February 26, 2012

What I Loved in the 80's-Toys and Games

As you know by now, I was a kid of the 80's. I loved the toys and games we had then, they were so much more fun than the mindless video games kids play today. It’s funny, when I was a kid adults would comment on how much better the toys they had were, and now I am saying it. Weird. Here is a look at some of the 80’s things I had as a kid, and as usual this list is in no particular order.

Action Figures.
Honestly, I could do a whole article just on action figures. These were the things I loved more than anything. I loved making up stories and acting them out, so to speak. I had Masters of the Universe, Star Wars, G.I.Joe, Secret Wars (Marvel), Super Powers (DC), Transformers, MASK, and many others. Unfortunately, I no longer have any of these. The only memories I have are the mini comic books which came with many of the figures. Lots of great memories with these toys though, not to mention the awesome vehicles and play sets. The Hall of Justice was the best, and Snake Mountain was pretty fun too. It even had a microphone so you could change your voice! I know, lame. It gets worst, I had so many Star Wars figures that I had the Darth Vadar shaped case to store them all!

February 25, 2012

Top 5 Favorite Musical Movies

Stage musicals are fun, but I am usually not a fan of movie musicals. I am a story person, and always feel the music stops the movie cold for an elaborate production number which could never really happen in real life. When I was a kid I really hated musicals, but as I have aged I have learned to appreciate them despite their not being at all realistic. However, I still don’t love them because the songs are just to much sometimes.
Take The Music Man, where the whole town breaks out into Seventy-six Trombones! I am not saying that the film is bad, the songs are great and very memorable, but they are just annoying in a movie! I have seen the Robert Preston film, and the Matthew Broderick TV remake, and the songs are so pointless and annoying. The Wells Fargo Wagon? Really? Other musicals like The Sound of Music have great songs, but are soooooo long!!
I certainly don't mean to take anything away from these amazing films; I just don't like them much. The only musicals I like are ones where the songs feel more or less natural, and help the story. Some movies get it right, for me anyway, and I enjoy them a lot. I wanted to share with you today my 5 favorite musical films and not all of these necessarily started out as a stage musical although I think they all ended up there eventually.
It is important to remember, this is just my opinion. Also, for this list no animated films.

#5.Mamma Mia.
Ok, I know what everyone is thinking. No, this movie is not that good. The reason its here is because I saw the musical in New York City and loved it. I really enjoy the songs in this movie, and sure the story is weak and flimsy but it's no worst than many other musicals out there. The movie could have been great, if they had just cast the thing better! Aside from Meryl Streep who was great, this whole this was so badly miscast its laughable. Seriously, Pierce Brosnan? It has a special place in my heart because I know the musical really is decent, so when I watch the film I try to ignore the horrible acting.

February 24, 2012

Analytical Episode Guide-Seinfeld (Season 3, Part 4)

An Analytical Episode Guide to :

Season  3, Part 4

Today we conclude our look at Season 3 with six episodes. There was a certain style to the episodes of the first three seasons, and here we see the last of that style as the show finally takes the form it will be become famous for. Of course much later it would change again, this time into a parody of itself, but I am getting way ahead of things. Here are the final six episodes of season 3 :

Episode 17, Season 3
The Fix-Up
Plot Summary- Jerry and Elaine decide to fix George up with Elaine’s friend Cynthia, figuring that they would probably get along pretty well. The date goes so-so, but a wrinkle is thrown in when it turns out a condom Kramer gave to George was defective, and Cynthia misses her period.
Best Quote-“My boys can swim!”….George
Nitpick of the episode-I guess the easy question from this episode is simply, why did they believe fixing George up with anyone would actually work out?
Seinfeldism of the episode-We learn George likes his women to have a “pinkish hue”
Deleted Scenes-George explaining how he can’t approach women outside of bars, Elaine and Jerry discuss cruises.
Episode Fun Fact-The episode is based on a similar incident which happened to writer Larry Charles, who wrote an Emmy for writing for this episode.
Final Thoughts-Pretty good episode, but the whole pregnancy scare feels very much like they had five minutes to kill and needed to do something. Why else is it dropped so fast? However, aside from that it is a pretty funny episode. It’s too bad Elaine’s friend never appeared again, she fit in very well. Kramer’s role is strictly to move the plot along, as he appears with condoms which end up being defective. He also has two great moments when he breaks up Jerry and George, and later Jerry and Elaine, arguing.
Grade=A-, not half-bad

