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.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Episode 27 - The Stranded

The Plot:  I won’t tarnish my wife by saying she has the same Seinfeld obsession that I do, but she is no stranger to multiple viewings of particular episodes.  So it is no surprise that on multiple occasions she has broken into a dead on impression of Elaine shouting, “maybe the dingo at your baby.”  Between that and our co-opting of the signals Jerry & Elaine use at the party, this may be the most relevant episode to my personal daily life.

The episode begins with Jerry and George at a drug store to purchase medicine where George becomes involved in an altercation with the cashier, accusing her of short-changing him ten dollars. He is removed by the security guard.

The scene then shifts to the primary plot line.  George gets invited to a party on Long Island and brings Elaine and Jerry with him. Jerry and Elaine have a bad time stuck in boring conversations.  Agreeing to look out for one another, they invent a series of physical signals that are intended to let the other know that they need help getting out of the conversation.  Jerry initially proposes the chicken wing flap, but thinks it is too obvious, finally settling on a gentle head pat.  Despite their agreement to help one another, the scene shifts from one to the other stuck in miserable discussions, patting their heads like a mental patient.  Neither moving to aid the other.  At one point during the party, an obnoxious woman who keeps asking about her fiancé (with an exaggeration on the first and second syllable) finally annoys Elaine to the point that she adopts a mock Australian accent and quoting from the film A Cry in the Dark, exclaims "Maybe the dingo ate your baby?"

When a female co-worker starts coming on to George, he strands Jerry and Elaine at the party, leaving them to wait for a very tardy Kramer. As a sign of gratitude for allowing him and Elaine to wait at his home, Jerry suggests the hosts stop by his apartment if they are ever in New York.

Weeks later, to Jerry's surprise, the male host takes him up on his offer just as Jerry's heading out the door. Jerry allows him to wait in the apartment until his return. However, Kramer stops by and he and the host have some drinks and laughs. Eventually the host hires a prostitute over to Jerry's apartment. Jerry and George meet at the drug store where they speak about George's coworker whom he slept with after the party. Then after Jerry picks a medicine George puts it in his shirt under his jacket as retribution for the short-changing incident before. The security guard catches him and takes him away, presumably to jail.

Just as Jerry returns, the host leaves the apartment without paying the prostitute, who refuses to leave until paid. As Jerry is paying the girl off, cops arrive and he's "busted" for fomenting prostitution. Elaine prepares to squabble with the prostitute over her fur coat. In the final scene Jerry and George reminisce about their time in jail.

Fun Facts:

This episode was originally filmed during Season 2, but Larry David was not happy with it, so he kept editing until it aired in Season 3.  This out of sequence shooting/airing results in this being the only episode in Season 3 in which George has a job which he did for most of Season 2.
This is the first and only episode to reference a character’s age directly.  Jerry declares that he is 36.  All other references are that the characters are in their 30’s.
This is the first episode to reference Elaine’s distaste with fur.

Favorite Quote:   

Guy:   So what do you do?
Jerry  I'm a comedian.
Guy:  Are you?  Lemme ask you something.  Where do you get your material?
Jerry:  I hear a voice.
Guy:  What kind of voice?
Jerry:  A man's voice, but he speaks in German so I have to get a translator.

Favorite Scene:   The back-to-back scenes of Jerry and Elaine engaged in their inane conversations, each beating themselves in the head to get the other’s attention is priceless, but the best scene from this episode is George expressing his paranoia over his pending relationship with his co-worker Ava.

