Thursday, June 27, 2013

Episode 14 - The Deal

The Plot:  I’m doing these one at a time, so I guess I should be a little more conservative when I throw around the “classic episode” or ‘iconic episode” tags, as I constantly forget how great the “next” installment is while writing about the current one.  That being said, this is truly one of the special episodes that explored areas rarely touched by network television up to that point.

As they are watching TV in Jerry's apartment, Jerry and Elaine flip through the channels, stumbling upon the soft-core pornography channel. Upon the realization that neither of them has had sex in awhile they start toying with the idea of sleeping together. They refer to their friendship as "this" and sex as "that".  However, as they do not wish to ruin their friendship, they establish a set of ground rules.

Rule #1:  No calls the day after “that”.
Rule #2:  Spending the night after “that” is optional.

Happy with their agreement, they make their way to the bedroom. The next day, Jerry has lunch with George, and makes him aware of his situation with Elaine, causing George to almost pass out.  George requests details prompting Jerry to discover that “It pains me to say this, but I may be getting too mature for details.”  After coaxing him into a full disclosure, George remains skeptical, even after Jerry explains the rules system to him. He is proven right when Jerry and Elaine get into an argument over the second rule: "spending the night." Elaine believes that the option of spending the night is granted to the owner of the apartment where they are.  It is her apartment, so she gets the option of having Jerry spend the night.  Jerry eventually bails, leaving their agreement on shaky terms.

With Elaine's birthday coming up Jerry has to decide on what to get her. Since they are not in a relationship but they are still having sex he feels that the symbolism of the gift needs to be carefully thought out. “I have to be very careful here.  I don’t want to send the wrong message…Whatever I give her, she’s going to be bringing in experts from all over the country to interpret the meaning behind it.”

 He looks for a gift with George but is unable to think of anything, though he vaguely remembers her saying "something about a bench". Elaine is unhappy with the eventual gift: $182 in cash. When Kramer gives Elaine the bench she was looking for, for which she is much more grateful, she and Jerry talk over their agreement. They decide to start dating; when Kramer sees them again and asks what they are up to, Jerry notes that they now do "this, that and the other", "the other" being their newly reformed intimate relationship.

Fun Facts:
  • This episode is the first time we ever see Elaine’s nutty roommate Tina.
  • At the end of the episode, Kramer remarks that he liked Jerry & Elaine better as friends than as a couple.  This was Larry David’s subtle shot at NBC brass who kept pressuring David to write the script with Jerry & Elaine as a couple.  David added the last line to protest NBC’s meddling with his show.
  • Larry David often bragged that this was the only episode of the show to ever contain sincere emotions.  The disappointment both Elaine and Jerry show when discussing the possible end of their friendship was real. 

Favorite Quote:   

George: Sure, all right. Tell me the rules.

Jerry: Okay. No calls the next day.

George:  So you're having sex, next day you don't have to call. That's pretty good. Go ahead.

Jerry: You ready for the second one?

George: I have tell you, I'm pretty impressed with the first one.

Favorite Scene:   The scene where Jerry informs George that he slept with Elaine is one of the greatest scenes in show history.  It rolls from one hilarious George line to another.

GeorgeYou ask me to have lunch, tell me you slept with Elaine, and then say you're not in the mood for details. Now you listen to me. I want details and I want them right now. I don't have a job, I have no place to go. You're not in the mood? Well you get in the mood!

JerrySo she's flipping around the TV, and she gets to the naked station.

GeorgeOh, see? that's why I don't have cable in my house. Because of that naked station. If I had that in my house, I would never turn it off. I wouldn't sleep, I wouldn't eat. Eventually, firemen would have to break through the door, they'd find me sitting there in my pajamas with drool coming down my face. All right, all right. So you're watching the naked station.

JerryWell, we've tried to arrange a situation where we'll be able to do this once in a while and still be friends.

GeorgeWhere are you living? Are you here? Are you on this planet? It's impossible. It can't be done.  Thousands of years people have been trying to have their cake and eat it too. So all of a sudden the two of you are going to come along and do it. Where do you get the ego? No one can do it. It can't be done.

Jerry: I think we've worked out a system.

George: Oh, you know what you're like? You're like a pathetic gambler. You're one of those losers in Las Vegas who keeps thinking he's gonna come up with a way to win at blackjack.

The Lesson:  There are so many lessons to be found in this episode, I’m afraid I may use up a lot of good ones that I will need later, but here goes nothing.  The first rule is an obvious one, be careful who you climb into bed with.  Startups are often presented a number of opportunities from potential investors, vendors, licensors and partners.  All of them may provide some short term pleasure for your business, but it is important that you get to know the people you will ultimately rely on.  As they hold the key to your success, and if you are not comfortable with the rules of the relationship, things can disintegrate pretty quickly.

