Impressions: Seinfeld- The Strike

So another show that I don’t really write pieces on… but in this case, one I am not planning on adding to the rotation. I think most people have their opinion on this show and its place in comedy. I like Seinfeld; a show about terrible people getting into sometimes regular, sometimes zany situations speaks to me. Over the years, some of it has not aged well; that is the nature of comedy, though. I enjoy most of the show overall. So why, with all that intro, am I doing a piece on an episode at all? Well, because “Festivus” is one of those moments from the show that I think has become a significant part of the cultural zeitgeist. However, the episode itself? I recently rewatched it excited for the Festivus part, and my reaction to the overall episode is… well, you’ll see.

The episode starts with the group – minus Kramer – at Tim Whatley’s (Bryan Cranston) Hanukkah party. Elaine and Jerry both meet someone, though Elaine is not excited about her interaction. She gives him a fake phone number while Jerry flirts. Later the group meets at the coffee shop, and George is mad that he got Tim baseball tickets while Tim made a donation in George’s name.

George also gets a Festivus card from his dad. Yes, the whole reason I am here. He is upset by it, and Jerry explains that George’s father, Frank, made up a holiday to get away from all the commercial and religious aspects of the holiday season. Elaine is delighted to hear all the details, like the aluminum pole instead of a Christmas tree and the feats of strength. Then George storms off in a huff.

Elaine meanwhile talks about going to “not subway” atomic subs later. She admits to not liking the place, but she’s close to getting a free sub. I have to say I relate to Elaine the most of all the characters, and stuff like this is why. Who cares about the free sub? Except it’s a free sub, so of course, you care. Especially because she is only one away. You have to see it through. Just… I am completely on team Elaine in this situation. She realizes she put her fake number on the card and has to track down the guy from the party.

Kramer realizes that his strike for work is finally over. After 12 years. He is excited to go back to work, but, of course, they were all simply fired. Still, he gets a seasonal job.

Elaine tracks down her fake number, which is at a betting place. They agree to forward the guy she’s looking for’s call to her real number. She realizes the guys are being creepy, though, and gives him another fake.

Jerry finally has a date with the girl from the party. Only when she shows up, she is no longer attractive. And by no longer attractive, I mean she is still pretty good-looking, but you know… Anyhoo he realizes that her attractiveness will change easily depending on the light. That she’s a “two-face.”

*sigh*

George hands out fake “a donation has been made in your name” cards at work to avoid giving gifts. His boss makes a huge donation to the fake organization. Eventually, the whole thing unravels, and George attempts to use Festivus to cover for himself. George mentions that it’s what he celebrates with his family and agrees to take his boss to his home to celebrate.

Kramer also hears about the holiday and calls Frank up to learn about it. We learn about Frank fighting with another parent for a toy and rejecting the holidays altogether to make a “Festivus for the rest of us,” the oh-so-famous line. He also explains a few of the other traditions and invites Kramer over.

A lot happens building up to the Festivus dinner. Kramer goes on strike again. Jerry’s saga with his “two-face” continues. Elaine remains desperate to track down the card with her free sub and ends up a “two-face” herself. And Frank continues to sprinkle in a little more information about the holiday, and we get a look at why George hates it so much. Then we are finally at the Festivus scene.

The dinner is crashed by several people, but they all sit down to dig in. Frank starts on with his craziness, including attacking George’s boss. More interruptions happen, which pull the focus away from Festivus and back onto the other stories.

And it’s over…

Well…

So I am guessing at this point, you may see where I am going with this piece and my overall thoughts on it. I get why this episode is so well loved and remembered because the Festivus parts and the holiday itself are freaking hilarious. It perfectly encapsulates Frank’s weirdness and downright bullying – but presented in a funny way – of his family. It’s just solid humor all the way through.

The issue is that it’s a pretty minor part of the episode, all things considered, and the other parts aren’t that great. While I related to the extremes Elaine is willing to go for the free sub, it’s not presented in a very compelling way. Jerry’s plotline just isn’t amusing at all. Setting aside the “oh brother” nature of the story itself, it is like Elaine’s plot, not compelling. Seinfeld has managed to make me laugh at things that I find bothersome, so it’s not just that… if it had been well done, I would have still enjoyed it. Instead, it’s boring, and I wouldn’t say offensive but offputting. Kramer is Kramer. It is not his best episode, but it’s not his worse. He always manages to be at least a little amusing.

But just so much of this episode is just not funny. It’s not a bad episode, I will watch it all the way through, and I don’t hate it. It’s just if you remove the Festivus part of the episode, it’s one of the worst in terms of just pure humor for the series.

I really feel this episode is entirely carried by nostalgia and the idea of Festivus. Not the episode itself or even the execution of the funniest part of it. We remember the Festivus stuff and the quirky nature of Frank, and so we just remember this being a great part of the holidays. But it’s not? It’s not a bad part… but great?

It does, however, manage to be kind of an interesting holiday episode. Festivus is poking fun at this season, and it does it well. It’s not thumbing its nose at one holiday or another from this time, but rather the entire season itself. But still not in a hateful way, just more pointing out how we all kind of have weird traditions and the stress and expectations that come with it. The brilliance is that the oddness of Festivus pokes fun at the oddness of some of our own holiday traditions and just the shenanigans this season – and our families – can put us through.

So bottom line. Despite what I said above, I would still say put it on a holiday watch list. The episodes are short, so you aren’t spending a lot of time on it. Also, despite my saying without Festivus, it is one of the worst episodes; it’s one of the worst of a fairly solid series. There are episodes of this show I won’t watch, but I will watch this one. I also again think it’s a nice break from the more traditional stuff you get this time of year. It’s less “enjoy the holidays” and more “remember the weird stuff your family always did.” And the Festivus part is part of it, so all the hilarity that comes with it makes the rest worth it overall. But if you’ve never seen it and wonder about Festivus because you’ve heard it mentioned or it’s been a while since you rewatched the episode, I would say… go in, knowing it’s not going to laugh out loud from start to finish. More “eh” with some really good humor sprinkled throughout.

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