Seinfeld: "The Scofflaw"/"The Beard"
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Seinfeld: "The Scofflaw"/"The Beard"

"The Scofflaw" (Season 6, Episode 13, originally aired January 26, 1995)

I like to think of these two episodes as the saga of George's toupee. Weirdly, they did not air next to each other -- a clip show marking 100 episodes was in between, and I'll sort-of cover that next week -- but they are related, in that George gets his new hair at the end of this one, and has it taken from him in the next one. "The Scofflaw" is pretty good: it has an amazing title for one, and Kramer gets some fine physical gags in wearing his eyepatch. It also features a somewhat odd guest star turn from Jon Lovitz as a jerk friend of Jerry's who pretended to have cancer to get free stuff. I'm a huge Lovitz fan but for some reason it felt odd seeing him in the show.

Don't get me wrong, Lovitz is funny, but I feel the show doesn't use his comic gifts well enough, with Gary an essentially flat character until we realize later on that he's a jerk. At that point, his preening is at least somewhat funny. But considering how rare it is to have a guest star on Seinfeld who was actually famous at the time and is not an athlete, Lovitz just isn't handed enough to do. The sight of him in a pompadour is tremendous, however.

A lot of funny stuff happens around Gary, though. Jerry's fury at actually wasting his energy being nice to someone who didn't have a life-threatening disease is amusing to behold. But George keeps him in check because he thinks Gary's going to give him a primo parking space, until the end of the episode, where this plot clumsily bangs into Kramer and Newman's part about the parking scofflaw. That dovetailing is not flawless, but Jerry's glee at finally being able to unload on Gary (with George's say-so) is a decent capper to the episode.

The scofflaw plot, while far more ridiculous, works because it involves Kramer shouting at Newman to be a man, and Newman crying. Plus, anything that ends up with them in front of a skeptical judge (usually the same one) is good stuff. But the idea of the parking cop chasing the scofflaw as his white whale seems recycled from Philip Baker Hall's classic Mr. Bookman character, chasing Tropic of Cancer. How do you create this wacky character of a eyepatch-wearing traffic cop constantly trying to find one specific driver, and then drop him without giving him anything interesting to do?

Instead Kramer, who's looking for new eye-wear to set him apart, adopts the eyepatch, telling Jerry, "I wanna be a pirate." Ho ho ho. Every sitcom would then do the joke that Kramer has poor depth perception. But Michael Richards is the kind of actor who can really carry that joke off, without even really giving you anything past his movements. But it also feels like half a story idea, since the eyepatch thing quickly turns into Kramer confronting Newman the scofflaw.

Elaine, meanwhile, deals with the return of Jake Jarmel (the guy she dumped for the Jujyfruits), whose fashionable glasses set Kramer's plot in motion. I like him guarding the secret of where he got his vintage frames -- nice to see such douchey behavior is essentially timeless. But the transition to Elaine's old boss wanting the glasses doesn't really come off, and Jake's fury at seeing the glasses on his face at the end (mostly because Elaine wants to piss him off) doesn't quite work, even in the heightened Seinfeld universe.

The most important thing about this episode is its conclusion -- George getting the toupee. Weirdly, it looks better on him in this episode than it does in the next. Maybe because there, it has to fit on someone else's head at the end of the episode.

"The Beard" (Season 6, Episode 16, originally aired February 9, 1995)

"The Beard" is probably best-remembered for revealing that Jerry is a huge Melrose Place fan, through a pretty convoluted plot involving a sexy police sergeant and a lie detector test. Jerry's irrational belief that no one must know of his obsession, and his teenage reactions to watching the show ("Oh, that Michael, I hate him, he's just so smug!") are great. But I'll admit, the idea of Jerry liking popular culture that isn't Superman, kid's cartoons or baseball is somewhat surprising. You don't think of him as someone who turns the TV on at primetime, perhaps because his comedy never really focuses on those topics. That's why the joke works, of course, and I think an embarrassing obsession with Melrose Place was not uncommon in the mid-90s, but still, it's quite a concept.

George's hairpiece is sort of the centerpiece of this episode, but there's really no central plot to this one. Kramer's subplot where he goes in a police lineup is an extended, not that funny visual gag -- the capper where the homeless guy (Jon Gries) recognizes him feels like an excuse to end the episode, nothing more. Elaine trying to turn a handsome gay guy dates the show a little bit (such a plot would be pretty stale, although not unheard of, on current sitcom) but luckily, it's handled rather well.

Instead of showing us some sort of lame Elaine seduction scene of the gay guy, we're instead just informed, via Elaine, that she convinced him, and then, not long after, that he went back. Her explanation (essentially, that she couldn't satisfy him in bed because she hasn't had enough access to the "equipment" compared to your average man) is the usual Seinfeldian cocktail of relatively dirty talk hidden behind a chaste metaphor. That, I was satisfied with, but the rest of the storyline pretty much falls flat (even Jerry giving her a patented Benes "GET OUT" shove, and Elaine's dance signifying that she's a sexy woman).

So what about George? Well, his hairpiece is working wonders for him, and even though Elaine and Jerry think it's ridiculous, Kramer is a big fan, and sets him up with a lady. Who turns out to be bald! And then she rejects him because he's a little too portly for her tastes. It's all very well and good, but I wish the toupee could have gotten a better tale than this one. It's so funny to see George in it, and its demise is so fantastic (an enraged Elaine rips it from his head and tosses it out the window) but the story doesn't really live up to either of those things. Oh well.

Next week: THE HIGHLIGHTS OF 100! I'll be giving you MY Seinfeld highlights so far, aka a top 10 episodes list.

Stray observations:

"Was he on his deathbed?" "No, he was on his regular bed."

"You don't trust my poker face?" "Do you ever win at poker?" "No..."

Gary confesses to George. "I've been living a lie." "Just one? I'm living like 20."

Jerry doesn't think even George would pull off such deception. "I don't know if you could do it!" "I could do it." "Yeah, I guess."

George references his car's former owner again in "The Scofflaw."

Elaine's hatred of George's mop is hilarious. "I THINK they might have SUTURED THAT thing to your brain!" "Go ahead, de-ride, de-ride, if you must!"

"Yet another talent! Posing as a girlfriend for homosexuals!"

Jon Gries' plot, with the tupperwear, was pretty cute. Kramer's idea of giving it to him and picking it up on the way back is a very New York-y way of dealing with the homeless.

Filed Under: TV, Seinfeld

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