Equally important, is the rule of managing expectations.  Even the clearest words communicated to one another may evoke a different set of expectations in the minds of the speaker and the recipient.  “Spending the night is optional” is a pretty clear set of rules, until you have to decide who holds the option.  In business, it is not enough just to have a very neat and clean contract.  Business relationships fall apart all the time because one party had a different set of expectations as to what the contract actually required.  It is imperative when discussing matters with your partners, your vendors, your investors and others, that you make sure that each of you understands exactly what is expected of all parties involved and you have a clear understanding of what is expected of you.

Finally, it’s worth noting that sex is a little like a business in that it can ruin an otherwise good friendship.  Just as it is dangerous for good friends to have sex since it fundamentally changes the way each person looks at the other, it can be equally dangerous for friends to go into business together.  Many a great friendship has been destroyed by partnering on a startup, only to find out that each person had a fundamentally different understanding of what the business would be and each of their responsibilities to that company.

Given so much good information packed into one show, I reserve the option to recycle any of these lessons at a later date if I need them.  And to be clear, the option is MINE.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Episode 13 - The Heart Attack

The Plot:  There are a couple of quotes/references that separate the fans from the fanatics.  You know you are a true fanatic if you were to laugh out loud at the phrase “flaming globs of Sigmund.”  Also, this is one of the great episodes highlighting George’s cheapness.

In this episode, after watching a science-fiction movie, Jerry goes to bed, only to wake up in the middle of the night laughing and writing down a joke for his stand-up comedy act. The following day he is unable to read what he wrote down. When he is having lunch with George and Elaine, George thinks he is having a heart attack and is transported to a hospital.  On his way out of Monk’s, while dying of a heart attack, George takes a look at the check and notes that the waitress overcharged him.

Once he's at the hospital, knowing that he’s about to die, he asks Jerry to kill him, prompting Jerry to jokingly smother George with a pillow, until Elaine enters the room and “catches” him.  Not surprisingly, it turns out that George did not suffer a heart attack, but he does actually need a tonsillectomy.  Kramer warns George about the dangers of modern medicine and rather than be subjected to the butcher surgeons of the hospital, recommends a holistic healer (Tor Eckman) as a better and less expensive alternative. Jerry warns George that Eckman has spent time in prison, but because of the large difference in price, George decides to take Kramer's advice.

George, Kramer and Jerry meet Eckman, the holistic healer and he performs a number of unorthodox methods to determine George's real ailment, which he concludes has nothing to do with his tonsils, but with his "imbalance with nature". He then concocts a tea containing "cramp bark," "cleavers," and "couch grass" that would remove his ailment, also prescribing that George is to stop using hot water entirely. Upon drinking the tea, George becomes purple and has to be transported to the hospital again. On their way, the EMT and the driver get into an altercation over who ate some Chuckles (a jellied candy).  Later, George and Jerry are found in the hospital in neck braces. George indicates that he had the tonsillectomy, and Elaine is in the hospital only briefly to give George some ice cream. The hospital television shows the science fiction movie again, and Jerry remembers that what he wrote down was a line from the movie, “flaming globs of Sigmund” but as he realizes this, he notes "that's not funny."

Fun Facts:

  • This episode contains the first ever reference to Kramer’s friend Bob Saccomano.  Bob is a recurring character throughout the show who is never seen nor heard.
  • Trying to figure out the line from the movie, Jerry asks the nurse at the hospital, who reads it as “salami, salami, baloney”.  This is a reference to a line from a Popeye cartoon from the 1940’s that was subsequently banned for being racist.
  • This episode also has the first of George’s concerns about having “lupus”.  A hypochondria that will return over and over throughout the show.

Favorite Quote:   

KRAMER:  Boy, they've got a great cafeteria downstairs. Hot food, sandwiches, a salad bar. It's like a Sizzler's opened up a hospital!

Favorite Scene:   When Kramer is trying to convince George to go see his healer Tor Eckman.  Classic George cheapness and Kramer nuttiness.

