Superman on Television
Seinfeld's Pal, SupermanA Look at the Superman Related References on TV's "Seinfeld"
Almost everyone knows that comedian Jerry Seinfeld is a big Superman fan. But an urban legend has sprung up that Jerry snuck a reference to the Man of Steel in every episode of NBC's Must-See comedy juggernaut, "Seinfeld", which aired from 1989 to 1998. Not true.
Thanks to my TIVO, I've taken a ride around the syndication wheel of "Seinfeld" repeats on TBS over the past few months, screening the episodes for Superman references. As it turns out, the episode guide that follows is a complete list of all the episodes, in order, that mention Superman or other super-heroes (barring mistakes or omissions and please feel free to make me aware of any you spot).
Some have suggested that there's something hidden in every episode even if there isn't an overt super-reference. Like the Superman magnet that didn't show up on Jerry's fridge until 1993's fourth season episode "The Shoes". Or the Bowen Superman statue that's so associated with the TV show it routinely shows up on eBay as "Seinfeld Superman Statue". But the statue doesn't show up until over a year after the magnet in 1994's fifth season episode "The Wife" (which featured Courteney Cox immediately pre-"Friends"). Or even the Satellite-era Justice League of America poster that isn't ever seen full-on but hangs over George's bed early on. Even if you count these types of Superman appearances, it's still far from something super snuck into every episode. Oh and for the record I don't include a list of every episode in which the magnet and/or the statue could be seen -- even I have more of a life than that.
Without further adieu, here's the episode guide of references to Superman and other super-heroes on "Seinfeld":
"Good News, Bad News" (1989) - This is the pilot episode of the show. The next episode wouldn't air for almost another year. There's a scene where Jerry's relaxing at home in bright red and blue sweatpants. Now if it were anyone else's pilot of any other sitcom, I might believe this was a coincidence but Jerry's a geek like us. It's no coincidence.
"The Stock Tip" (1990) - The episode opens with George and Jerry sitting in regular haunt Monk's Coffee Shop debating whether Superman has a super-sense of humor. Jerry: "I think Superman probably has a very good sense of humor." George: "I never heard him say anything really funny." Jerry: "It's common sense. He's got super strength, super-speed; I'm sure he's got super-humor." George: "Either you're born with a sense of humor or you're not. It's not going to change. Even if you go from the red sun of Krypton all the way to the yellow sun of the Earth." As George makes his point, he uses the red ketchup bottle and yellow mustard bottle to represent the red and yellow suns. Jerry: "Why? Why would that one area of his mind not be affected by the yellow sun of the Earth?" George: "I don't know. But he ain't funny."
But Superman returns later in this episode. At the end, after Jerry sold a stock prematurely that George ended up profiting on, George lauded it over Jerry: "Too bad you can't get your buddy Superman to fly around the Earth at super speed and reverse time, get all the money back...." Elaine interjects: "Superman can go back in time?" Jerry replies: "We went over that."
"The Statue" (1991) - He guest-starred on the first season of "The Superfriends", he appeared in the Grant Morrison-penned JLA comic book alongside Superman, he's Plastic Man. Jerry gushes over his male maid's cleaning skills noting he even got into hard-to-reach places like... Rubber Man. For once Elaine is the one with the comic book know-how when she tells Jerry there is no Rubber Man, to which Jerry replies: "Why did I think there was a Rubber Man? There's Elastic Man and Plastic Man." Jerry's reference to Elastic Man is likely a mistaken reference to either the Elongated Man (Ralph Dibny) or Superman's pal, Jimmy Olsen, as Elastic Lad.
"The Revenge" (1991) - Kramer plots to put concrete in the washing machine of a Laundromat for revenge so that the concrete will solidify in the machine. Jerry tells Kramer -- "If only you could put your mind to something worthwhile. You're like Lex Luthor."
"The Heart Attack" (1991) - George is hospitalized when he mistakenly thinks he's having a heart attack. Jerry comes to visit with him and asks George if he'd like him to go out and get him a Superman comic.
"The Deal" (1991) - Superman's Super Friend Aquaman comes up when George asks Jerry if Aquaman was limited to being in the water or if he could be on land too. Jerry tells George that he thinks he's seen Aquaman on land a couple of times.
