandez and wants to make a good impression. Meanwhile, George is out of time on his unemployment and he works harder than ever on his scheme to get a 13-week extension. He tells the unemployment office he was close to a job with Vandelay Industries, a company that makes latex products and whose main office is Jerry's apartment. Kramer and Newman accuse Hernandez of spitting on them during a Mets game at Shea Stadium; however, Jerry supports the "second-spitter theory" that Hernandez was not involved citing the “incontrovertible laws of physics” or the “magic loogie”. Keith asks Jerry about Elaine's relationship status. Keith makes a date with her and breaks a date with Jerry.

Having been busted by his unemployment officer after Kramer unknowingly answers Jerry's phone, George tries to curb losing his benefits by taking the officer's daughter out for a date, which goes terribly wrong for him and causes him to express to Jerry his desire to date a tall woman. Meanwhile, Jerry becomes jealous that Keith is spending more of his time with Elaine on dates until Elaine breaks up with Keith because he smokes. When Keith asks Jerry to help him move his furniture, Jerry finally has enough and breaks up their friendship. Right then, Kramer and Newman confront Keith on the alleged "spitting incident." Keith provides them with the truth that, in fact, he saw the real spitter, Mets relief pitcher Roger McDowell on the “grassy knoll” next to the player’s entrance. Kramer and Newman then remember that they had taunted McDowell throughout the game going so far as to pour a beer on him while he was in the bullpen and they apologize to Keith and offer to help move his furniture. George rushes in, with one last desperate attempt to win over his unemployment officer by acquiring a baseball autographed by Hernandez, but he is too late. As he mopes, a tall woman suddenly appears with George's wallet, which he had dropped on the sidewalk outside, causing George to give a happy smile.

Fun Facts:
  • The first episode in which the live audience applauds when Kramer enters.
  • The first episode in which “Vandelay Industries” is a latex firm.
  • The “Magic Loogie Theory” is based on the “Magic Bullet Theory” outlined in “JFK” the Oliver Stone film about the assassination of JFK.

Favorite Quote:   Some of the best one line quotes in show history:

Jerry: I have to dribble, if I give it to you, you just shoot.  You’re a chucker.

Kramer: Hey, you know this is the first time we’ve seen each other naked?

George: I’d love to be a Civil War buff.  What do you have to do to be a buff?

George: You know Keith, what I’ve been wondering, with all these ball clubs flying around all season, don’t you think there would be a plane crash?

Jerry: Newman, Kramer, if you'll indulge me. According to your story Keith passes you and starts walking up the ramp then you say you were struck on the right temple. The spit then proceeds to ricochet off the temple striking Newman between the third and forth rib. The spit then came off the rib turned and hit Newman in the right wrist causing him to drop his baseball cap. The spit then splashed off the wrist, Pauses In mid air mind you- makes a left turn and lands on Newman's left thigh. That is one magic loogie.

Elaine: Well I’d watch that third base coach because I don’t think he’s waving you in.

Favorite Scene:   George has told the Unemployment Office that he is close to landing a job with Vandelay Industries and gives them Jerry’s phone number.  He runs from the office to Jerry’s apartment to tell him to answer his phone as Vandelay.  Thinking he’s beaten the bureaucrat to the punch, he heads to the bathroom.  At that moment, the phone rings and Kramer answers, not knowing about the Vandelay scam.  As Kramer is telling the Unemployment Office that they have the wrong number, George comes running out of the bathroom with his pants around his ankles screaming at Kramer to tell them they have the right number.  He falls face down onto the floor, crying at the loss of his benefits as Jerry enters to stare at the half naked Costanza lying on his floor.  Pondering the situation, Jerry deadpans:

Jerry: So you want to be my latex salesman.

The Lesson:  There are so many storylines in this episode that I struggled to pull out just one lesson, but then again, I’ve got so many episodes to go, I can’t afford to waste any good ones.  After careful consideration, the primary lesson provided by this episode is “keep everyone you do business with in perspective.”  Jerry becomes infatuated with a guy, simply because he is one of the greatest baseball players of all time.  It screws with his head and makes him doubt himself and how he should interact with Hernandez. 

Startups can fall into the same trap.  I can’t tell you how often we see entrepreneurs come to us and boast that Google, Microsoft, Twitter or some other corporate giant is reaching out to them as a potential partner.  These companies are ready to change their business model, their core product or even their marketing themes, simply to please the corporate all-star. The plain truth is that one of these giant companies has reached out to them in the first place, because they saw value in the company just the way it was.  There is no need to change or doubt yourself, just because a recognized name has taken an interest.