KRAMER: I'll tell you what to do, I'll tell you what to do. You go to Tor Eckman. Tor, Tor, he'll fix you right up. He's a herbalist, a healer, George. He's not just gonna fix the tonsils and the adenoids, he is gonna change the whole way you function - body and mind.
JERRY: Eckman? I thought he was doing time?
KRAMER: No, no, he's out. He got out. See, the medical establishment, see, they tried to frame him. It's all politics. But he's a rebel.
JERRY: A rebel? No. Johnny Yuma was a rebel. Eckman is a nut. George, you want to take care of your tonsils, you do it in a hospital. With a doctor.
KRAMER: He's holistic, George. He's holistic.
GEORGE: Holistic.. that sounds right.
JERRY: George, you need a medical doctor.
GEORGE: (To Jerry) Let me ask you something.. How much do you think it would cost to have tonsils and adenoids removed in the hospital?
JERRY: Well, an overnight stay in a hospital? Minor surgery? I dunno, four grand.
GEORGE: Uh-huh. And how much does the healer charge?
KRAMER: First visit? Thirty-eight bucks.
GEORGE: Oh, yeah? Holistic.. that's what I need. That's the answer.

The Lesson:  While not unique to startups, cash and cash flow are even more critical to early stage companies than they are to their more established counterparts.  Very few early stage entrepreneurs have the luxury of being overcapitalized and being able to make decisions without worrying about the financial implications of their choice.  You cannot afford to waste a single cent in the early days of your company.  That being said, startups can definitely be victims of the penny-wise versus pound foolish dilemma.  It is unwise (and unhealthy for your business) to try and save a couple of bucks by seeking out the holistic healer when you are in need of a professional. Hiring your cousin, who is not an accountant, to setup your accounting and company financials may save you some money today, but will cost you significantly down the road, when you have to hire a professional to try and salvage what they can from the mess he made.  It is often better to bite the bullet and get it done right the first time, even if it may be a little more expensive.  There are too many Eckmans around when you are starting your business.  Resist the temptation and continue to use hot water when you bathe.  Both decisions will contribute to people wanting to do business with you in the future.

Thursday, June 20, 2013


“A Show About Entrepreneurs” 

I’ve always believed that one of the basic underlying premises of the 90’s sitcom  Seinfeld , that it was “a show about nothing”, was flawed.  In fact, the show was about “everything.”  For years, I’ve driven my wife crazy claiming that nearly every situation we (and the rest of the human population) face can be explained by a Seinfeld episode.  Despite the show focusing on the inane minutiae of their everyday routines, there are huge lessons that can be gleamed from the 10 years we spent following the lives of Jerry, George, Elaine and Cosmo.  I have seen every episode, multiple times, and am constantly amazed at how many times a day, a certain situation, event or conversation triggers a Seinfeld memory.

               At a dinner a couple of weeks ago (Spring 2013), I shared my hypothesis with several friends and it generated a mixed response.  While unable to cite more than a couple of life lessons from the show, two of my dinner companions were nonetheless firmly in my camp.  However, the remaining group suggested I suffered from some level of immaturity, stupidity or insanity, or a combination of the three.  Regardless of which side they came down on though, the topic generated a 90 minute conversation with relatively high volume and high intensity.  Right or wrong, the lawyer in me loves a good argument.  Especially when each side is passionate and there is no clear right answer.  These types of debates provide true insight into an individual’s soul.  They can also last for years and create unnecessary tension among family, friends and co-workers.  My kind of fun.

                So, all of this got me thinking: could I actually prove my hypothesis?  As I pondered the various ways to satisfy my curiosity, it dawned on me that my original premise was too simple.  Like the horoscopes printed in the local newspaper, anyone could read anything into any episode.  To truly assess whether the sitcom held any intrinsic value for society, I would have to narrow my focus.  So how to do it?

                As I’m not the most creative person in the world, it was natural to stay in an area I was already familiar with.  Since I spend an inordinate amount of time around entrepreneurs and early stage companies, this seemed like an appropriate starting point.  “Does every episode of Seinfeld have a substantive message or provide guidance for startup companies?”  So, what started as a simple hypothesis has now become an 12-month (I hope not more) exercise in absurdity.  NOT THAT THERE’S ANYTHING WRONG WITH THAT.

                I welcome all of your comments, thoughts, criticisms and contributions.  I don’t pretend to have all the answers.  Heck, I don’t even know half the questions.  But if this blog will simply stir the pot a little, I’m sure there will be soup for everyone.

Episode 12 - The Revenge

The Plot:  The episode relates three parallel plots in intertwining scenes. The first plot concerns George being banned from the executive toilet at his office. Because of this he quits his job, but immediately regrets the decision. He discusses job opportunities with Jerry, but is unable to think of an occupation that would suit him. Jerry suggests that George could try to go back to work and pretend he never quit. George takes this advice and simply walks into a staff meeting like nothing happened.  His boss, refuses to let him stay and insults him. As revenge, George decides to slip a "mickey" into his drink during an office party, and enlists Elaine to help him. At the party, Elaine distracts George’s boss by pretending to be a nudist and talking about all the things she does at home while naked.   Turned on by Elaine’s flirtations, the boss has a change of heart and upon seeing George at the party, tells him that he can have his job back. George attempts to intercept the drink with the mickey, but after the boss welcomes George back during a toast sprinkled with insults at George's expense, George tells him, "Drink up." He does just that. In the following scene we see George once again brainstorming job opportunity ideas, the subtext being that his boss discovered the spiking of his drink, connected it to George, and has fired him once again.