George:  I think something's happening here.
Jerry:  What?
George:  I think she wants me to take her home.
Jerry:  Wow.
George:  What should I do?
Jerry:  Go!  What could you do?...We'll be fine, what did she say?
George:  She told me she wants--  She told me she wants me to make love to her.
Jerry:  What?  She said that?
George:  Yeah.
Jerry:  What did you say?
George:  I... I... I long for you.
Jerry:  I long for you?
George:  I was so shocked I was lucky I said anything.
Jerry:  It's okay, that's not bad.
George:  I don't like when a woman says, 'Make love to me', it's intimidating. The last time a woman said that to me, I wound up apologizing to her.
Jerry:  Really?
George:  That's a lot of pressure.  Make love to me.  What am I, in the circus? What if I can't deliver?
Jerry:  Oh, come on.
George:  I can't perform under pressure.  That's why I never play anything for money, I choke.  I could choke tonight.  And she works in my office, can you imagine?  She goes around telling everyone what happened?  Maybe I should cancel, I have a very bad feeling about this.

The Lesson:  This is a tough one.  No clear lessons jump out at you from this episode.  That being said, it still offers some advice for startups.  Often entrepreneurs will find themselves in situations where they do not feel comfortable.  A partner, a vendor, a customer or an investor has asked them to do something with their company that is not consistent with their normal course of action.  To be successful, you cannot over think the situation.  Entrepreneurship is all about uncomfortable situations.  It requires the individual to confront their fears and their expectations.  It requires you to have the mental capacity to assess the situation and make an intelligent decision.  It’s hard.  Failure can come from many directions.  One of the most consistent points of failure is over thinking.  It can lead to paralysis, second guessing, and/or inconsistent management.  All of which cause significant problems for entrepreneurs who need to move quickly and decisively.  George is honing in on his goal of sleeping with Ava.  All of a sudden he is panic stricken by over thinking what he’s getting himself into.  He’s setting himself up for failure and all but ensuring that it will happen.

Entrepreneurs need to do their homework, analyze the situation the best they can, make a decision based on that analysis and then move forward with the decision.  Continuing to think about the downside of any action will ensure that such a result occurs.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Episode 26 - The Nose Job

The Plot:   There were three different plots in this episode. The first involved George thinking that his new girlfriend Audrey was beautiful except for her huge, ugly nose. In his usual, careless disregard for manners (he is, after all, a pod) Kramer actually says that to her and deadpans that she is as pretty as anyone and all she needs is a nose job.  This leads to a discussion about whether or not she should get it done.  Exhibiting his usual shallowness, George not so subtly encourages her to go for the procedure. Audrey ultimately decides to have the surgery and after several days, gathers the group for the big unveiling.  Not surprisingly, the surgery has gone horrible wrong and while everyone is trying to delicately tell her that it looks OK, Kramer sums it up beautifully by telling her she “got butchered.”  Once again, George goes swimming in the shallow end and dumps Audrey because he can’t stand looking at her nose.   Not to interfere with a happy ending, Kramer ends up recommending a doctor that can fix her up.  The second surgery is a huge success and she shows up at Monks looking stunning.  She caps off the reversal by walking out the door on a date with Kramer.

The second storyline involved Jerry and his latest girlfriend (Tawny Kitaen of Bachelor Party, Whitesnake and Chuck Finley fame) (for those of you too young to remember any of those references, they are an easy Google search.  Especially the Chuck Finley story where she was arrested for beating up her all-star baseball pitcher of a husband with her high heeled shoe), whom he met in an elevator. She’s hot and does wild things in bed, but she’s also really stupid — which leads to some really dumb scenes of Jerry’s brain playing chess with his penis. Again, not surprisingly, his mind is on a nearly unblemished losing streak, until at last he can no longer handle her insipid conversations and the brain scores a huge upset victory.

The third storyline involved Kramer wanting Elaine’s help to recover the now infamous jacket that his mother’s boyfriend took back from Kramer in Episode 24. Kramer says he needs the jacket because it has magical powers in its ability to attract women. He gets the jacket and Audrey, thereby seemingly proving his point.

Fun Facts:
  • The first episode to feature Kramer’s alter-ego character, Dr. Van Nostrand.
  • In almost every episode that talks about it, George and his parents live in Queens, but in this episode, he claims to be from Long Island.
  • We learn that Kramer’s mother is named Babs.