"The Café" (1991) - The stand-up comedy routine during the closing credits is all about why superheroes keep secret identities - like a funny "Identity Crisis". Turns out the secret identity developed as a means to avoid the petty nuisance claims of the very people helped by super-heroes. Jerry: "Superman, thanks for saving my life but did you have to come through my wall? I'm renting here, they got a security deposit. What am I supposed to do?"
"The Tape" (1991) - Jerry tells George that there's no way the Chinese have discovered a cure for baldness, and if they did they wouldn't let it out of the country. According to Jerry, "No baldness, it'd be like a nation of Supermen."
"The Chinese Restaurant" (1991) - George is telling Jerry why he had to leave his girlfriend's apartment before finishing having sex because he needed a private spot to go to the bathroom. He tells Jerry that the only possible way he could have explained his behavior to her would have been to tell her that he's secretly Batman and that he's very sorry but he just saw the Bat-signal. This is one of the rare moments during the run of the show that Batman, rather than Superman, got the spotlight.
"The Boyfriend" (Part 1) (1992) - Baseball player Keith Hernandez approaches Jerry in the gym locker room and tells him he's a big fan of his comedy. Hernandez tells him: "I love that bit about Jimmy Olsen." Also in this episode, George is out of work and a lie to unemployment means Jerry has to answer his telephone "Vandelay Industries". Jerry answers: "Vandelay Industries, Kal Varnson speaking." Kal is of course Kal-El but Kal is also Jerry's father's name in real life.
"The Good Samaritan" (1992) - Guest star Helen Slater, best known for playing Superman's cousin in 1984's "Supergirl", plays Becky Gelke who lives across the street from Jerry and Kramer. She thinks Jerry hit her car, lied about it, and then hit on her. She does accept a date from Kramer - who has a seizure when she opens the door and he hears what's playing on her TV set: Mary Hart of "Entertainment Tonight".
"The Watch" (1992) - Six years before the "Bizarro" episode, it's the first mention of Bizarro Superman. George held out for more money in negotiating their TV deal with NBC but instead of getting more money, NBC offered less money and George took it. Jerry tells him: "You know this is how they negotiate in the Bizarro world." Actually he's right.
"The Cheever Letters" (1992) - Before being told that Kramer had burnt down his cabin, Susan's father blathers on about how much the cabin means to him and described it as a "sanctuary." George nervously replies - "Kinda like Superman's Fortress of Solitude." Susan's father doesn't understand so George continues. "Superman - he built the Fortress of Solitude up at the North Pole to sort of get away from it all."
"The Visa" (1993) - George's girlfriend is attracted to Jerry because he's been acting "dark and disturbed" so George looks like the funny one of their group. George tries to convince her Jerry's only been acting dark, and tells her: "Dark and disturbed? His whole life revolves around Superman and cereal."
"The Outing" (1993) - Jerry dates the college reporter who outed him and George as a gay couple. Jerry tells the reporter that he was attracted to her right away because she reminds him of Lois Lane. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
"The Implant" (1993) - "They're real ... and they're spectacular." Teri Hatcher is Sidra Holland, who belongs to the same gym as Jerry and Elaine. Hatcher's role on "Seinfeld" actually led to her consideration for "Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman". Elaine in the steam-room with Sidra says she can't help overhearing her complaining about the man she's dating - Elaine says "Does he talk about Superman all the time?" Sidra says he does and asks if she knows him but Elaine says - "I know the type."
"The Junior Mint" (1993) - Guest star Sherman Howard plays Elaine's hospitalized beau "Roy the artist - the triangle guy" into whose body a little junior mint must fall during an operation. Howard may play a nice guy but he'd just finished three years of being a really vile, truly psychotic Lex Luthor on TV's "The Adventures of Superboy".
"The Smelly Car" (1993) - Jerry's car is stuck with the body odor of an attendant who valet parked his car. In describing the smell to George, Jerry says: "Even Superman would be helpless against this kind of stench."