The second plot of the episode revolves around Jerry; when he prepares to go to the laundromat,  Kramer asks if he could take his laundry with him. Jerry agrees after some reluctance, insisting that their clothes remain segregated. After retrieving the laundry the following day and returning Kramer's portion, Jerry remembers that he had hidden a large sum of money in his laundry bag, but is unable to find it. Vic, the owner of the laundromat, tells him that he did not see the money, but also points out that he is not responsible for valuables. Kramer and Jerry both assume Vic stole the money and Kramer comes up with a plan to put cement mix in one of Vic's washing machines as revenge. Once they have acted out the plan, Kramer discovers that he had the money all along; and it turns out to be just enough to cover the damage to the washing machine.

In a subplot, Kramer tells Jerry about his suicidal friend Newman who repeatedly threatens to kill himself by jumping off the apartment building. When he does jump, he jumps from the second floor and survives, much to Kramer's amusement. At the end of the episode, Newman threatens to jump again, Kramer asks Newman if he wants to go shoot some pool with him, but Newman declines, stating that he has plans to go to the movies later that night.

Fun Facts:

  • This is the first episode to reference Newman, although you don’t see him.  You just hear his voice.
  • In the original episode, Newman’s voice was that of show co-creator Larry David.  In today’s syndicated reruns, Wayne Knight (the actor who played Newman) does the voice over.
  • In the scene at the laundromat, Kramer is wearing Jerry’s ruined suede jacket from Episode 8.

Favorite Quote:   

JERRY:   They say the best revenge is living well.
GEORGE:  Well there’s no chance of that.

Favorite Scene:   Elaine’s attempt to distract George’s boss at the party is a classic.  After trying several benign ways to gain his attention (sneezing, polite conversation, etc.) she turns to the age old topic of sex, just blurting out that she is going to a nudist colony.  All of a sudden, he is entranced by her musings.  The best is the end of the scene and Elaine’s dialogue:

ELAINE: I cook naked, I clean....I clean naked, I drive naked. Naked. Naked. Naked.
LEVITAN: Who are you?
ELAINE: Oh, you don't wanna know, mistah. I'm trouble. Big trouble.

The Lesson:  This episode presents another clear and simple message for startups.  In the early stages of any company, you often find yourself overworked and underappreciated, and the frustration that results can be all consuming.  This frustration can sometimes cause you to make snap decisions that can, in hindsight, look idiotic and be disastrous for the company.  One of the most important attributes for entrepreneurs is the ability to think clearly in times of crisis.  This is so important, because every day can feel like a crisis in a startup.  Every decision you make has both short and long term consequences.  And as a founder it’s not as easy as just quitting your job and walking away.  You are forced to live with the consequences of your snap decisions, as are those that work for you.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Episode 11 - The Statue

The Plot:  It starts out with Jerry finding a box of items he inherited from his grandfather.  He was supposed to send it to his parents in Florida, but had forgotten about it in storage for years.  Inside the box is a tiny statue of a female.  Upon seeing it, George remarks that it looks just like a statue his parent had when he was a kid.  George tells a story of using the statue like a microphone to sing “MacArthur Park” and dropping it.  His parents never forgave him for shattering it.  He and Kramer fight over the statue, ultimately deciding the ownership issue by a game of “inka dink” (A variation of “eeny meeny miny moe”, but I have never heard of this game).  George wins the statue, and Kramer is left with a bunch of vintage clothes and a hat.  He casually remarks that the outfit will make him look like Detective Joe Friday from Dragnet. While the morons are playing inka dink, Jerry notices that his apartment is filthy.  Elaine is working with a writer from Finland, Rava, who offers her boyfriend (Ray) to clean his apartment.

Ray does an amazing job cleaning the place, even going as far to clean the bottom of the egg cups in the refrigerator and cleaning the little space between the refrigerator and the counter.  Later, Jerry and Elaine are at Rava and Ray’s apartment and Jerry notices the same little statue.  Jerry freaks out thinking Ray stole it from him.  Jerry confronts Ray at Monk’s and Ray denies taking the statue, but can’t come up with where he acquired it.  This causes a falling out between Elaine and Rava.