 Favorite Quote:   Too hard to just choose one.

George: Where'd you meet her?
Jerry: I met her on an elevator.
George: On an elevator? You met a woman on an elevator?
Jerry: Impossible, right?
George: You got less than 60 seconds. It's like dismantling a time bomb.

Jerry: Isabel? She is the most despicable woman I have ever met in my life. I have never been so repulsed by someone mentally and so attracted to them physically at the same time.  It's like my brain is facing my penis in a chess game. And I'm letting him win.
GeorgeYou're not letting him win. He wins 'till you're forty.
Jerry: Then what?
George: He still wins but it's not a blowout.

Jerry: You got something in your teeth there.
George: What?
Jerry: It's green.
George: Oh, man, it's spinach! I've been walking around like this all afternoon.
Jerry: Did you bump into anybody you knew?
George: I had a job interview.

Favorite Scene:   I don’t know why I love the scene when Jerry and Isabella (Kitaen) are rehearsing some stupid play.  It just cracks me up every time.

Isabel: Ever since you came back from the Army, you've changed. I swear Nelson, I don't even know who you are anymore.
Jerry: I'm Nelson!
Isabel: That's not the line, Jerry.
Jerry: Alright, alright, I'm sorry. Nothing's changed, Alma, I just need more time.
Isabel: I swear, Nelson, sometimes at night, when you're not around, I just go crazy thinking about you.
Jerry: Well, you just need to relax. Maybe a hobby, bowling is fun.
Isabel: Yeah, bowling's good if you're really gross and ugly.
Jerry (to himself): Uh oh. My organs are playing chess again.

The Lesson:  I was really tempted to use the organs playing chess aspect of this episode as the lesson.  Startups are constantly faced with similar dilemmas.  There are aspects of their business that they find unpleasant, but they generate significant revenue or customers or press coverage, and how do they balance those competing emotions.  Who wins the game of chess?  However,  that is not really a lesson, but a value judgment.

No, the lesson from this episode is the old, “be careful what you wish for.”  I see so many entrepreneurs who are on the path to building a profitable and sustainable business.  They are very attractive to their customers, to their investors and to their employees.  They seem to have so much going for them.  But the founder seems unsatisfied with just a high level of success and wants to be “the next Facebook.”  Not satisfied with hitting a triple, he/she disrupts the entire flow of the company in an effort to try and hit the Grand Slam.  The Nose Job is a perfect example of what can happen next.  In many cases, the first attempt to knock it out of the park ends up in disaster.  The company loses its focus, it loses its commitment to its customers and it loses the very essence of what made it successful in the first place, resulting in a business that needs a rhinoplasty.  Occasionally this is not a fatal mistake.  Getting a second surgery can correct the mistakes of the first and result in a company that is a worldwide brand.  But it can also be a tragic error that permanently alters the path of the company for the worst.

Please don’t misunderstand.  I am not suggesting that you should be complacent and not swing for the fences.  Quite the contrary.  I believe the lesson here is that you should take those calculated risks, knowing that things can go wrong, and pay careful attention at all times and pivot course at the first sign that your business is getting “butchered”.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Episode 25 - The Tape

The Plot:  The first of only a handful of episodes that centers around Elaine.  Jerry is performing his comedy routine at a club one night and uses a tape recorder in the back of the room to record his set and critique his performance the next day.  As a goof, Elaine anonymously leaves an erotic message on the tape recorder. Upon hearing the message, he, George, and Kramer become obsessed with the voice on the recording. After several days of the guys drooling over the message, Elaine finally admits to George that she was the sexy voice on the tape. George is shocked to hear this and suddenly becomes attracted to her, but does not tell Elaine about it. Elaine makes George promise not to reveal her confession to Jerry or Kramer. Jerry, determined to get in touch with the woman who left the message, finds out who sat near the tape and gets her number. After his date with her, he tries to kiss her, but gets the "pull-back", and concludes that she is crazy.