In the episode, Hernandez tells Jerry he would love to do comedy.  Instead of taking it as a compliment, it furthers Jerry’s insecurity.  Startups are faced with the same insecurities.  Don’t let a bigger brand’s admiration make you question your value.  


Sorry to all for the disappearance.  I can whine about how busy things have been recently, but all of you are busy and that is no excuse.  I will try my best not to let another month go by without a posting.  Thanks to everyone for sticking with the blog.


Thursday, September 12, 2013

Episode 33 - The Fix-Up

The Plot:  Once again, an episode that can be summed up in one line: “My boys can swim!!!”  This episode also was the start of NBC’s crossover actor approach.  This episode features Maggie Wheeler (who was better known as the obnoxious Janice on NBC’s “Friends”) as a friend of Elaine’s.  Jerry and Elaine try to setup George and Cynthia (Wheeler) on a blind date.  George has given up on women because “it’s hard enough to find a woman I dislike, much less a woman I like.”  Cynthia has given up on men because the good one’s know their good and so they don’t want to be tied down and the mediocre ones are so insecure they act like they’re not good enough.  Cynthia is looking for someone who has nothing, because “he just has to appreciate me because he’s so desperate.”  Elaine immediately thinks of George.

In ping ponging scenes, Jerry is describing Cynthia to George, while Elaine is describing George to Cynthia.  This provides great insight into the different characteristics that are important to men and women.  George’s concerns seem centered on finding a low intellectual, but highly attractive date, while Cynthia wants to know if he has a job.  Jerry and Elaine have a “pact” that despite telling George and Cynthia that all details will be kept secret, they will tell each other all of the intimate details they get from the daters. 

 On his way out to the blind date, George is at Jerry’s when Kramer walks in with a brown paper bag filled with colored condoms that he got from Bob Sacamano. George, ever the optimist, takes one just in case.

In a split screen, George calls Jerry to tell him that the date went great and that they had sex on the floor in his kitchen.  At the same time, Cynthia calls Elaine to tell her about the kitchen sex.  Unfortunately her take on it was a little different.  “How good could it be, my head was on a hotplate.”  Despite their previous pact, when Jerry and Elaine reconnect, neither is willing to divulge even the slightest detail.  George, thinking the date went great, continues to pursue Cynthia who has now stopped taking his calls.  George and Jerry begin to argue over the way to address Cynthia’s rejection, prompting Kramer to come into the apartment and break up the fight.  On the way out, Kramer absentmindedly tells George not to use the condom he took as the whole batch was defective.  The next scene finds Cynthia telling Elaine she thinks she’s pregnant.

In one of the greatest show moments of all times, George walks into Jerry’s apartment while he and Elaine are discussing Cynthia’s possible pregnancy, and instead of freaking out, George bursts out in joy, shouting, “I did it!!  My boys can swim.”

The episode concludes with Cynthia not being pregnant, deciding that George is not such a bad date and agreeing to go out with him again.

Fun Facts:
  • The first reference to Bob Saccamano, who will become a recurring but unseen character.
  • This episode won an Emmy for Larry David for outstanding writing.
  • The first of several “Friends” crossovers.
Favorite Quote:   Once again, a couple of classics:

Jerry: How was it? What'd you talk about?
Elaine: Well, you know, the usual; The Federal Reserve, the rainforest. Cynthia thought we should nuke the rainforest, you know, get rid of it in one fell swoop so we can at least eliminate it as a subject of conversation. What about you?

Cynthia: What does he look like?
Elaine: Pardon?
Cynthia: What does he look like?
Elaine: Um, well, he's got a lot of character in his face. Um, he's short. Um, he's stocky.
Cynthia: Fat. Is that what you're saying, that he's fat?
Elaine: Powerful. He is so powerful, he can lift a hundred pounds right up over his head. And um, what else. What else. Oh, right. Um, well, he's kind of, just kind of losing his hair.
Cynthia: He's bald?
Elaine: No! No, no, no, he's not bald. He's balding.
Cynthia: So he will be bald.
Elaine: Yup.

Cynthia: Has he ever been married?
Elaine: No.
Cynthia: Has he been close?
Elaine: He once spent a weekend with a woman.

Favorite Scene:   One of the great scenes in show history.  Jerry and Elaine are arguing a discussing the fact that Cynthia might be pregnant when a stunned George stops cold in the doorway, looking at first like he might pass out:

Elaine: I knew those condoms were defective!
Jerry: How did you know they were defective?!
George walks in.
Elaine: Because! Because she missed her period!
George: She missed her period? Oh my god. I can't believe it! I'm a father! I did it! My boys can swim! I can do it! I can do it!