The episode ends with Kramer donning his vintage detective clothes and going to Rava and Ray’s apartment.  Pretending to be a police officer, he takes the statue from Ray and threatens him with arrest if he tells anyone.  Kramer comes back and presents George with the statue and as he’s leaving Jerry’s, he pats George on the back causing him to drop the statue and see it shattered once again.

Fun Facts:
  • This is the first of many episodes where we are introduced to a dysfunctional writer that Elaine is forced to work with.  Future episodes with Jake Jarmell and Yuri Testikov.
  • Jan Leeves, who appears in a very memorable episode later in Season 4 auditioned for the role of Rava.
  • Both Hank Azaria and Tony Shalhoub auditioned for the part of Ray.

Favorite Quote:   

JERRY:   So, where's this boyfriend of yours? I can't wait much longer. I've got a flight.
ELAINE:  Oh, probably caught in traffic.
RAVA:   Or maybe he's dead.
JERRY:  So what do you write, children's books?

Favorite Scene:   When Jerry confronts Ray about the statue, he does it at Monks.  With Ray and Jerry in one booth, George sits in the booth behind them, eavesdropping on the conversation, unable to contain his anger at the excuses Ray keeps throwing out.  Finally, George explodes, turning around to confront Ray himself, “That’s it, I can’t take it anymore.  You stole the statue.  You’re a thief.  You’re a liar.”  “Who is this,” exclaims Ray.  “I’m the judge and the jury pal.  And the verdict is…guilty!!”

The Lesson:  “The Statute” presents an interesting lesson for entrepreneurs.  Once you launch a company and you attempt to build that business into a sustainable enterprise, you constantly come across vendors, service providers, partners, and others you might be important elements in the growth of your company.  But it’s important to look at those people carefully.  From time to time you may encounter individuals who take short cuts.  Individuals who are unethical.  Individuals who view you as a target.  Make no mistake, these people can help you and your business.  They may be able to clean the space between the refrigerator and the counter.  They may be able to do things for you that no one else can do.  But deep down, they can also be a thief.  You can’t allow your business to be dependent on someone who you can’t trust.  No matter how much they might help you, as Joe Friday will not always be around to rescue you.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Episode 10 - The Apartment

The Plot:  When his 94 year old neighbor dies, Jerry offhandedly asks Elaine if she wants to move into his building.  Eager to move away from her crazy roommate and ecstatic at the ridiculously low rent, Elaine jumps at the opportunity.  Only after she decides to take the apartment does Jerry fully comprehend the consequences of having her in the building.  She’ll always be around.  She’ll constantly be able to drop in and as George notes, “you’ll have to have all your sex at the woman’s apartment…it’s like a permanent road trip…Forget about the home bed advantage.”

While lamenting what an idiot he is, George and Jerry begin to discuss George’s friend Adam, who is shaped like a cube, and his claim that ever since he got married, women have been coming onto him.  George decides to borrow a wedding ring to test the hypothesis. 

At a party to celebrate the running of the New York Marathon, George meets a series of woman who offer him everything from sex, to tickets for any event at Madison Square Garden, but unfortunately, they won’t deliver on their offers because of his wedding ring as they vow they would never get involved with a married man.

Ultimately, someone offers the landlord five thousand dollars for the apartment upstairs.  He tells Elaine that because she was first, he’ll rent it to her if she can match the five thousand dollar fee.  Jerry is ecstatic thinking he’s out of his awkward situation, until a moussed up Kramer urges Jerry to loan Elaine the money in front of her.  In one of the better banters between Kramer and Jerry, Jerry is incredulous that Kramer would suggest such a thing.  Kramer, still not seeing his own error, suggests that maybe Elaine won’t accept the loan, causing Jerry to reply, “People don't turn down money! It's what separates us from the animals.”

Fun Facts:
  • This episode was the first to feature Elaine’s trademarked “Get Out!!!” line.
  • It was also the first episode to reference Kramer’s father, who never appeared on the show.
  • It is also the first time that Jerry was living in Apartment 5A, which he would keep for the remainder of the show.  Up to this point, it was either not seen or a different number.

Favorite Quote:   This episode actually has some of my favorite quotes of all time.  It was hard to narrow down, so I am cheating and picking two:

KRAMER: I still don't understand what the problem is having her in the building.

JERRY: Let me explain something to you.. You see, you're not normal. You're a great guy, I love you, but you're a pod. I, on the other hand, am a human being. I sometimes feel awkward, uncomfortable, even inhibited in certain situations with the other human beings. You wouldn't understand.

KRAMER: Because I'm a pod?

Discussing the horrible decision to offer the apartment to Elaine:

JERRY: My censoring system broke down. You know that little guy in your head who watches everything you say? Makes sure you don't make a mistake? He went for a cup of coffee, and in that second - ruined my life.