In a secondary plot line, George orders a cream from China after watching a commercial that claims that it can cure baldness. At Jerry's apartment, George makes a call to the company in Beijing while Jerry mocks George for being gullible enough to believe that the cream actually works. George is unable to communicate with the people on the other side of the line, since they don't speak English; meanwhile, this is when Elaine decides to stop by and Kramer decides to start making his own home videos by recording whatever Jerry, George and Elaine are doing. This includes a fake interview with Elaine, portrayed as a porn star, and she says the sex is never simulated with George, arousing him. Finally, the Chinese delivery boy, Ping, delivers the take-out Kramer orders and George convinces Ping, who speaks Chinese, to talk on the phone and help him order the cream. It takes longer than expected, because as George jokingly deadpans, Ping was speaking to a relative.

As the episode winds down, George finds it hard to control his obsession with Elaine and finally admits to Jerry that he is attracted to her. Jerry wants to know why, but George tries to keep Elaine's secret by not telling him. He finally cracks and tells Jerry that Elaine left the message. She comes in later and tells her secret to Jerry, but Jerry says George already told him. George then confesses that he is attracted to Elaine. She finds this news disturbing and then realizes that Jerry and Kramer have become attracted to her too. Freaked out, Elaine immediately leaves Jerry's apartment. At the end, the three fight to hear the tape again.

Fun Facts:

  • The first episode to feature Ping, the delivery boy, who would recur in several future episodes.
  • The Tape was used by a research team at Dartmouth in a wide study of brain activity connected to humor.  The researchers found that, “during moments of humor detection, significant brain activation was noted in the left posterior middle temporal gyrus…and left inferior frontal gyrus.”
  • The first episode that did not feature Jerry doing standup at the end of the show.

Favorite Quote:   

George: What do the Chinese have to gain by faking a cure for baldness?
Jerry: If it was real ,they would never let it out of the country. No baldness , it'd be like a nation of Supermen.

Favorite Scene:   

George: Huh. Excuse me (to Ping) Hum... Do you speak chinese?
Ping: Chinese....Yeah.
George: Look...humm..I'm on with Beijing with the hair restoration clinic. Could you talk to them for me and tell them I'd like to place an order.
Ping: Gwen , Ayon. Wonche son thai gettin my chon fai yu.
George: They got a billion people over there and he found a relative.
Ping: Ah Fuka suma. If you send money they send cream.
George: They send me? Aw right ..ask 'em Does it really work?
Ping: Gym a gun sen tokomo. Chin che .They say you grow hair, Look a like Stalin
George: Ask' em Are there any side effects?
Ping: Dowe o futo yum.... Impotence. ....( makes a just kidding gesture)
George: Aw! Funny he's a funny guy.

The Lesson:  Once again, there are a couple of quick and easy lessons (don’t believe everything you hear), but I think the best lesson from this episode is that there are very rarely shortcuts to success.  George wants to take the easy way out by buying a cream that will help him grow hair.  He is like the poor infomercial sucker who truly believes that he/she can lose weight by taking a pill or wearing a belt, all while sitting on the couch and eating potato chips.  Those miracle hair restoration products and the amazing weight loss products rarely work as advertised (check out the FTC’s Consent Decrees related to such claims).  No, weight loss almost always requires a combination of exercise, improved diet and fewer calories.  In other words, it takes hard work and discipline.  The same elements that are almost always present in successful startups.  Rarely are there shortcuts or quick fixes to launch a company to prosperity.  To truly reach your business goals (and your weight loss goals) you need to put in the work, develop good habits and avoid the temptation to rely on the quick and easy option.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Episode 24 - The Cafe

