Thursday, May 30, 2013

Episode 6 - The Ex-Girlfriend

The Plot:  The first episode of Season 2.  George is dating a woman, Marlene, who annoys the hell out of him because she drags out every conversation.  And yet he can’t bring himself to breakup with her because “she’s so sexy.”  He notes how he tried to love her.  He looked at her over and over urging himself to love her.  He even told her he loved her, but he could never actually fall in love.  Jerry finally convinces George to end it, and after a particularly ugly breakup, George remembers he left some books in Marlene’s apartment.  George asks Jerry to go retrieve the books and Jerry ends up dating her.  She maintains this “psycho-sexual” hold over him even though she annoys him as well.  Her most irritating offense, starting a conversation in a thick southern accent with, “You know Jerry,…”  

After succumbing to his more animal instincts, Jerry attempts to jump into a relationship with her only to be rejected.  When inquiring why she was spurning him, she tells him she saw his comedy act and was unimpressed.  “I just can’t be with someone if I don’t respect what they do.”  Which prompted Jerry to respond, “You’re a cashier!”  The episode ends with Jerry’s standup noting that women are much more concerned with a man’s job than vice versa.  If a man is physically attracted to a woman he will say “Really?  A slaughterhouse?...You’re just lopping their heads off?...So listen, why don’t you shower up and we’ll get some burgers and catch a movie”.

Fun Facts:

  • The show was due to air on January 16, 1991, but was pre-empted as all networks were covering the first night of bombing during the first Gulf War.
  • The first episode filmed before a live studio audience.
  • Contains one of my all-time favorite lines.  When referring to how George should break up with Marlene, he tells him, “You should just do it like a band-aid.  One motion, Right Off!!!”

Favorite Quote: 
JERRY: I feel terrible. I mean, I've seen her a couple of times since then, and I know I can't go any further, but.. I've just got this like, psycho-sexual hold over me. I just want her, I can't breathe. It's like a drug.
KRAMER: Woah, psycho-sexual.
JERRY: I don't know how I'm going to tell him.
KRAMER: Man, I don't understand people. I mean, why would George want to deprive you of pleasure? Is it just me?
JERRY: It's partially you, yeah.

Favorite Scene:  George visits a chiropractor and after a minor adjustment is presented a bill for $75.  Incredulous at the cost, he screams, “I was in there for two minutes.  He didn’t do anything.  Touch this, feel that.  Seventy-five bucks.  What’s seventy-five bucks?  What am I seeing Sinatra in there?”

The Lesson:  One of my other favorite pop culture references for entrepreneurship comes from the Facebook inspired movie, “The Social Network”.  When we are introduced to the Sean Parker character played by Justin Timberlake, he is trying to explain to a girl who he is.  He tells her he’s an entrepreneur and she quickly replies: “Ohhh, you’re unemployed”.  

How often do founders hear similar sentiments.  It is important to remember that people will not respect you just because you choose to start a business.  Most people have no idea what it takes to launch a company.  The sacrifices that startups require, (long hours, missed meals, the always-on mentality) often go unnoticed by all but those closest to you.  You shouldn’t look to start a business because you think you’ll gain some level of respect.  Startups should be solely focused on solving a problem, building a better product or service, and/or addressing a societal need.  Respect may end up being a by-product for some entrepreneurs, but it’s certainly not the basis for jumping into the startup pool.  Otherwise, you have to remember, the world needs cashiers also.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Episode 5 - The Stock Tip

The Plot:  The last episode of Season 1 and the very first episode I saw live.  George gets a hot tip on a stock and passes it along to Jerry & Elaine.  As soon as they act on the tip, the stock takes a nosedive, giving Kramer great joy at his friends misery.  Kramer spends the entire episode coming into Jerry’s apartment to gleefully tell him that the stock went down again.  Tiring of Kramer’s annoying updates, Jerry finally decides he wants to dump his shares and take the loss.  George, always the pessimist, decides he wants to go down with the ship.  Trying to take his mind off the financial hit, Jerry invites his girlfriend, Vanessa, on a trip to Vermont for the weekend.  A 72 hour downpour leaves Jerry and Vanessa staring at one another and finding they have very little to talk about.  Searching for anything to do to break up the boredom, Jerry grabs a newspaper, only to find that the stock took a meteoric jump the day after he sold it.  This prompts an argument between he and Vanessa over the stock market.