The Lesson:  The point of the episode from the writer’s standpoint is that the things that are important to men and women when dating are very different.  George and Cynthia are focused on completely different things when evaluating whether to accept the blind date setup.  This is also a great lesson for entrepreneurs.  So often, you are so focused on your company and the process of building it, that you become myopic in your viewpoint.  The things that are important to you about your product or service, may not be as important to your customers.  I’ve seen so many instances where a founder gets consumed with certain elements of the business, that ultimately have no bearing on consumer adoption or revenue.  Steve Jobs has taught all of us that the details in designing a product or a service are important, but they are only important if the customer thinks they are important.  Don’t sacrifice your vision for your company, but don’t be blind to the needs/interests of others, or you may find yourself as desperate as Cynthia and George.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Episode 32 - The Suicide

The Plot:  The episode begins with Elaine telling Jerry that she must fast for three days in order to get tested for ulcers.  Jerry leaves to take his trash to the garbage chute, bumps into George and then Gina, a very attractive woman who dates Jerry’s neighbor Martin (or Marteen, as she pronounces it).  Martin is clearly not pleased that Gina is talking to Jerry.

The next scene has Gina banging on Jerry’s apartment door asking for help because Martin has tried to commit suicide.  Martin was so upset that Gina was dumping him and he believed Jerry has something to do with it.  When Jerry goes to visit Martin in the hospital, Gina comes onto him, urging Jerry to kiss her in front of Martin while he’s in a coma.

In an alternate storyline, George (who is still unemployed) is going on a vacation to the Cayman Islands, using a non-refundable super-saver ticket.  Elaine convinces George to go see a psychic before the trip and she warns him not to take the vacation, but it interrupted by Elaine who criticizes her for smoking while pregnant.  The psychic throws them out without ever telling George why he shouldn’t go on the trip.

Jerry becomes worried when Newman sees him with Gina. Later, in the comatose Martin's hospital room, Newman hints to Jerry that he will tell Martin what's been going on with Jerry and Gina, while Kramer is in there to tell Martin to give him back his vacuum cleaner. Jerry attempts to buy Newman off with the extra Drake's coffee cake that he has; however, Elaine (now starving without food) takes it and devours it before he can even eat it. Meanwhile, George finds Rula the psychic in another hospital room as she is going into labor. He tries to discover from her the reason why he shouldn't go to the Caymans; however, she is taken away to give birth before she can divulge it. Amidst all the commotion Martin awakens from his coma and Newman promptly tells him everything, resulting in Jerry being choked.


While in the Caymans, Kramer played nude backgammon with Elle Macpherson, one of the models who was there for a shooting of Sports Illustrated's swimsuit issue. Upon his return he explains to George that he was mildly stung on the foot by a jellyfish, and theorizes that this is why the psychic didn't want George to go on the trip. George sarcastically agrees. George and Jerry leave to have dinner with Elaine (who had to reschedule her appointment) while Kramer rushes back to call Elle.

Fun Facts:

  • Once again, George is concerned that he might contract Lupus, and asks the psychic if this is why he shouldn’t go.  This seems to be the go to disease for George.
  • This is the first episode in which we see Newman.  It also prompts the very first “Hello…Newman”
  • Jason Alexander’s mother makes a cameo appearance playing a woman sitting next to Elaine on a bench. 

Favorite Quote:   Once again, a couple of classics:

George: Hey, I’m all set. I got the ticket. I’m going to the Cayman Islands this Friday.
Jerry: I don’t get you. Who goes on vacation without a job? What, do you need a break from getting up at 11:00?
George: It’s an incredible deal. I don’t know why you don’t come with me.
Jerry: Nah, I don’t go for these non-refundable deals. I can’t commit to a woman. I’m not going to commit to an airline.

Jerry: I didn’t know what the coma etiquette was.
Kramer: There is no coma etiquette. You see that’s the beauty of the coma, man. It doesn’t matter what you do around it.
Jerry: So you’re saying, his girl, his car, his clothes, it’s all up for grabs. You can just loot the coma victim.
Kramer: I’d give him 24 hours to get out of it. They can’t get out of it in 24 hours, it’s a land rush.
Jerry: So if the coma victim wakes up in a month, he’s thrilled, he got out of the coma. He goes home, there’s nothing left?
Kramer: NOTHING LEFT! That’s why I’m trying to get that vacuum cleaner. Because somebody’s going to grab it.

