Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Episode 1 - The Seinfeld Chronicles

The Plot: The first Seinfeld episode ever provided little indication of the greatness to follow.  It was stiff, slow and it's lead actor was horribly uncomfortable.  The story line follows a woman Jerry met on the road coming to New York to stay at Jerry's apartment for the weekend.  He's confused as to whether she has romantic intentions or not.  George goes to the airport with Jerry to greet the woman and they devise a method to determine the nature of her feelings.  If she gets off the plane and gives him a hug or a kiss, that's a good sign.  A handshake is bad, unless it's the "hand sandwich" (a two handed shake one on top, one on bottom with a warm look in the eyes).  The sandwich is open to interpretation based on the layering of the hands and the wetness in the eyes.  He's thrown for a loop however, when she comes up from behind him, puts her hands over his eyes and plays "Guess Who"?  As George confusingly deadpans, "It's unprecedented."

After receiving a continuing series of mixed signals, Jerry believes that the woman is in fact interested in being more than friends and agrees to a five hour cruise around Manhattan with her the next day (otherwise known as the third circle of hell).  It's at that moment that she receives a phone call prompting her to quip to Jerry, "never get engaged."   The episode ends with an exasperated Seinfeld thinking of the horrible 48 hours he has ahead of him with a woman who just wants to be friends.

Fun Facts:  
  • Elaine does not appear in the first episode.
  • Kramer is referred to as "Kessler".  This gets addressed several seasons later.
  • The coffee shop is called "Pete's Luncheonette" not "Monks".

Favorite Quote:   Jerry: Let's face it, a date is a job interview that lasts all night. The difference between a date and job interview is there are not many interviews where there is a chance you'll end up naked at the end.

Favorite Scene:  Not many in this bland episode, but we get an early taste for George's anxiety at the coffee shop when the waitress pretends to have given him regular coffee instead of decaf.

The Lesson:  Where to start.  There are so many lessons in the first episode it's almost unfair to just cite one, but I think the entire episode provides perhaps the single most important lesson for entrepreneurs.  You never know when you might have a hit on your hand.  As mentioned above, the first episode of Seinfeld gave no clues that the show would be a runaway hit.  The acting was awful, the story line a little dull and the dialogue wasn't particularly funny.  A bad recipe for a sit-com.  But like any good entrepreneur, Seinfeld plugged away at his show, improving the quality, listening to his audience and other sitcom veterans till he happened on the right combination for widespread success.  Entrepreneurs face the same struggles.  Rarely does a startup knock it out of the park on version 1.0.  Founders are constantly testing, innovating, revising their business model based on the feedback they get from customers, advisers and critics.  You keep refining the product/service until the audience gets the joke.  That's the magic of a successful startup.