"The Pilot" (part two) (1993) - Teri Hatcher appears during a montage of guest-stars from previous episodes watching Jerry's and George's pilot for the "Jerry!" show. She's watching "Jerry!" with Sal Bass who Kramer believes is really Salman Rushdie. Also guest starring in "The Pilot" two-parter is Jeremy Piven, who plays "George" on "Jerry!" Piven of course plays Ari, Vince "Aquaman" Chase's agent on HBO's "Entourage". He also provided the voice of the Elongated Man on a handful of "Justice League Unlimited" episodes.
"The Mango" (1993) - Jerry compares a female orgasm to the Batcave during his opening monologue.
"The Glasses" (1993) - Jerry calls George "Aquaboy". Aquaboy - the young Aquaman - met the Silver Age Superboy in Superboy #171 (1971).
"The Lip Reader" (1993) - The deaf ball girl's lip-reading ability is compared to Superman's X-ray vision. George: "It's like having Superman for your friend." Jerry: "I know. It's like X-ray vision." George: "If we could just harness this power and use it for our own personal gain, there'd be no stopping us." Then Jerry's very own Lex Luthor, Newman, comes in begging to use the lip reader at his postal job. Jerry refuses and Newman villainously replies: "You go ahead, you keep it secret. But you remember this. When you control the mail, you control... information." Only someone who's read a lot of comic books could possibly write this dialogue.
"The Stall" (1994) - Actor Dan Cortese is Elaine's boyfriend Tony (the Mimbo) who gets hurt in a rock-climbing accident. George goes to visit him convalescing at Elaine's and he tells George to "step off" but not before he takes a bunch of Superman comic books (including the return of one of the four Supermen after Superman's death) that George brought over.
"The Marine Biologist" (1994) - Elaine is suspicious of why Jerry is so interested in helping the woman who found Elaine's organizer. Jerry compares himself to Superman saying that, when Superman saves someone, nobody asks if he's hitting on the person. Elaine replies, "Well you're not Superman." Jerry answers, "Well you're not Lois Lane."
"The Stand-In" (1994) - Jerry goes to the hospital repeatedly to cheer up a sick friend who never laughs even once during the visits. Jerry takes it personally and keeps returning to get the laugh. Jerry finally elicits laughs from the friend with a joke about the Justice League - that Superman can do everything the other heroes do all by himself. "I mean, he's Superman for crying out loud."
"The Fire" (1994) - As Kramer relates the story of how he saved a runaway bus, George tells him: "You're Batman". Kramer replies: "Ya, I am Batman."
"The Chinese Woman" (1994) - George finds out his parents are getting a divorce and he blames the man in the cape that Jerry and Elaine saw George's father with on the street. After George says he doesn't trust men in capes, Jerry comes to the rescue of his cape-wearing hero: "You can't cast aspersions on someone just because they're wearing a cape. Superman wore a cape. And I'll be damned if I'm going to stand here and let you say something bad about him." George replies, "All right, Superman's the exception." Elaine looks on at the conversation she's just witnessed in shock.
"The Mom and Pop Store" (1994) - Elaine snooped around for answers as to whether Jerry was invited to Tim Watley's party. Jerry: "What'd you find out Lois?"
"The Race" (1994) - Jerry's girlfriend is named Lois and he keeps saying it. She works with Duncan, a guy Jerry went to High School with who believes Jerry cheated in a foot race back in school. The show ends with a rematch race between Jerry and Duncan - the entire race and Jerry's win all takes place with the John Williams "Superman" theme playing over the scene. He's then invited to join Lois on a vacation and he tells her: "Maybe I will, Lois. Maybe I will." Then he winks at the camera like George Reeves used to do on "The Adventures of Superman."
"The Switch" (1995) - Jerry dates a woman with no sense of humor and says: "The jokes kept bouncing off her like Superman." There's a sign in the background that reads "Kal's Signs" which was the name of Seinfeld's father's business.
"Highlights of a Hundred" (1995) - This clip show opens with the Superman's sense of humor scene from "The Stock Tip".
"The Fusilli Jerry" (1995) - This episode features the first appearance of Elaine's boyfriend, David Puddy, played by Patrick Warburton. Warburton went on to provide the voice of Superman in a series of commercials and webisodes for American Express featuring Seinfeld and the Man of Steel.
"The Face Painter" (1995) - George tells a woman he loves her. Then he finds out from Kramer that she is deaf in one ear and that she never heard him say it. He compares this to when Superman reversed the rotation of the Earth to save Lois Lane. Jerry asks him if he's going to say it again and George replies "That's the question Jimmy."