GEORGE: My censor quit two years ago. He checked into a clinic. Emotionally exhausted.

Favorite Scene:   Again, this is when we started to get a sense that show was really onto something and could be special.  There are some great quick shot scenes in this episode, but my favorite is near the end, at the NYC Marathon party.  Jerry is complaining about what an idiot he is.  A disgusted George scoffs at the complaint, noting “I just threw away a lifetime of guilt-free sex and floor seats for every event at Madison Square Garden.  So please, a little respect.  For I am Costanza, Lord of the Idiots.”  At that point, the nutty host of the party screams out the window at the marathon runners passing by, “You’re all winners.”  Prompting George to deadpan, “But suddenly a new contender emerges.”

The Lesson:  The lesson of “The Apartment” is sometimes a difficult one for entrepreneurs to adhere to.  In the frenzy that is a startup environment, things happen so fast, it is often impossible for founders to adequately review all sides of the decisions they make.  They do not have the luxury of giving careful study to all options presented.  Sometimes, entrepreneurs have to make a snap decision, and hope that the little guy who watches everything you say did not go on a coffee break at that time.  Sometimes we can just blurt out an answer that sounded so good in our head, but is obviously a disastrous mistake.  Failure to at least explore the consequences of your decision can lead to situations that you will come to regret. 

In 2006 we launched our Arena Football franchise from inception to first game in 115 days.  We had no employees, no coaches, no players, no team name, no uniforms and no clue what to do next.  We didn’t have the time to carefully study all of these issues as we were making our decisions, but our core beliefs were based on creating the most fan friendly experience we could.  Every decision, while not analyzed to death, was made with the fan experience in mind.  Over and over, we asked ourselves, if I was sitting in the 15th row in our arena, what would I want to see, hear, eat, etc.  And for the two years I owned the team, we were near the top of the league in tickets sold and attendance.

No, as a startup, you do not have the time or the ability to do a 360 degree analysis of every situation.  But as long as you stay true to your company’s underlying philosophy, you shouldn’t find yourself claiming to be king of the idiots.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Episode 9 - The Phone Message

The Plot:  Officially titled “The Phone Message” most people remember this episode for the Cotton Dockers reference.  In an odd moment for the show (and one noted by George), both he and Jerry have girlfriends at the same time.  Early in this episode, Jerry and his date, Donna, are at Jerry’s apartment, when he tells her about his hatred of the television commercial for Cotton Dockers.  Donna actually likes the commercial, causing Jerry to question how he could be attracted to someone who likes that ad.  The relationship ends when George and Kramer both mention the Docker’s commercial to her face.

This is secondary to George, who bungles his date with Carol to the point that later in the episode, he is drinking Pepto Bismal out of a brown paper bag.  At the end of his evening with Carol, she invites him up to her place for “coffee”.  George declines because it is late and coffee keeps him up.  Only after she has left his car does George realize that coffee was just a euphemism for sex.  His boneheaded rejection of her proposition has caused him so much anxiety that he attempts to phone her and apologize.  After getting her answering machine on multiple calls and getting no reply, as George describes it, “Yesterday, I’m a volcano – I try one more call, the machine comes on, and I let it fly like Mussolini from the balcony.”  George unleashes a flurry of four letter words on the machine, only to find out that Carol has been out of town and not gotten any of his messages.  So he and Jerry devise a plan to stand outside of her apartment until she comes home that night and then when they all go up together, George will distract her while Jerry replaces the cassette tape in her answering machine, thus erasing all of his idiotic messages (so the technology is a little dated.  Trust me, in 1991, this was state of the art).  Going through all of the trouble to pull off this switch, the episode ends with Carol telling George that she listened to his messages remotely and thought he was hilarious.

Fun Facts: 

  • This was a replacement episode, written in two days by Seinfeld and Larry David after the script for the scheduled episode was deemed to dark and not funny during rehearsal.
  • The original script called for Kramer to reveal his first name, but it was removed and became a storyline of its own several seasons later.
  • Larry David had first written the concept of switching tapes on an answering machine for a Saturday Night Live skit that never made it to the air.

Favorite Quote: 
George: She invited me up. Coffee's not coffee, coffee is sex.
Elaine: Maybe coffee was coffee.
George: Coffee's coffee in the morning, it's not coffee at twelve o clock at night.
Elaine: Well some people drink coffee that late.
George: Yeah, people who work at NORAD, who're on twenty-four hour missile watch. 

Favorite Scene:   Jerry’s utter disgust when describing his hatred for Cotton Dockers.  “Yeah, those guys are so funny and comfortable with each other. I could be comfortable too if I had pants like that…I mean all those quick shots of the pants.  Pants, pants, pants, pants, pants, pants, what is that supposed to be.”