Kramer: So what’s going on between you and Gina?
Jerry: Well, I went with her to the hospital last night.
Kramer: Uh, uh.
Jerry: So we’re in the room and she’s trying to get me to kiss her right in front of him.
Kramer: Uh, uh, you see that’s the great thing about Mediterranean women. All right, so what did you do?
Jerry: Nothing.
Kramer: Ah, what kind of a man are you? The guy is unconscious in a coma and you don’t have the guts to kiss his girlfriend?

Favorite Scene:   When Gina wakes Jerry after Martin tried to kill himself, he scrambles back and forth over changing his clothes:

Gina: It’s Martine. I think he’s dying. He tried to kill himself with pills.
Jerry: What?
Gina: Come on.
Jerry: In my pajamas? I better get my robe.
Gina: We don’t have enough time.
Jerry: It’ll take two seconds.
Gina: There is no time.
Jerry: We don’t have two seconds?
Gina: All right. Go ahead.
Jerry: Nah, forget it.
Gina: No, go ahead.
Jerry: Nah. I’ll just wear the pajamas.
Gina: Will you just get it.
Jerry: Are you sure?
Gina: Forget it. Come on.
Jerry: Nah, I’ll go get the robe.

The Lesson:  I wish I hadn’t used the lesson from Episode 17 – The Busboy (Things are never as good or as bad as they seem at the time), because that applies so well here.  But since I’m trying to find a unique lesson in every episode, I’ll just go with “make sure you know the whole story before you make a decision.”  Entrepreneurs live in a rapid fire world where they do not have the time to “study” every issue before needing to make a decision.  Hopefully, you have a core set of principles that guide your decision making process and you are not subject to the actions of others.  Yet, sometimes you are forced to react to a set of actions or circumstances that dictate a certain direction for your company.  In such case, make sure you are operating with a complete set of facts.  In The Suicide, George decides not to go on vacation because something bad is going to happen, but he does not know the extent of the “bad”.  Before pulling the plug on some aspect of your business (or your vacation) make sure you know why you are pulling the plug and make sure you know the whole story.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Episode 31 - The Pez Dispenser

The Plot:  Another episode with several unrelated plotlines that tries to tie everything together at the end.  Feels a little forced this time. 

It begins with George astounded that he is dating a classical pianist, Noel.  He can’t believe his good fortune to have met a woman as attractive and talented.  He is thrilled with dating her, but a little frightened as well.  Since she is so far out of his league, she has the upper hand in the relationship.  In fact, not only does George not have the upper hand, he “has no hand at all.”  He invites Jerry and Elaine to one of her piano recitals, believing that if Noel sees him with his friends, he will look more popular and somehow at least become equal to her.

On his way out the door to the concert, Jerry shows Kramer a Tweety Bird Pez dispenser he got at a flea market and brings it with him to the showIn the middle of the concert, Jerry puts the Pez dispenser on Elaine's leg and she begins to burst out laughing. Noel keeps on playing and many people shush Elaine, but she can't stop laughing and is forced to step outside.

While out in the lobby, Elaine runs into an old friend who tells her that another old high school friend, Richie, is now a comedian but is "kinda messed up" on drugs and will not listen to anyone to stop.  The only person he will listen to is Jerry, whom he admires. They concoct a plan to have an intervention at Jerry's house with a whole bunch of old school friends there as well.

When Elaine goes backstage to meet up with Jerry and George after the recital, Noel is humiliated.  She can’t believe someone was laughing at her playing.  While unaware that it was Elaine, she vows that she will never forget the sound of that laugh.

As George realizes that his plan to gain some hand has backfired, Kramer inspires him to break up with Noel, and when she begs him to take her back, he will have the upper hand.  Initially Kramer’s plan works to perfection.  The two meet at Monk's and Noel actually says she'll do anything to get back together with him

Meanwhile, Kramer joins the Polar Bears, a group of swimmers who swim in the winter.  Inspired by the brisk dips in the ocean, Kramer comes up with an idea for a cologne that smells like you just came from the beach.  He pitches the idea to an exec at Calvin Klein who tells him he’s crazy and throws him out of the office.

The final scene occurs in Jerry’s apartment where the intervention is getting startedKramer attends and  brings his Polar Bear friends and then George and Noel come unexpectedly. At the intervention, Noel realizes that Elaine is the one who laughed at her recital. As a result, Noel dumps George.

