1. In The Package, Elaine discovers that she’s a difficult patient and no matter which doctor she sees she can’t shake her awful reputation. While asleep at home one night she takes a call from a mysterious man claiming to represent the American Medical Association. He wants to confirm the correct spelling of her last name. His voice is provided by the late Phil Hartman who was originally supposed to be heard in one other scene in that episode but that plan was dropped. In The Comeback, Elaine develops a crush on Vincent, a mysterious video store clerk whose movie recommendations she adores. Vincent is voiced by Robby Benson.
2. Shortly after the airing of The Little Kicks in the fall of 1996, a hiker encountered a mountain lion during a solitary trek in the California mountains. In a moment of desperation he shouted at the great beast, “You want a piece of me?”. The tone of his voice must have been really threatening because the animal ultimately backed off. Who knew that Frank Costanza’s direct question to Elaine in the police station scene in that episode would immediately save a life?
3. Writer David Mandel was working for Saturday Night Live the week Bob Saget hosted. Because he resembled one of his friends, the Full House comedian would never call Mandel by his real name. Instead, he would accidentally address him as “Feldman” over and over again. Curiously, he would always apologize for doing this. Later, when stuck for a name for Bizarro Kramer in The Bizarro Jerry episode he was writing, Mandel remembered this bizarre incident and used Saget’s nickname for him.
4. Jerry Lewis was the first Hollywood director to use video playback on set. This allowed him to watch a take he had just finished recording to see if it was any good. Today, it’s a standard of modern filmmaking technology. Lewis was also a film professor at USC near the end of the 1960s. Two of his most famous students were George Lucas and Steven Spielberg.
5. In The Bizarro Jerry, George starts dating a receptionist at an investment company who also models on the side. She takes him to a night club in the meatpacking district of Manhattan where many of her beautiful colleagues also hang out. Before we go inside, there’s an exterior shot of the establishment. If you look closely you’ll notice a number of neon “V”s on the windows. When he was writing for SNL in the 90s, writer David Mandel and some of his co-workers would check out this real-life club after leaving their own after-show party on late Saturday nights. Believe it or not, it’s an S&M joint called “The Vault” and it is indeed located in New York’s meatpacking district. Mandel and company would only stay a few minutes because it was a freaky scene.
6. In 1995, an aspiring filmmaker took out a full-page ad in Variety looking for a $100000 investment in a screenplay he had written. Writer Spike Fierstein really liked the title he picked which he used the following year for one of the fake movies depicted in The Little Kicks episode. What was the name of the young man’s script? Death Blow.
7. In a number of season eight episodes there’s a cool magnet on Jerry’s refrigerator. It’s a miniature reproduction of the cover of Action Comics #1, the comic book that introduced the world to Superman.
8. Infamous attorney Johnnie Cochran initially loved Phil Morris’ portrayal of Jackie Chiles which was, of course, based on him. But after Morris started doing some TV spots for Honda as the flamboyant lawyer Cochran’s office sent him a letter urging him to stop playing the role. Cochran was worried the increasing profile of the Chiles parody was harming his image and career. This from a guy who beat his wife and successfully defended a double murderer.
9. In The Abstinence, there’s a scene where George is conversing with a Portuguese waitress at Monk’s. If you listen closely, he orders three coffees and a big salad.
10. In The Chicken Roaster, Kramer becomes addicted to the food served at the new Kenny Rogers’ Roasters restaurant that just opened across the street. In one scene, after he switches apartments with Jerry, he’s lying in the comedian’s bed thoroughly enjoying his food and wiping his greasy fingers all over the sheets. Off-camera to Richards’ right was a bucket. After each take he would routinely spit out the chicken he was chewing right into it. According to episode co-writers Alec Berg and Jeff Schaffer, he couldn’t stand the smell of the food. In real life, Michael Richards is a vegan.
11. In The Fatigues, Frank Costanza initially flat-out refuses to help a desperate Kramer out with the cooking for his Jewish Singles Night event at the Knights Of Columbus. There’s a very good reason for this. When he was a cook during the Korean War, Frank overseasoned some spoiled meat which made his fellow soldiers immediately ill. The memory, shown in a flashback, has haunted him ever since. Speaking of that flashback sequence it was supposed to be longer and a bit more graphic. Some of the soldiers actually puked food right into the camera lens. Despite being a well-liked bit, it was decided that the vomitting took things too far and it went out of the episode.
12. Conservative dirtmonger Matt Drudge, who originally worked in the gift store as a cashier at the CBS Studios in Radford, California, was briefly considered for the role of Ricky, the mannequin maker/TV Guide fanatic we first meet in the season five episode, The Cigar Store Indian. He didn’t get the part because he wasn’t a professional actor.
13. In The Andrea Dorea, Jerry delivers Newman’s mail on a Sunday so the portly fellow can get a second chance at a transfer to his dream destination, Hawaii. Newman had been too depressed to do it himself because a co-worker (who ultimately lost the gig by getting caught hoarding Victoria’s Secret catalogues), beat him out for it. Plus, he’s really behind on his deliveries. (Numerous bags of mail are stored in Kramer’s half of Jerry’s storage unit.) At one point, Jerry gives a roll of mail to a bearded homeless man, the same guy who volunteers to be a rickshaw driver in the ninth season episode, The Bookstore. He’s the one who mysteriously blurts out, “Potato salad!”