The Lesson:  There were so many little lessons for entrepreneurs in this episode, yet no large overriding theme, it was difficult to pick just one.  In my opinion, the most compelling lesson comes not from a main character, but a bit player.  Carol’s failure to return George’s phone calls leads to an escalating sense of anger on George’s part.  Every message that goes unreturned, causes him to seethe with rage.  It doesn’t matter if his anger is justified.  Ignoring his outreach results in irrational fury.  Most entrepreneurs are overworked.  They have too much to do and not enough time to get to even the most fundamental aspects of their business.  This often causes them to be delinquent in responding to phone calls, emails or other correspondence.  And yet this failure to respond, even if justified, can cause the other party significant angst.  Sometimes, that can lead to lost opportunities.  It is amazing how a simple call back or email reply can not only establish solid interpersonal relationships, but can open up opportunities that you might never have anticipated.  The lesson:  Pick up the phone and call people back.  It’s not that hard.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Episode 8 - The Jacket

The Plot:  The episode begins with Jerry & Elaine at a clothing store looking for clothes for Jerry.  He finds a suede jacket that he says is the most perfect feeling and fitting jacket he’s ever tried on.  The only drawback is that there is a gaudy pink striped lining on the inside of the coat.  Despite the lining and a ridiculously high price tag, Jerry decides to buy the jacket.  As they are checking out, Elaine reminds Jerry that he and George are having dinner with her and her father on Saturday night.

Elaine’s father, Alton Benes, is an extremely intimidating character.  On Saturday, George and Jerry (wearing his new suede jacket) arrive to meet Mr. Benes, only to find out that Elaine is running late.  As they try to make small talk with her father, every comment is met with condescension from Mr. Benes.  He derides Jerry’s career as a comedian, George’s compliment of his writing and the weather.  As George and Jerry contemplate making a break for it and leaving the bar, George chickens out for fear that they will get caught and Alton will bang their heads together like Moe from the Three Stooges.

When Elaine finally shows up, they start to leave the bar to walk the five blocks to the restaurant, it starts to snow.  Jerry, concerned about what the snow will do to his new coat, turns it inside out with the pink lining showing.  Elaine’s father throws a fit and refuses to be seen walking down the street with Jerry wearing his jacket that way.  The scene ends with Jerry turning the coat right side out and heading out into the snow.  The next scene shows Jerry in his apartment and his ruined suede coat hanging on the wall.


Fun Facts: 
  • This is the first (and only) appearance of Alton Benes, played by Laurence Tierney (nice last name).
  • Again, based on a real life incident, where Larry David met his girfriend’s father, the well respected author Richard Yates who scared the hell out of him.
  • While we never see Elaine’s mother, supposedly the role was offered to Mary Tyler Moore before the idea of introducing her mom was scrapped.

Favorite Quote: 
Elaine: No, Jerry, you have to come to dinner. I need a buffer. You know, I haven't seen my father in a while and.. you know.
Jerry:  I'm worried I won't be able to talk to him. He's such a great writer. Frankly, I prefer the company of nitwits.
Elaine: So, that's why we're not together anymore.

Favorite Scene:   When George comes to Jerry’s apartment on their way to dinner, he comments on how much he likes the new jacket.  George: “Can I say one thing to you? And I say this with an unblemished record of staunch heterosexuality…It’s fabulous”.  George then launches into frenzied questioning of how much the jacket cost, working himself into a tizzy because Jerry won’t tell him what he spent.

The Lesson:  Jerry loves his new jacket.  He loves it so much, he tells George, “This jacket has completely changed my life. When I leave the house in this, it's with a whole different confidence. Like tonight, I might've been a little nervous. But, inside this jacket, I am composed, grounded, secure that I can meet any social challenge.”  He then precedes to wilt under the pressure of Alton Benes’ personality, and all that new found confidence is shattered.  The jacket didn’t change Jerry physically, it just gave him false confidence.  Entrepreneurs often face the same dilemma.  Having someone you respect say something nice about your company, interest from a potential investor or a favorable mention in the media, can all create a false sense of optimism and progress.  Yes, all of those developments are nice and are indicators that you may be on the right track, but none of them are actually moving your business forward.  I am always amazed at the number of incredibly bright people who mistake movement for progress.  Running from one meeting or conference to the next and having people pat you on the head and tell you what a great business you have, is not progress.  It does not generate revenue or land customers or produce product.  The lesson for entrepreneurs is not to let cosmetics give you a false sense of accomplishment.  Hard work, attention to detail and solid customer service produces results.  And results are what should breed confidence and success.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Episode 7 - The Pony Remark

