Seinfeld: The Suicide
by Joel Keller, posted Aug 16th 2006 4:02PM
(S03E14) You may not think this is a landmark Seinfeld episode, but it is. Why? Because this is the first time we hear one of the show's enduring catchphrases: "Hello, Newman."
We had encountered Newman in the Season Two episode called "The Revenge", but we only heard his voice (which was done by Larry David). But when it came time to give Kramer a buddy, Jerry an enemy, and a guy who was supposed to be the building snitch, Larry and Jerry decided to come back to Newman. So this is the first time we see Wayne Knight playing the best side character the show ever created. It almost seems like no one else could play the part now, but the names of some of the other people who auditioned for the part might surprise you...
How different do you think Newman would have been if, say, Armin Shmimerman (Quark from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and the guy who later played Kramer's caddy Stan) or Dan Schneider (Dennis Blunden from Head of the Class) played him? Neither do I. No, Wayne Knight was perfect for the role of Jerry's arch enemy, so much so that Jerry and Larry knew it about five seconds after he walked in the door.
Otherwise, this episode has never been one of my favorites. I liked Elaine's hallucinations after starving herself for three days for an ulcer test. The interaction between George and the pregnant psychic Rula after she told him to not go on his Cayman Islands trip was George at his irritating finest ("Lupus? Is it lupus?"). The talk about Drake's Coffee Cakes -- their first product placement ? -- was funny in its detail ("He was screaming about it all night.," neighbor Gina says about her boyfriend Martin right before he goes into his coma. "How it's too sweet and it falls apart when you eat it.").
But the rest of the episode was just OK. Just not much going on. And the flirtation between Jerry and his neighbor's girlfriend Gina paled in comparison to some of his later match-ups. By Season Three, though, flat episodes like this were getting more infrequent. There wouldn't be one for a while after this; probably the only "bad" episode left in Season Three after this one is "The Limo," which in reality isn't all that bad.
On to the "awards":
Best line: "It's not like it's a Sunny von Bulow coma."
Best facial expression: The animalistic look on Elaine's face as she eats the coffee cake she grabs from Newman. Of course, her hungry lunge sets off a scrum between Newman, Jerry, and Kramer that ends up waking up Martin. Then all hell breaks loose.
Best Kramerism: About Martin's coma: "I'd give him 24 hours to get out of it. They can't get out of it in 24 hours, it's a land rush."
Observations and notes from the DVD:
- After Wayne Knight was established as Newman, Larry David asked him to go back and do Newman's voice for "The Revenge", so when it got shown in syndication, things would be consistent.
- Both main plots were based on writer Tom Leopold's experiences. He had a neighbor that committed suicide, and his estranged wife moved into the rent-controlled apartment. He also could never fast for more than a day, even if he had to for a medical test.
- Newman was originally written to be the landlord's son. The reason why he was so bad was that no one would call him on his behavior as a youth, lest they be ratted out to the landlord. That was dropped early on.
- Gina's character was supposed to be named Layla. Did they change it because the actress who played Gina was also named Gina? Not sure...