Episode 18, Season 3
The Limo
Plot Summary-George’s car dies on his way to pick up Jerry at the airport. When Jerry arrives they see a limo driver waiting for a passenger who Jerry knows is not coming. They decide to take the limo meant for the other passenger, and things spiral down after that. It turns out the limo was meant for the head of the Arian Union on his way to neo-Nazi rally. After they pick up Elaine and Kramer they gang ends up with guns pointed at them.
Best Quote-“She’s a Nazi George, a Nazi!”….Jerry
Nitpick of the episode-We learn that leader of Arian nation was not allowed on the plane, that is how Jerry and George knew they could sneak on the limo. Here is my question, why would the guy wait so long to call someone? The flight from Chicago to New York is at least two hours; assume it was another half hour or so before the call finally comes in at the end. What did the guy do, get some dinner first? Also, if this guy’s arrival was causing such a mob scene and media frenzy outside Madison Square Garden and it was known he was flying in (which the reporter clearly says), then why was there not one reporter or protestor at the airport waiting for this guy?
Seinfeldism of the episode-When the jig is up, Jerry points out it was a bad jig to begin with
Deleted Scenes-None for this episode.
Episode Fun Fact-As you can guess, this was not an easy story to write.
Final Thoughts-This episode starts out great but ends up farfetched. I mean really farfetched! I give the writers credit for trying to make this work, and it is a funny episode if you can buy the situation they are in. Unfortunately, I really can’t. It just doesn’t work for me. However, if I suspend all disbelief for the half hour and ignore the plot holes and odd coincidences I do find this to be a funny show. It’s also pretty clear Elaine and Kramer were just stuck into the script since they basically have no reason to be here. One of the dumbest Elaine moments happens at the end, when the gang is exiting the limo with guns pointed at them she stops to wave to a friend. Dumb!
Grade=C-, for a totally implausible episode it’s kind of an enjoyable one.

Episode 19, Season 3
The Good Samaritan
Plot Summary-Jerry witnesses a hit and run outside his building, but when he confronts the driver he ends up dating her. Elaine stirs up a married woman with a hot story, and after George causes a fight by saying god bless you to the wife he winds up having an affair with her. Kramer has mysterious seizures. When Jerry discovers who the owner of the car that was hit was, he tries to hit on her.
Best Quote-“How do you know it’s not John Tesh?”…..Kramer
Nitpick of the episode-Sorry, but the lengths Jerry goes through for the girl who hit and ran is just ridiculous. Even after the woman basically threatens him, he not only covers for her but pays the bill out of his own pocket. Really Jerry? There is nothing attractive about her (I hate her every time I see this episode).
Seinfeldism of the episode-saying “You’re so good looking” after someone sneezes rather than “god bless you”.
Deleted Scenes-George obsessing about seeing a married woman.
Episode Fun Fact-Kramer’s story about getting seizures after hearing Mary Hart’s voice was based on a real news story. Julia Louis-Dreyfuss is clearly pregnant in this episode.
Final Thoughts-This episode leaves a bad taste in my mouth. The only time Jason Alexander directed, and boy can we see why. This episode is oddly paced and just isn’t funny. I mean, at all. Even the catchphrase is silly, does telling someone they are so good looking after they have sneezed really seem like a good idea? Not funny. Kramer having seizures? Not funny. George having sex with a married woman? Not funny. Jerry and George being threatened with physical violence? Not funny. The worst part is none of these stories gets resolved.
Grade=D+, I think I pointed out this episode isn’t funny.