The Plot:  Another instance where two words defines the whole episode for fans: “Babu Bhatt”.  Another classic character.  The episode begins with  Jerry, fascinated by an empty and failing eclectic restaurant called "The Dream Café," offering his patronage to the restaurant.  Babu is the epitome of the attentive restauranteur, refilling his water glass after ever sip.  Jerry, concerned that cafe’s eclectic, but very American menu (franks & beans, turkey sandwiches) is not going to draw in the customers.  He convinces the owner, Babu Bhatt, to restyle his menu and decor. He suggests that Babu make his restaurant the only authentic Pakistani eatery in the neighborhood.  Babu is very pleased with Jerry’s suggestion and shuts down the restaurant to redecorate.  Unfortunately, the restaurant still lacks customers and Babu loses a lot of money. He becomes very upset with Jerry and blames him for causing his failure, yelling, "You're a very, very bad man!", waving his index finger.

Another plot line focuses on George’s concern that his new girlfriend, Monica, has asked him to take an IQ test as a sample for her education course.  George is concerned that after taking it, she will find out what an idiot he is.  After discovering that Elaine has a high IQ, he persuades Elaine to take the test for him.   Not surprisingly, the plan backfires. Elaine takes the test at the Dream Café, which Jerry says is quiet, but is distracted by Jerry (who gets her to order food) and then by Kramer (who spills food and coffee on the test), and so performs poorly with a score of 85.

Elaine insists that she try again and finally, George begrudgingly agrees. This time, Elaine takes the test at Jerry's apartment and does very well, but just as she's about to leave, Kramer locks himself in with her in Jerry's apartment to escape his mother's ex-boyfriend who is hounding Kramer for not returning a jacket he found.  As a result, Elaine is late returning the test to George instead finding Monica waiting to collect the test.

At the end of the episode Jerry, Elaine, George, and Kramer are standing on the same block as where the Dream Café used to be. Elaine learned her IQ was 151 from George's "second try", Kramer loses his jacket, and the Dream Café is shut down.

Fun Facts:
  • The jacket Kramer has and subsequently loses is a mainstay in show’s history.  It’s the jacket Kramer is wearing in the Parking Lot episode. Kramer contends that it has magical powers over women.
  • Babu Bhatt comes back in a couple of episodes, always alternating between appreciation and contempt for Jerry and friends.

Favorite Quote:   Jerry is looking out his window at Babu trying to entice people to come into his restaurant.

ElaineWhy do you keep watching?
JerryI don't know, I'm obsessed with it. It's like a spider in the toilet struggling for survival. And even though you know he's not gonna make it you, you kinda root for him for a second.
ElaineThen you flush!
JerryWell, it's a spider.

Favorite Scene:   Jerry is talking to himself about what a great guy he is to help out this immigrant restauranteur.  Classic in that even Jerry realizes he’s ridiculously self-centered.

Babu: You're a very kind man. Very kind, thank you. Very kind...
Jerry: (To himself) Very kind. I am a kind man. Who else would do something like this? Nobody. Nobody thinks about people like I do. All right, snap out of it you stupid jerk. You're eating a turkey sandwich. What do you want, a nobel price?

The Lesson:  Of all the episodes, this is one of the easiest, because the main focus of the episode revolves around the difficulties of an entrepreneur and his startup.  Babu is a hard working entrepreneur who has an idea to improve the neighborhood’s dining options.  He pursues his concept, discovers it might not be what his customers are looking for, pivots on his idea and retools the concept.  Unfortunately, like so many entrepreneurs, Babu discovers that it takes more than a good idea, a good location and hard work to be a successful entrepreneur.  If the essential elements were always the same and easily identifiable, no startups would fail.  The simple fact is that you can call it luck, the intangibles or some other undefinable element, but there is something in every startup that you can’t identify that is critical to its success.  There are successful Pakistani restaurants in New York.  Why wasn’t the Dream Café successful?  It’s that critical element that makes all the difference.  And that critical element almost always comes down to execution by the founder.  In this case, Babu tried his best, but he just wasn't up to the task.  It takes more than a good plate of franks & beans (or an IQ of 151) to be successful.  Execution is the essential element.