When Richie comes, he simply asks "What's going on?" and the screen fades to black. In the end credits, Jerry tells George that Richie now is doing great in rehab, but is now addicted to Pez   

Fun Facts:
  • This was the first reference to “The Beach”, Kramer’s ocean inspired cologne.
  • Noel’s recital is at the McBierney School, a reference to the McBurney School in Manhattan that counts Henry Winkler and Ted Koopel among its famous alumni.
  • The friend that tells Elaine about Richie’s drug problem is John Mollica.  He was named after a filmmaker friend of Larry David.

Favorite Quote:   Kramer at Calvin Klein:

Kramer: Go ahead smell, smell
Steve: Yeah, so?
Kramer: Do you recognize it? ... The beach.
Steve: What are you talking about?
Kramer: Oh, I'm talking about the beach.
Steve: What about it?
Kramer: You know the way you smell when you first come home from the beach?  Well, I want to make a cologne that captures the essence of that smell.  Oh yeah.
Steve: That is the dumbest idea I have ever heard.
Kramer: Oh, wait, Did you hear what I just said?
Steve: Do you think people are going to pay $80 a bottle to smell like dead fish and sea weed? That's why people take showers when the come home from the beach. It's an objectionable offensive odor.
Kramer: So you don't think it's a good idea?

Favorite Scene:   After hearing Elaine’s laugh at the intervention, Noel knows it was her and she now breaks up with George: 

Noel: You lied to me George, you lied to me.
George: No, I, uh, um, wa, wa, What did I do? ... Where are you going?
Noel: I ... am breaking up ... with you!
George: You can't break up with me. I've got hand.
Noel: And you're going to need it.

The Lesson:  The lesson from this episode is all about hand.  While George’s concern that he has no hand is quite juvenile in his personal relationship, a little hand is extremely important for entrepreneurs.  Startups face extreme pressure from countless directions.  Your early investors are trying to squeeze you on valuation and their equity for their investment.  Your early customers are squeezing you trying to get guarantees that you can deliver on the product/service that they are paying for.  Your early vendors are trying to squeeze you on a guaranty that they will get paid for the work they are performing.  All of these take a little chunk out of the company.  If you do not have some sort of leverage, (a highly scalable company that can produce significant returns in a relatively short period of time; a cash rich bank account that can support your personal guaranties; tremendous good will) you will end up giving away much more of your company or profit margin than necessary.  In the early stages of your company, it is important to use whatever assets/advantages you have to gain as much hand as possible.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Episode 30 - The Subway

The Plot:  This episode has one of the best silent scenes in television history.  More about that later.  The episode centers around Jerry, George, Elaine, and Kramer starting out together on the platform and then all four embarking on separate and very different adventures within the New York subway system. Jerry has to go to Coney Island to get his car out of the impound lot. George is on his way to a job interview. Elaine is on her way to be the best man in a lesbian wedding. Kramer is on his way to court to sweet-talk his way out of a number of traffic violations. One by one, each situation takes an interesting twist.

On the way to Coney Island, Jerry keeps falling asleep on the passengers next to him, annoying all of them.  Finally, after one final nap, Jerry awakes to find himself all alone in his seat and a rather overweight naked individual on the seat across from him.  Turns out the guys is too comfortable with his naked body and after some playful banter, he decides to accompany Jerry to Coney Island and go on the rides with him.

George meets an attractive woman who clearly looks like she is much wealthier than he is.  She starts to innocently flirt with George who immediately abandons his job interview to follow the woman off the subway.  The next scene finds the two of them checking into a hotel room.  George disrobes and lays back on the bed.  The woman emerges from the bedroom in a negligee and after handcuffing him to the bed, proceeds to rob him.  When she discovers that he only has eight dollars in his wallet, she takes not only the cash, but his Moe Ginsburg suit and the rest of his clothes, leaving him handcuffed to the bed.

Elaine, on her way to the wedding, takes the one train that has the power go out.  In the dark and cramped train, she starts to imagine that someone is rubbing up against her leg and someone is standing too close.  Finally giving in to her claustrophobia she hurls a string of expletives in her head that would make a sailor proud.  She also ends up standing next to a woman who strikes up a conversation.  After a while, the other woman deadpans how she hasn’t spoken to a soul on the subway for 35 years, and the first time she does, it’s the best man at a lesbian wedding.

Kramer, overhears two guys on his subway train discussing a horse that is running that afternoon.  The duo talk about what a longshot the horse is, but then go through a whole litany of reasons why the horse will win (he’s got the bugboy on him).  Kramer skips court to stop at the OTB office to bet on the race.  When the horse comes in a winner, Kramer makes a bundle.  On his way back to the subway, a rather unsavory character follows him, knowing he’s got a wad of cash in his pockets.  The guy chases Kramer onto and through the subway cars and is about to rob him when an undercover policeman steps in to save the day. 