Episode 20, Season 3
The Letter
Plot Summary-Jerry is dating a woman named Nina who is a painter. She paints a portrait of Kramer, is jealous of Elaine, and sells George an ugly painting. When she and Jerry brake up she writes him letter, which it turns out was plagiarized right out of Neil Simon’s Chapter Two.  At a baseball game, Elaine is thrown out for wearing an Orioles cap while Kramer gets hit in the head by a foul ball.
Best Quote-“I always thought there was something funny about this letter!”….Jerry
Nitpick of the episode-The big argument in this episode is, should Elaine have been told to take a Baseball cap off at a Baseball game? Problem is she was in the Yankee owner’s box and her hat had an Orioles logo on it. This is a case of Elaine making her own trouble. I hate to admit it but I agree with Nina, who may be a rotten person, but Elaine didn’t pay for the ticket and as an invited guest then she should have just taken the cap off. Sometimes she picks the wrong battles to fight, and we’ll get even better examples as we dive into the next season.
Seinfeldism of the episode-It’s not really a “seinfeldism”, but the scene where Jerry, George, and Elaine are sitting on the couch flipping around the TV is a prime example of what Seinfeld does best. Little moments in life that other programs never show.
Deleted Scenes-The speech by the elderly couple about the painting, and Jerry and Nina’s fight, was originally longer. We also saw the couple buy the painting, and Nina confesses to copying the letter. Jerry dumps her by quoting “Plaza Suite”.
Episode Fun Fact-The painting seen in the episode was scanned and copies had been sold in stores for years. The incident with Elaine at the ballgame was based on a real incident involving Larry David.
Final Thoughts-I am amazed this was a season 3 episode; it sure doesn’t feel like it. However while it may feel like a season 4 episode, it certainly isn’t a great episode. I am surprised Jerry puts up with Nina as long as he does. Kramer’s story also has no real payoff, after getting hit in the head he messes up George and Elaine’s names but that’s all that comes of it. As for Elaine’s story, I already commented on that. She also worried that her boss will realize she missed his son’s briss to go the game, but there is no resolution to that either. The only cute moment is the couple who buy the Kramer painting; it makes for a cute scene.
Grade=B, parts of this feel like classic Seinfeld but Jerry’s girlfriend is totally unlikable (though not nearly as bad as the horrible girl in the previous episode).

Episode 21, Season 3
The Parking Space
Plot Summary-Jerry is preparing to have some people over to watch a fight on TV. Kramer is mad at George and Elaine for going to a flea market without inviting him. Elaine causes George to damage Jerry’s car, and then when George tries to back into a parking space, another man tries pulling in to the same space. The two fight over the spot for the remainder of the episode while others debate the issue.
Best Quote-“Because I’m like ice buddy. When I don’t like you, you’ve got problems”…..Kramer
Nitpick of the episode- Kramer getting upset at George and Elaine for not inviting him to go with them to the flea market seems kind of strained. I agree with George on this one, what’s he supposed to do ask everyone he knows if they want to do whatever he’s doing every time he leaves his apt? We see the gang doing lots without Kramer, especially prior to this episode. What’s so special about this time?
 Seinfeldism of the episode-Jerry is called a phony by Kramer’s friend Mike
Deleted Scenes-None for this episode.
Episode Fun Fact-This was a hard episode to film since it was mostly outdoors. Bleachers were set up for the studio audience, which didn’t work very well. It took all day to shoot, in fact at one point the shot changes and it goes from day to night in between the shots.
Final Thoughts-This is the last episode to have that “early episode” feel. But let’s discuss this episode specifically. I may not live in a big city but I can understand how relatable this situation must be, people fighting over parking spaces. This episode starts out pretty good, but as the second half starts to unfold the story kind of gets boring. You can almost feel the writers trying to stretch it long enough for it to be long enough and the gag of the gang saying inappropriate things is kind obvious filler. Elaine’s fake account of what happened to Jerry’s car is the highlight of the episode.
Grade=B-, starts out strong but just kind of fades toward the end (and there is no resolution which always bugged me).

Episode 22, Season 3
The Keys
Plot Summary-When Kramer abuses his key privileges at Jerry’s; he proceeds to take the keys away. Hurt and upset, Kramer runs to Los Angeles to try to make it into acting. George is invited to go but he turns Kramer down. Jerry then locks himself out of his apartment and needs George to get Elaine’s copy of his keys. Meanwhile, Elaine is taking a hand at writing a script for Murphy Brown…on which Kramer ends up as the secretary of the week.
Best Quote-“What you call wasting I call living, I’m living my life,”…..George
Nitpick of the episode-Jerry has to run to George and Elaine when he is locked out of his apartment. Doesn’t Jerry’s building have a super? Actually, in a later episode Kramer is locked out of his apartment so I guess the answer is no.
Seinfeldism of the episode-Jerry hears Elaine say “something” when she uses obscenities about him under her breath.
Deleted Scenes-None for this episode.
Episode Fun Fact-The episode ends with a scene which is remarkable even for today. We see Kramer has become part of the running secretary gag on Murphy Brown, in a scene set on that set! Murphy Brown was a completely different studio, production company, and network so the fact they were able to do this is amazing. It’s also a real great scene.
Final Thoughts-This episode is……not completely horrible? It’s hard to put into words, but the whole thing about Jerry and Kramer having a fight is kind of a stretch. Is Kramer really over Jerry’s apartment more than he used to be? Then we get the contrivance of Jerry forgetting his keys while Kramer makes his way to California. The idea that Jerry would forget his keys is too much of a coincidence. This episode is clearly meant to set up the next one, which is OK but by itself it doesn’t stand out. The only good thing is the great Murphy Brown scene at the end, the brilliance of making Kramer part of that show’s secretary gag was sheer genius and I am raising the grade for the episode just based on that.
 Grade=B+, weak episode with a great finish!

