23 December 2009

The Long Halloween: Christmas

Today is very special day for many people all over the world. Today is the Blessid day of Festivus. As such it is only honourable that we acknowledge it with our year-long look at the greatest holiday television episodes of all time. Naturally, for your Christmas Season, none with do better than Seinfeld's "The Strike" (S9;E10).

"The Strike" is full of both character insight as well as exemplary stories from the four main characters. The title comes from Kramer's end to his longstanding strike against H & H Bagels which finally ended when they started paying $5.35 an hour (the contemporary minimum wage) and let the strikers use their bathroom. It's a great relevation that Kramer once had steady employment, which is simultaneously insignificant because he never really works and is eventually fired for kneading his gum into some bagel dough (which he relishes). Elaine is also supremely slutty, giving fake numbers out to strange men, but then seeking to recover them so she can get a card for a free sub back. It's so hard to summarize Seinfeld episodes, there's so much going on at once. Let's quickly get into the Holiday-ness:

"The Strike" works not necessarily as a great Christmas episode, but better as an episode devoted to all Late December-like Holdiays, Festivus being emplemic of this. There's a quick mention of Chanukah at Tim "Converted-for-the-Jokes" Whatley's place and of course the awkwardness of Office Christmas gift exchanges demonstrated by George's Human Fund Cards. Kruger scenes are an immense pleasure in the final season, quite possibly George's best boss. Jerry is also in classic superficial mode, generally ambivalent towards his break-up with "Two-Face" due to bad lighting on the porch. I always wonder how long Jerry would stretch out that relationship, clearly he's just in it for a lot of fun while she is trying to be serious. By Season 9 that character was down so incredibly well.

Then we get to Festivus itself. It was born through Frank Costanza as a reaction against the frenzied materialism of Christmas as an alternate peace-bringing holiday. Of course the evening ends with the Feats of Strength but that is neither here nor there. His story of the first Festivus is priceless:

Frank: "Many Christmases ago, I went to buy a doll for my son. I reached for the last one they had, but so did another man. As I rained blows upon him, I realized there had to be another way!"

Kramer: "What happened to the doll?"

Frank: "It was destroyed. But out of that, a new holiday was born. A Festivus for the rest of us!"

Kramer: "That musta been some kind of doll."

Frank: "She was."
Not only does "The Strike" touch upon all the other Holidays (They might have missed Kwanzaa. And Diwali. Maybe I should have picked that one.)but it pretty clearly outlines its own. From the pole, the Airing of Grievances, and the Feats of Strength, Festivus is a joyous time for all.

Every part of this episode is funny. From Kramer's Festivus "Miracles" to the typically exquisite Seinfeld dialogue ("Yama hama! It's fright night!"), it's a beautifully crafted episode that demonstrates the core determinations of each character that I've previously described. It also readily spoofs the Late December general malaise towards holidays. Jerry and Elaine, among the other OTB characters all assumingly attend the Festivus dinner without much distraction, readily buying into this ridiculous holiday. There's a "go-with-the-flow" feel during the dinner that captures a lot of Seinfeld's later years, just riding out the glory.

So tonight, my dear readers, may your Festivus Poles stand straight and may your grievances be aired! Hooray! A Festivus for the rest of us!

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