The great scene is all of them getting off the first subway to transfer to their various other trains.  All four of them are standing on the platform staring at one another.  Clearly showing how self absorbed they are, they stare at one another for a good 5 seconds and then each just walks away without saying anything to any of the others.   

Fun Facts:
  • Julia Louis-Dreyfus was very pregnant at the end of Season 3.  In this episode, she is carrying a large wedding gift in every scene to hide her baby bump.
  • A great scene has Kramer trying to squeeze himself into a seat with an extremely overweight individual.  If you look behind him, there are plenty of empty seats.
  • The OTB shop where Kramer places his bet is the same OTB parlor that Elaine uses as her fake phone number in a future episode.

Favorite Quote:   One from each of the subway riders:

George:  I get the feeling when lesbians are looking at me, they're thinking: "That's why I'm not heterosexual".

Elaine: No, no, no, you don't understand! I'm not a lesbian! I hate men, but I'm not a lesbian!

Naked fat guy: I'm not ashamed of my body.
Jerry: That's your problem, you should be.

Kramer: Oh, this baby loves the slop, loves it, eats it up. Eats the slop. Born in the slop. His father was a mudda'.
Guy at OTB: His father was a mudda'?
Kramer: His mother was a mudda'.
Guy: His mother was a mudda'?
Kramer: What did I just say?

Favorite Scene:   Having been stuck on a cramped and dark (and smelly) New York subway car when it stopped on the tracks, I have a special place in my heart for Elaine’s blow up on the train: 

Elaine (in her mind): Oh, this is great. This is what I need, just what I need.  Ok, take it easy I'm sure it's nothing. Probably rats on the track, we're stopping for rats. God, it's so crowded. How can there be so many people? This guy really smells, doesn't anyone use deodorant in the city? What is so hard, you take the cap off, you roll it on. What's that? I feel something rubbing against me. Disgusting animals, these people should be in a cage. We are in a cage. What if I miss the wedding? I got the ring. What'll they do? You can't get married without the ring. Oh, I can't breath, I feel faint. Take it easy, it'll start moving soon. Think about the people on the concentration camps, what they went through. And hostages, what would you do if you were a hostage? Think about that. This is nothing. No, it's not nothing, it's something. It's a nightmare! Help me! Move it! Com'on move this fu(beep) thing!! Why isn't it moving?!? What can go wrong with a train!?! It's on tracks, there's no traffic! How can a train get stuck. Step on the gas!! What could it be? You'd think the conductor would explain it to us? 'I'm sorry there's a delay we'll be moving in 5 minutes'!! I wanna hear a voice. What's that on my leg?!!

The Lesson:  Each one of the character’s excursions for the day contains a valuable lesson for startups, but since I’m less than 20% of the way through this exercise, I’m going to hold onto some of them in case I need them later on.  So, the most relevant lesson from this episode comes from George.  I’ve noted more than once already how important it is for startups to maintain laser like focus on the task necessary to launch, build and grow their companies.  Entrepreneurs face countless distractions throughout their day.  Family commitments, friends, personal pet projects, all of these can cause a founder to lose focus and ultimately miss an important milestone for the company.  To be clear, I’m not saying that the business can become all consuming.  You have to carve out time in your day, week and month to visit with all of these important elements of life (I am not arguing that you ignore family or friends).  But when you have committed time to your business, you need to be focused on the tasks at hand.  George hasn’t had a job in months and is on his second interview for a job he desires.  Despite being so close to achieving his stated goal, he lets a pretty woman distract him from the end game.  Not only does he not get the job, he loses all the cash he has and his most productive asset (his Moe Ginsberg suit).  Unfortunately, entrepreneurs being distracted by the business equivalent of a pretty woman and losing their job and their key assets is a common story in the startup world.  Don’t be George.  Stay focused on what’s important.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Episode 29 - The Red Dot

The Plot:  The episode opens at Elaine’s office at Pendant Publishing.  After introducing Jerry & George to her new boyfriend (Dick) Elaine tells George that there is an opening for a reader in her department and she can give the job to anyone she wants and she offers it to him.  At the same time, Dick, a recovering alcoholic starts to act a little antagonistic to Jerry.  After a little spat, Dick grabs his cranberry juice and storms off.  Elaine returns to find that Dick has accidently picked up her drink (cranberry and vodka).