He comes back to NYC to find George reveling in the money he made, teasing Jerry for getting out, and in a rare show of generosity, treating his friends to lunch at Monks. 

Fun Facts:
  • This is the first episode with a reference to Superman.
  • Vanessa also appeared in Episode 2, being one of the few girlfriends to appear in more than one episode.
  • The first of many episodes with Jerry embodying the frustration we all have with various vendors in our lives as he argues with his dry cleaner about a shrunken shirt. 

Favorite Quote:  JerryI think Superman probably has a very good sense of humor. He's got super strength, super speed, I’m sure he’s got super humor.

Favorite Scene:  George pretending to be a big spender giving the waitress at Monks a big tip, only to revert back to his normal self and take some money back from her hand.

The Lesson:  This may be the easiest lesson to understand, as it is straight out of the startup playbook.  Like the stock price in this episode, all startup companies have their daily ups and downs.  A well established household name can see its stock price move up and/or down in significant swings.  Startups are even more susceptible to dramatic swings.  One big customer signing up can change the fortunes of early stage companies overnight.  Likewise, the loss of such a customer can have a disproportionate impact on the company.  The lesson is thus, not to panic when things take a slight dip as yesterday’s distress can turn into tomorrow’s success with blinding speed.  While there are times when cutting your losses and moving on are the best tactic for a startup, decisions like that should not be made without careful consideration and clear evaluation.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Episode 4 - Male Unbonding

The Plot:  Another episode that dances around several little stories, but the main focus is Jerry’s relationship with a childhood friend, Joel Horneck.  Jerry & Joel were friends as kids, because Horneck had a ping pong table, but as he grew up, Jerry came to hate Horneck.  As Jerry puts it: “I like ping pong…should I suffer the rest of my life because I like ping pong.  I was ten.  I would have been friends with Stalin if he had a ping pong table”  George suggests a breakup as if he were a woman.  When Jerry can’t bring himself to end the relationship, he creates a list of Horneck excuses to use every time Joel calls.  Horneck’s persistence convinces Jerry that he’ll never be able to avoid him and he’s just stuck with him.  This is the first of hundreds of episodes that focused on the group complaining about the self centered nature of an outsider, while conveniently ignoring their own selfish behavior.

Fun Facts:

  • This is the first episode with Kramerica Industries.  In this version, Kramerica is looking to open a do-it-yourself pizza parlor.  A concept that will recur over several years.
  • This was also the first episode that used what became the show’s theme song, the quirky bass notes that opened the show.
  • Jerry’s apartment is #411.  In season 2 and beyond it becomes #5A.
  • Horneck, played by Kevin Dunn, had originally auditioned to play the role of George.

Favorite Quote:  George is afraid his girlfriend is going to break up with him after he tells her he likes her.  She calls and says they need to talk. 

George:  “She calls me up at my office and she says we have to talk”
Jerry:  “Ugh, the four worst words in the English language.”
George:  Yeah, that or ‘whose bra is this?’”

Favorite Scene:  George goes to the bank with a jar full of change asking for bills.  The teller hands him a bunch of sleeves and tells him he'll have to roll them up.  In classic Costanza frustration, he screams, "You want me to roll all 6,000 of these?  You want me to quit my job?"

The Lesson:  In the early stages of almost every startup, there is a moment when the founders believe they have hit on the right combination for success.  Whether it is the right product, service, customer or audience.  The successful entrepreneur is able to mine that opportunity for all it is worth, but does not become so wedded to it that it keeps them from exploring new markets and new ways of doing business.  Just because you love ping pong when you are a kid, doesn’t mean that you will always be friends with your ping pong buddies as you grow older.  Just because one certain customer or one certain aspect of your business worked in the early stages, does not mean that you are forced to follow that path.  You sometimes have to let go of your childhood friends in order to grow.  The same goes for startups.  Sometimes you need to abandon the early way of doing things in order to achieve long term success.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Episode 3 - The Robbery

The Plot:  There were multiple story lines, but the primary plot centers around Jerry being out on tour and leaving Elaine staying at his apartment while he’s gone.  Elaine is looking to avoid her nutty roommate, Tina, so is happy to stay at Jerry’s.  Jerry returns from the road to find his apartment has been robbed as a result of Kramer leaving the door open.  Seinfeld goes on a great rant about the expensive lock he purchased for his apartment.  A lock that has only one fatal flaw – you have to actually close the door for it to work.  After the robbery, Jerry gets George to find him a new apartment.  George shows him an incredible place with a terrace and a walk-in closet, which Jerry decides to take, prompting Elaine to sublease Jerry’s old apartment.  Jerry, sensing that George really wanted the apartment for himself, engages in a coin flip and then a game of “odds or evens” for the place, which Jerry eventually wins.  Despite winning the contest, Jerry still feels guilty and ultimately decides against moving, allowing a waitress from Monks to take the place.