The Plot:  One of the iconic episodes.  People who are not Seinfeld fans usually remember this episode.  Jerry's parents are staying at Jerry's apartment when he bursts in, wearing baseball clothes, carrying a bat and glove, and proudly tells them about the incredible plays he made during his softball game, leading them to a victory and a spot in the Championship game in a couple of days.  His mother, unimpressed, reminds them that they are all going to the 50th anniversary dinner of her cousins Manya  and Isaac. Though Jerry does not want to go—he has made plans, he doesn't know the people—his mother coerces him: "At least come and say hello, have a cup of coffee, then you'll leave." Jerry knows it won't be that simple, so he persuades Elaine to attend, too.

During the dinner, he makes the tactless comment to which the title refers:

HELEN: I hear the fella owns a couple of racehorses. You know, trotters, like at Yonkers.
JERRY: Horses? They're like big riding dogs.
ELAINE: What about ponies? What kind of abnormal animal is that? And those kids who had their own ponies...
JERRY: I know, I hated those kids. In fact, I hate anyone that ever had a pony when they were growing up.
MANYA: (angry) I had a pony.

JERRY: Well, I didn't, uh, really mean a pony, per se...
MANYA: When I was a little girl in Poland, we all had ponies. My sister had pony, my cousin had pony... So, what's wrong with that?

Jerry tries to apologize, but Manya gets even more angry and leaves the table. After the dinner, when Jerry's parents are leaving, his father soothes his embarassment: "Hey, I agree with him. Nobody likes a kid with a pony." But Jerry receives a phone call from Uncle Leo, who informs him that his great-aunt Manya has died. Jerry is very upset about it, but he's also upset to learn that the funeral will be held on the same day of his softball championship.

Feeling guilty, Jerry ends up going to the funeral, where he, again, apologizes for his remark. Isaac informs him that Manya had forgotten Jerry made the pony remark: "Oh, no no no. She forgot all about that. She was much more upset about the potato salad." Elaine asks Isaac multiple times about what is going to happen with their apartment. Isaac eventually tells her that Jerry's cousin Jeffrey is going to live in it. When it starts to rain, Jerry realizes that the game will be postponed. The following day, after the game, Jerry, George and Elaine meet at Monk's, where they discuss the lousy way Jerry played softball. (Jerry recalls a certain play, about which he admits, "It was the single worst moment of my life.") Elaine wonders if Manya's spirit put a spell on him.

In a subplot, Jerry and Kramer bet whether or not Kramer will rebuild his apartment so that it has multiple flat wooden levels instead of needing furniture. Kramer changes his mind and decides not to build levels, but refuses to pay Jerry, arguing that since he did not attempt it, the bet was invalid.

Fun Facts:
  • This is the first episode to reference Morty Seinfeld’s invention of the beltless raincoat.
  • This is the first appearance of Uncle Leo and the first reference to Jerry’s cousin Jeffery who works for the Parks Department.
  • This is the first reference to Kramer’s gambling problem.

Favorite Quote:  Jerry:  “I mean, in all the pictures I saw of immigrants on boats coming into New York harbor, I never saw one of them sitting on a pony.”

Favorite Scene:   Manya’s funeral, where the man giving the eulogy looks back on Manya’s life.  Although this may seem like a sad event, it should not be a day of mourning.. for Manya had a rich, fulfilling life. She grew up in a different world - a simpler world - with loving parents, a beautiful home in the country, and from what I understand, she eve had a pony… Oh, how she loved that pony. Even in her declining years, whenever she would speak of it, her eyes would light up. It's lustrous coat, it's flowing mane. It was the pride of Krakow.”

The Lesson:  While it may not have been the primary story line for the episode, the dilemma facing Jerry is one every entrepreneur will face in their lifetime.  Do I got to the funeral or play in the championship game?  Every entrepreneur is faced with the challenge of balancing interests.  Family dinner versus client dinner, exercise versus phone calls.  Do I stay at the office and finish up this work, or do I cut out and attend my child’s piano recital?  The work/family balance is one every entrepreneur struggles with.  If I stay at work, I might be able to grow the business a little bit and make a little more money to provide for my family.  But at what cost?  If I miss my child’s game, do I miss the joy of watching them grow up, which happens way to fast.  These difficult decisions are one of the toughest aspects of being an entrepreneur.  In the early days of your company, there is no one to delegate certain tasks to, and you are faced with a gut wrenching decision on how to spend your time. There is never a clear answer and more often than not, you can’t count on a rainout to allow you to satisfy both interests.  You just constantly try and create some semblance of balance and hope that you make the right calls.