To say thank you for getting him a job, George goes shopping with Jerry to find a gift.  He finds an incredibly expensive cashmere sweater, that has a minor flaw (a red dot) on the bottom hem, and thus has been marked down to a10th of the normal retail price. After being initially elated at the thoughtful gift, Elaine notices the red spot and wants to return the sweater for a clean one.  When George acts strange about her returning the gift, she begins to suspect that he bought the sweater with the blemish so that he could get it cheap.  She even tries to get Jerry to admit that George knew the sweater was damaged.  She also is trying to figure out if Dick is drinking again.  She asks Kramer if she can smell him after he’s had a drink to see if she could tell.  Kramer takes a drink of Hennigans whiskey (a brand that recurs in this episode and the series).   

Elaine is finally able to trick George into admitting that he knew the sweater was damaged.  Irate at his cheapness, she gives him the sweater back. 

The next scene cuts to George working at his new job at Pendant.  He starts some playful banter with the cleaning lady in the office.  Next thing we know, George is telling Jerry about having sex with the cleaning lady on his office desk.  When Jerry asks how that happened, George blames Hennigans. 

The next day, the cleaning lady gets upset over what happened the previous night and threatens to report what happened to the boss, Mr. Lippman. George tries to compensate with her by offering the flawed cashmere sweater. The cleaning lady is extremely overjoyed by the gift, launching into an emotional story about her first cashmere experience. Unfortunately for George she then notices the red spot, thus consequently getting him fired. 

As George is packing his things in the office he is met by Elaine and Jerry. After getting into an argument they suddenly hear a drunken Dick rampaging through the office hallway, coming to gain his revenge on Jerry for losing his job. The three quickly hide under George's desk and wait as the drunkard approaches them. Just then, George offers the cashmere sweater to Dick, this manages to calm Dick's rage until he sees the spot.

Fun Facts:

  • This is the first episode that has a character appear in the standup routine portion of the show.
  • When asked who his favorite writer is, George cites Art Vandelay (again) who he claims has written a novel called Venetian Blinds (we’ll see that one again).

Favorite Quote:   George explaining the events that led up to he and the cleaning woman hooking up:

George: Hennigans. I was there sitting in the office and the cleaning woman comes in. I've always been attracted to cleaning women. Cleaning women, chambermaids.
Jerry: Yeah chambermaids, I'm attracted to them too.
George: Why is that?
Jerry: It's a woman in your room. 

George: So we started drinking, and I'll tell you I don't know if it was the alcohol or the ammonia, but the next think I knew she was mopping the floor with me.
Jerry: So how was it?
George: Well the sex was okay, but I threw up from the Hennigans.
Jerry: Good thing the cleaning lady was there.

Favorite Scene:   The look on George’s face when Lippman confronts him about his encounter with the cleaning lady is priceless: 

Lippman: I'm going to get right to the point. It has come to my attention that you and the cleaning woman have engaged in sexual intercourse on the desk in your office. Is that correct?
George: Who said that?
Lippman: She did.
George: Was that wrong? Should I have not done that? I tell you I gotta plead ignorance on this thing because if anyone had said anything to me at all when I first started here that that sort of thing was frowned upon, you know, cause I've worked in a lot of offices and I tell you people do that all the time.
Lippman: You're fired.

The Lesson:  A couple of very important lessons for entrepreneurs, like not drinking too much in the workplace and/or avoid sexual encounters with your staff.  But again, those are too easy and obvious.  The key lesson for entrepreneurs from this episode, is you usually end  getting what you deserve when you’re cheap.  As we have mentioned countless times in this blog, startups do not have an endless supply of financial resources.  They are constantly forced to make difficult decisions on where to deploy their capital.  Those decisions are never easy.  But one of the surest routes to failure is for a startup to always select the “cheapest” option available.  Pick the cheap attorney (or LegalZoom) to complete your company paperwork and you are sure to end up with an incomplete set of documents.  Rely on your cousin’s roommate to build your data analytics and odds are you will have nothing valuable to show for your time or money.  We constantly encourage our entrepreneurs to understand the difference between “cost” and “value”.  Something doesn’t have to be expensive to provide value, but it isn’t a value, just because it is cheaper.  You must constantly assess the cost associated with a particular task and the value that task creates for the company.  Making the wrong choice will almost always place a red dot on your company's reputation.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Episode 28 - The Alternate Side

The Plot:  Again, it just takes the one simple phrase to identify the episode to fans.  Kramer’s, “These pretzels are making me thirsty” is a highlight.  Maybe the most quoted Seinfeld line in my house. 