With the ending of season 3 it was clear the show had truly found its identity. It’s no wonder the next season would be, in my opinion, the best of the entire run with classic, well written episodes that would be remembered for years. We will begin out look at Season 4 next week.

February 18, 2012

Analytical Episode Guide-Seinfeld (Season 3, Part 3)

An Analytical Episode Guide to:

Season 3, Part 3

Episode 11, Season 3
The Red Dot
Plot Summary-Elaine gets George a job at her office. At a party, Jerry accidentally switches his drink with that of Elaine’s boyfriend which causes him to fall off the wagon. Georg buys a cashmere sweater as thank you gift for Elaine at a discount because it was damaged, a small red dot is somewhere on the sweater. It gets caught right away by Elaine, and George ends up losing the job after sleeping with the cleaning woman on his desk.
Best Quote-“Was that wrong? Should I not have 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 is frowned upon…”..George, this is one his best lines of the whole series!
Nitpick of the episode-When George gives Elaine the sweater she notices the dot right away. Why would he try the same thing with the cleaning lady? This may be the first time George’s cheapness truly comes back to haunt him.
Seinfeldism of the episode-Hennigans Scotch becomes a short lived recurring gag in this episode.
Deleted Scenes-A scene with Elaine making out with her boyfriend.
Episode Fun Fact-This is one of the only times that Jerry’s stand-up bits actually become part of the story.  This is done to show that the character who fell off the wagon had in fact recovered.
Final Thoughts-This is a pretty good episode. George is classic in this one, and his defense when his boss accuses him of sleeping with the cleaning lady is priceless. Jerry’s story about accidentally switching drinks with Elaine’s boyfriend who proceeds to become a drunk really isn’t funny, and I never enjoyed that much. This episode has a distinct second season feel, Kramer just gets a cameo but his appearance makes the whole episode.
Grade=C+, classic George episode marred by unfunny Jerry story

Episode 12, Season 3
The Suicide
Plot Summary-Elaine has too fast for three days to take an ulcer test. After Jerry’s neighbor, Martin, tries to commit suicide he ends up in a coma, while Jerry starts getting hit on by his girlfriend Gina. Meanwhile, George is advised by a psychic to cancel a plane trip, being only told that something terrible would happen. Kramer takes the trip instead.
Best Quote-“I don’t get you, who goes on vacation without a job? What do you need a break from getting up at 11?”…..Jerry to George
Nitpick of the episode- George mentions having a brother but later on it’s clear he is an only child.
Seinfeldism of the episode-This is the famous Drake’s Coffee Cake episode (I used to love those!), the first “Hello, Newman!”
Deleted Scenes-None for this episode.
Episode Fun Fact-First real appearance of Newman.
Final Thoughts-While this is a dark episode, it’s one that manages to not make light of a serious subject to the point you get turned off. The subject of course being attempted suicide. Julia Louis-Dreyfuss is sooo funny in this episode. George is just classic George again, worrying about something a psychic tells him. He cancels the trip, and Kramer goes and has a great time. Of course.
Grade=B, things get a bit farfetched with whole Cayman island sub-plot

Episode 13, Season 3
The Subway
Plot Summary-Just as the title suggests, the four travel the subway for an episode. George gets diverted when on his way to a job interview, Elaine is the best man at a lesbian wedding but the train stalls on the tracks, Kramer is headed to court but instead gets a hot tip on a horse, and Jerry is on his way to Coney Island to pick up his stolen car. En route he talks to a naked man.
Best Quote-“Don’t whistle on the elevator,”….Jerry’s advice to George, a line from Death of a Salesman.
Nitpick of the episode-Elaine says it herself. Why didn’t she just take a cab?
Seinfeldism of the episode-The first time we see Kramer has a gambling problem.
Deleted Scenes-Elaine was supposed to do more swearing at the end, but Julia couldn’t stop laughing when they filmed it.
Episode Fun Fact-This is one episode where the four hardly have any scenes together.
Final Thoughts-This is a classic along with “The Chinese Restaurant” and “The Parking Garage”. I give the writers credit for making what could have been a real boring show one of the series best. George often pays for his worrying and lying, and boy does he pay in this episode! This may be the first time we really cheer for Kramer, when at the end he is almost mugged but an undercover cop suddenly intervenes. Jerry’s scenes with the naked man are brilliantly written.
Grade=A-, the fact the regulars are apart for the majority of the episode is the only downside