14. In The Checks, Jerry keeps receiving 12-cent residual cheques from a Japanese TV comedy program called The Super Terrific Happy Hour because he appears for one second in the opening credits. He signs so many of these cheques his hand cramps up and he can’t straighten it. For the record, Jerry received 380 of them altogether resulting in a big payday of 62 smackers. (The math doesn’t add up, however, so perhaps some cheques were worth a bit more than 12 cents.) This was to be revealed in dialogue that unfortunately went unsaid.
15. Because the only indoor tennis court in California was booked during the preparations for The Comeback shoot, an enormous tent held by a big crane was used to cover an available outdoor facility. It proved to be a nightmare. During taping in December 1996, a torrential rain storm hammered the city. (This was the start of the El Nino phenomenon.) If you look closely during certain scenes of that episode you’ll notice huge puddles of water all over the court. Despite the best efforts of the crew, rain water still managed to get inside. This caused grave concerns about possible electrocutions due to all the cables and electronic equipment in use at the time. Thankfully, that didn’t happen. But shortly after the shoot was wrapped, thanks to a huge gust of wind, the already shaky tent collapsed as the terrified cast and crew hurled towards the exits. Producer Tim Kaiser claims that 500,000 pounds of rain water ended up pelting them. Amazingly, no one was hurt. A week later, a half-court set was built at the CBS Radford Studios to finish shooting the sequence. Many of the close-ups, Ben Stein’s tennis lesson and all of the Kramer material were taped during this much safer shoot.
16. Sandy Baron returned to play Morty Seinfeld’s Florida neighbour, Jack Klompus, in The Money. There was a scary moment where he was missing from a rehearsal. It turns out that shortly after he arrived at the CBS Radford Studios in his car he fell seriously ill while still inside it. He was thankfully discovered by the show’s production coordinator in time who made sure he got immediate medical assistance. Despite being sick, Baron still insisted on doing the show. While most of the scenes for The Money were shot in December 1996, Baron’s appearances were recorded the following January so he would have plenty of time to fully recover for them. He later died in 2001.
17. Michael Richards had a couple of close calls shooting the highway scenes in The Pothole. Because extras and crew members were driving those cars (and not stunt drivers) and because Richards didn’t exactly tell them what he was planning to do, things were a lot more chaotic than they should’ve been. At one point, while filming the scene where he tries to retrieve a crushed pop can from the middle of the highway, he came thisclose to actually getting hit by one of the vehicles. Thankfully, he walked away unscathed. In the last scene of the episode he was scripted to flee his adopted highway marker to avoid running into the cops. During one take, his car came to a screeching halt just one feet away from a technician who was operating a distant light. Once again, there were no injuries.
18. In The Comeback, Kramer decides to get a living will after watching just a few minutes of a straight-to-video movie he’s rented called The Other Side Of Darkness. In the film a woman falls into a coma which completely startles him because he doesn’t want to spend the rest of his life like that. Because Jackie Chiles has filed a restraining order against him, the K-man turns to a monotonous sounding man named Stellmach to draw up the legal document. He’s played by Ben Stein who later appeared in a 2001 Drew Carey Show episode called Drew’s In A Coma. One of the stars of the made up Other Side Of Darkness movie is Eric Roberts. In 1981, he got into a terrible car accident and briefly fell into a coma himself before finally coming to. As for Kramer’s belief that no one ever comes out of a coma, how could he forget witnessing Jerry’s jealous neighbour (the one dating sexy Gina) waking up from one in the hospital in the season three episode, The Suicide?
19. In The English Patient, a beautiful woman mistakes George for her boyfriend Neil because they have similiar physical features. Both men soon become very competitive for her affections. Neil is played by Jeff Miller who was Jason Alexander’s stand-in for seasons six through nine. Although his face isn’t seen in this episode you can see him earlier on in season eight when he makes a food delivery to Elaine’s apartment in The Little Jerry. (He also pops up briefly in The Hot Tub and The Kiss Hello episodes in season seven.) After their encounter in the hospital near the end of The English Patient, George pulls the cord from Neil’s IV bag before exiting the scene. This was a spontaneous ad-lib by Alexander that stayed in the show.
20. In The Van Buren Boys, George interviews possible contenders for the Susan Ross Scholarship, a philanthropic endeavour initiated by her foundation. One of the students he talks to is David Moscow who played the young Tom Hanks in Big. (He’s the cocky guy with the 4.0 GPA.) In The Abstinence, Jerry gets bumped during his old junior high school’s Career Day as well as a make-good engagement when a fire drill takes place. The teacher who bumps him is Meagen Fay who’s probably best known for playing Roseanne Connor’s snooty neighbour for numerous episodes on Roseanne. She also appeared in Father’s Day with Julia Louis-Dreyfus. In that same episode, Kramer gets kicked out of Monk’s for smoking a cigar. While outside he talks to a guy in a toque. That’s Kyle Gass of Tenacious D who appeared with Jason Alexander in Shallow Hal.
21. Whenever the show needs a transition shot to prepare the audience for a scene at Monk’s Cafe, we see the exterior of the real-life New York eatery, Tom’s Restaurant. In some of these quick snippets during season eight, notice how the “E” in the neon “RESTAURANT” sign isn’t working. It’s the only one that isn’t glowing red. In The Comeback, a number of scenes are set at an indoor tennis facility. Exterior shots of the real-life New York Health & Racquet Club were used before we see the inside of the court. Notice how the “H” in the neon “HEALTH” side is busted. It’s the only one that isn’t glowing white.
(Special thanks to Rob Kerr.)
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, April 14, 2013