The episode begins with Jerry's car being stolen, when the guy he pays to move his car (Sid) from side to side on the street leaves the keys in the car.  For those of you who have never lived in NYC, the city has rules about parking on alternate sides of the street during the week.  People with cars who do not use a garage, are forced to move their car from one side of the street to the other to avoid tickets and/or towing.  A little cottage industry has grown over the years with people getting paid to move other people’s cars for them.  While trying to explain to Jerry what happened, Sid mentions that he is going out of town for awhile and needs to find someone to take over the car moving business.  An unemployed George offers to take over for Sid while he’s gone.  Not surprisingly, George is as inept at moving cars as he was at real estate and architecture (pretty much everything but hand modeling, but we’ll get to that later) and creates a massive traffic jam on Jerry’s block.

In an alternative plot line, Elaine is dating Owen March, a 66-year-old writer who she finds she has little in common with.  Just before she was about to break up with him, he has a stroke and she takes him to Jerry’s apartment to call 911.  The paramedics have a hard time getting to the apartment to assist Owen, because of George’s parking disaster. 

The final plot line surrounds Kramer getting a line in a Woody Allen movie they are filming in the neighborhood.  His line, "These pretzels are making me thirsty!" becomes a classic, as all four of the main characters use the line at least once during the episode.

Due to the major inconveniences caused by George's parking snafu, a disgruntled Woody Allen is quoted on a news program as saying that he may never shoot a movie in New York again. Additionally, George's poor performance causes many of Sid's long time customers to cancel, therefore causing Sid a loss of income. This results in Sid being unable to finance his nephew's operation to save his foot (which must now be amputated). While filming a shot during the movie, Kramer slams down his beer mug on the bar and accidentally injures Woody Allen with a flying shard of glass. He subsequently gets fired from the film.

Fun Facts: 
  • Keeping with his ongoing string of voice over cameos, the voice of the thief who steals Jerry’s car is Larry David.
  • Jerry later admitted that this was his least favorite episode of the entire show.
  • Kramer’s one line in the movie was the inspiration for a later trilogy of episodes that has Kramer move to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career.

Favorite Quote:   Sid comes back to find many of his customers have left him because George did such a horrible job moving the cars.  He goes after George:

Sid: Now you didn't tell me you didn't know how to drive. You should have mentioned that.
George: Well I know how to drive.
Sid: Then how'd all those cars get damaged? Why are people calling me up screaming on the phone? Most of them cancelled out on me...
Sid: Moving cars from one side of the street to the other don't take no more sense than putting on a pair of pants. My question to you is who's putting your pants on?

Favorite Scene:   With his car stolen, Jerry and Elaine head to the rental agency to rent a car.  The agency screws up his reservation and then tries to explain to him their policies. 

Agent: I'm sorry, we have no mid-size available at the moment.
Jerry: I don't understand, I made a reservation, do you have my reservation?
Agent: Yes, we do, unfortunately we ran out of cars.
Jerry: But the reservation keeps the car here. That's why you have the reservation.
Agent: I know why we have reservations.
Jerry: I don't think you do. If you did, I'd have a car. See, you know how to take the reservation, you just don't know how to hold the reservation and that's really the most important part of the reservation, the holding. Anybody can just take them.
Agent: Let me, uh, speak with my supervisor...
Agent: I'm sorry, my supervisor says there's nothing we can do…we do have a compact if you would like that.
Jerry: Fine.
Agent: Alright. We have a blue Ford Escort for you Mr. Seinfeld. Would you like insurance?
Jerry: Yeah, you better give me the insurance, because I am gonna beat the hell out of this car.

The Lesson:  This episode provides a great lesson for entrepreneurs.  Our company name is Think Big Partners.  We have built a business around encouraging people to “think big” and look for large opportunities.  But even the largest opportunities are destined to fail if you don’t pay attention to the small details.  The simple things (moving a car from one side of the street to another) that many startups take for granted are often the things that trip up entrepreneurs and keep them from achieving their goals.  This episode is loaded with examples where the little things have a huge impact:

1.)    George not being able to move the cars costs Sid his business;
2.)    Kramer not being able to say a simple line “these pretzels are making me thirsty” costs him his acting job;
3.)    Elaine not being able to have a simple conversation with her boyfriend costs her significant freedom when she is forced to nurse him back to health after his stroke; and
4.)    Jerry loses his car because the guy he hired forgot the simplest of tasks (removing the keys from the ignition).

None of these were difficult or time consuming tasks, but the failure to pay attention to the details of a small job ultimately resulted in disastrous consequences.  The same is true for startups.  Never take your eye off the big prize, but make sure you pay attention to the little details along the way.