Episode 14, Season 3
The PEZ Dispenser
Plot Summary-At a piano recital for George’s girlfriend Noel, Jerry puts a tweety bird pez dispenser on Elaine’s lap causing her to burst out laughing in the middle of the performance. Kramer comes up with an idea for a perfume that make you smell like you just came from the beach. He also joined the polar bear club. Jerry is roped into holding an intervention for a friend who has gotten himself hooked on drugs.
Best Quote-“A pre-emptive break-up?”….Jerry processing Kramer’s idea.
Nitpick of the episode-George probably would have had better luck if he had let Elaine apologize right away like she wanted to.
Seinfeldism of the episode- Jerry and George discuss how to get “The hand”, in other words the upper hand in a relationship.
Deleted Scenes-None for this episode.
Episode Fun Fact-As Seinfeld did many times with things, this episode brought Pez Dispenser’s back into popular culture.
Final Thoughts-How many sitcoms can find humor in a story about a friend being hooked on drugs? This is what Seinfeld did best. In a clever twist, Kramer tells George to break up with his girlfriend before she could break up with him. This works and George gets the upper hand, until she finds out how he lied to her. This is a very busy episode with many guest actors, almost too many as the regulars kind of get lost in the shuffle toward the end. This show worked best when it focused just on the four of them.
 Grade=B-, starts strong but the ending kind of gets weak

Episode 15 & 16, Season 3
The Boyfriend
Plot Summary-Jerry meets Keith Hernandez in a locker room and they strike up a friendship. This friendship is in conflict with Elaine when she starts dating Keith. George tries to extend his unemployment benefits by getting Jerry to lie for him. Kramer and Newman relate a story about how Keith once spat at them after they heckled him at the end of game. Or did he? Also, Jerry and Kramer finally see the baby of an old friend who used to live in the building.
Best Quote-“And you want to be my latex salesman?”….Jerry in one of the series classic scenes
Nitpick of the episode-Jerry’s whining about the fact Keith hasn’t called in three days seems kind of, well, stupid. I like how Elaine has to point out to Jerry that it’s a guy!
Seinfeldism of the episode-Not only do we get a Vandelay reference, but Jerry uses his pseudonym Kel Varnson  
Deleted Scenes-There is dialogue in the episode with George discussing how he would like to sleep with a tall woman, there was an alternate ending where the tall woman comes to the door and George rejects her because she isn’t his type.
Episode Fun Fact-The first hour long episode.
Final Thoughts-One of The big laughs from this episode is the parody of the JFK movie that they do, as Kramer and Newman relate how Keith spit on them. Jerry then proceeds to point out that the spit had to come from someone else, which of course it did. This is a truly brilliant scene and needs to be seen to be appreciated. George is truly George in this one, as we get one of the largest laughs when Kramer blows the lie he gave the unemployment officer, and George rushes out of the bathroom with his pants around his knees. Jerry then gives one of the best ad-libbed lines in any episode. The Elaine story is kind of weak, it was these scenes they added to make the episode and hour and it kind of shows. However despite that this is just a great episode, especially for a one hour show when usually one hour shows kind of get boring.

February 16, 2012

Sitcom Face Off = Cheers vs Friends

Another Sitcom face-off, where I take two similar sitcoms and decide which one is better than the other. Today we have:

Cheers premiered in 1982 and was on until 1993. It was a show about a bunch of guys who hung around a bar, with the bartender Sam Malone being the focus of the show, and the group. A year after Cheers went off the air, Friends premiered in 1994. This comedy was about six friends stuck at the point in life where you aren’t sure where you’re going in terms of jobs and relationships. These are both good shows, but which is superior?
The last two times I did this I featured family comedies. Since these are ensemble comedies, I will need to use slightly different criteria. I have to change the categories a bit because ensemble shows don’t usually have main leads. Cheers main cast was Ted Danson and Shelley Long (later Kirstie Alley). Friends is harder to separate, but for the sake of the article I am going to say the main cast is the girls while the secondary cast is the guys. You will understand why in a minute.