In perhaps the first time that the words “Kramer” and “high drama” can be used in the same sentence, tonight’s “Seinfeld” borrows a device from a Harold Pinter play. Like Pinter’s drama “Betrayal,” the episode runs backward in time, beginning with the cast at the wedding of Elaine’s “braless wonder” friend, and traveling through the past to the day Jerry and Kramer first met. If this foray into high culture proves successful, other shows will likely mimic “Seinfeld” and start “borrowing” from the Great White Way. Some predictions:
“Touched by an Angel” does David Mamet’s “Glengarry Glen Ross” — When heaven faces downsizing, God pits Monica and Tess against two other angel teams to see which can improve the most lives. The show opens with a gruff God (played in a cameo by Mamet regular Joe Mantegna) bellowing the rules: “The number one team gets new wings. Number two gets platinum halos. And number three gets sent to hell — hit the road, Jack, give Satan a wet, sloppy one, and don’t let the cloud smack you in the butt on the way out.”
“Jenny” does Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Sunset Boulevard” — In this musical episode, 25-year-old Jenny dreams that she has become a fabulously successful movie star, but is now at the end of her career. Reflecting her bitterness through song, dance and dramatic eye-crossing, the once-desired actress lashes out at the industry that abandoned her at the ripe old age of 29.
“Men Behaving Badly” does Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot” — Jamie and Steve spend the half-hour debating whether to continue waiting for the pizza guy, or to give up and go out for Chinese food. Existentialists will perceive the symbolism of the pizza guy as God. Everyone else will suffer through a bunch of unfunny beer, sex and underwear jokes.
“Frasier” does Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” — In this loosely-adapted take on the tragedy, Niles becomes convinced that his father Martin’s girlfriend, Sherry, was responsible for the death of Martin’s wife years ago. After a series of farcical mix-ups, the episode ends with Daphne in a mental institution, and Martin dead from drinking poisoned Maalox. Watch for Frasier’s classic slow burn when he realizes that Niles has gotten blood on his new Oriental rug!
“Home Improvement” does Sophocles’ “Oedipus Rex” — The cast teaches an important lesson about safety by appropriating this classic Greek tragedy — tamed down for the family, of course — about a king who blinds himself after discovering he unknowingly killed his father and bedded his mother. While throwing water balloons off a bridge, Randy beans a bystander and runs away before seeing who was hit. Arriving home, he finds Jill crying because Tim has been taken to a hospital. Randy is thrilled to comfort his mother with a deeply emotional hug, until she tells him his father is in the hospital with a mild water-balloon concussion. Guilt-ridden, he cries so hard he fogs up his glasses.