Fun Facts:

·         The episode was inspired by a real life robbery of Jerry’s apartment while he was in college.
·         Elaine’s roommate Tina is first mentioned, but does not appear in the episode.
·         This was the first episode with Kramer's trademark entrance into Jerry's apartment.

Favorite Quote:   Kramer: How can you not have insurance?
                             Jerry:  Because I spent my money on the Clapco 8000. It's the most powerful lock
                                         they make. It has only one design flaw ... the door ... must be closed!

Favorite Scene:  While Jerry is bitching about Kramer leaving the door open, George comes strolling into the apartment without being buzzed in.  When Jerry asks him how he got in, he crosses his arms, bobs his head and blinks his eyes like the title character in I Dream of Jeannie.

The Lesson:  Unforeseen events often push entrepreneurs in a direction they never intended and the ripple effects of those course changes can have real impact not just on the individual, but those around him/her.  In this episode, the robbery causes Jerry to think about moving, which causes Elaine to think about moving, which causes George to think about moving, when none of them had thought about it before.  When Jerry backs out, the domino effect forces Elaine and George to fall back to their old places as well.  Startup companies are often presented with opportunities they did not expect.  A great sales opportunity can force a company to suspend certain activities and focus all of their limited resources on this once in a lifetime area.  If the company succeeds, it can change the trajectory of the company in a positive way.  If they swing and miss, not only have they lost that opportunity, but they have sacrificed in other areas that may be difficult to get back on track.  In short, sometimes long term growth is based on something as simple as remembering to lock the door.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Episode 2 - The Stake Out

The Plot: True Seinfeld fans will always remember “Sagman, Bennett, Robbins, Oppenheim and Taff” from the second episode of the show.  This is when we are first introduced to Elaine as Jerry’s ex-girlfriend.  Vowing to remain friends despite their breakup, Elaine invites Jerry to a birthday party where he meets a woman but never catches her name.  All he knows is that she’s a lawyer at “Sagman, Bennett, Robbins, Oppenheim and Taff”.  A phrase he repeats constantly throughout the episode.  In what could be considered a major case of stalking, Jerry and George go to the building where she works and wait in the lobby until she comes down on her way to lunch.  He engages her as if they accidently bumped in to one another and he casually asks her out on a date.  It is in this episode that we first become aware of George’s desire to be an architect and the first time he adopts the alter ego of “Art Vandelay”.  

Fun Facts
  • George originally wants to be called Art Cordelay, but in a last second panic attack changes it to Vandelay.
  • This is the first episode with Jerry’s parents.  Jerry’s father in this episode is played by Phil Bruns who never again appeared on the show.  Bruns was replaced by Barney Martin who became the Morty we all know and love.
  • This episode was based on a real life incident of co-creator Larry David who actually staked out the lobby of an office where a woman he met worked.
Favorite Quote:     Jerry:   So, do you date immature men?
                               Vanessa:   Almost exclusively.

Favorite Scene:  The entire dinner scene at the birthday party is the first sense that the show had something unique that would make you come back for more.  Especially, Elaine’s interuption, to tell Jerry about her dream.

The Lesson:  As all entrepreneurs learn very quickly, startups are messy.  Sometimes you have to do some crazy things, things that make you feel uncomfortable, in order to reach your business goal.  Apprentice  winner Bill Rancic talks about sending a care package with a set of nerdy looking glasses in every box to radio stations asking them to “take a look” at his first venture.  Or the real life version of the episode, Bill Simons.  Simons, a co-founder of ClassConnect, actually lived for two months inside AOL’s Palo Alto campus while he was building his startup.  Not exactly a novel story, until you realize that Simons didn’t actually work for AOL.  He was basically homeless, hiding out at night on couches, eating the company’s food and showering in their gym.  Most important however, he used their office building and their resources to start his company.  The moral of the story: Sometimes you have to stakeout the lobby of the building (metaphorically) to get your first customer to say yes.  Art Vandelay would have no trouble hiding from security guards at Google in order to sell some latex.