"The Secret Code" (1995) - Jerry's ATM Code is Jor-El, which is the name of Superman's biological father. Presumably it's spelled on the ATM keyboard without the dash.
"The Caddy" (1996) - Jerry tells Elaine that Sue Ellen Mishke ("the braless wonder") is Elaine's Lex Luthor.
"The Seven" (1996) - Jerry's dating a woman who keeps wearing the same outfit over and over. Jerry wonders if she has multiple copies of the same outfit like Superman does with his costume. When he finally gets into her apartment so he can check her closet, he says to himself: "So this is the Fortress of Solitude."
"The Invitations" (1996) - Jerry and his girlfriend who's just like him read Superman comics together. Of course she's reading Supergirl.
"The Bizarro Jerry" (1996) - This episode is one of the more infamous instances of Superman/Seinfeld symmetry. Elaine's ex-boyfriend turned friend Kevin is the Bizarro version of Jerry because he's considerate and well-read. It turns out he's got a short balding friend Gene and a wacky neighbor Feldman. His apartment is laid out exactly the opposite of Jerry's apartment. He has a statue of a long-haired Bizarro Superman in his apartment. The coffee shop where they hang out is Reggie's and Jerry calls it "the Bizarro coffee shop" to contrast it to Monk's. Jerry educates both the audience and Elaine with a Bizarro primer. Says Jerry about Bizarro: "Superman's exact opposite, who lives in the backwards Bizarro world. Up is down. Down is up. He says hello when he leaves and goodbye when he arrives." Elaine has a difficult time with the Bizarro concept at first: "Shouldn't he say badbye? Isn't that the opposite of goodbye?" Then she asks: "Does he live underwater? Is he black?" Jerry tells her to forget it. Later in the episode, Elaine says goodbye to Kevin by waving and saying "hello" because he and Feldman are off to the library to read. At the end of the episode, Kevin hugs his friends (another opposite moment as Jerry always promised the "Seinfeld" main characters wouldn't hug like on other sitcoms) and, like Bizarro, says: "Me am so happy. Me want to cry." The beginning.
"The Voice" (1997) - George's boss thought George was handicapped but saw George running down the street carrying his electric rascal-cart. George: "Have you ever seen the Incredible Hulk Sir?" Boss: "No." George: "How about the old Spider-Man live action show?" A rare Marvel reference.
"The Strike" (1997) - It's a Festivus for the rest of us. As the episode opens, the gang's at Dentist Tim Watley's Hanukkah party. Jerry's introductory pick up line to a woman at the party - "You might not know this to look at me but I can run really really fast." He is of course referring to 1994's Superman inspired "The Race". But it turns out the woman Jerry's picked up puts forth two faces depending on the lighting so George tells Jerry that "she's a two-face." Jerry proves he's one of "us" once again with his response - "Like the Batman villain?" George replies sarcastically: "If that helps you." It'd help me.
"The Cartoon" (1998) - Jerry insults Elaine's artistic skills so she tells him that her pictures are better than his pictures "of naked Lois Lane." Jerry screams: "Where did you see that? Those are private!"
"The Strong Box" (1998) - This time it's fellow JLA'er Green Lantern who gets the mention when Jerry suggests that Elaine's mysterious new boyfriend may be a super-hero. "You could be dating the Green Lantern." Elaine doesn't remember who that is so Jerry refreshes her recollection - "Green suit, power ring." Elaine replies: "I never liked jewelry on men." When it turns out later on that Green Lantern isn't a super-hero at all but is just poor (and married), Jerry jokes that he's the "Got-no-Green-Lantern" and George suggests his girlfriend's "Lois Loan". Jerry then quips - "He could wipe out his checking account in a single bound." Finally, Elaine accepts that she is indeed "Lois Loan" and pays the poor, married boyfriend off.
"The Bookstore" (1998) - Jerry to Kramer and Newman: "To the Idiot-mobile."
"The Puerto Rican Day" (1998) - Jerry again uses the alias "Kal Varnson."
"The Clip Show (a.k.a. The Chronicle)" (1998) - Immediately after the framing sequence, a montage of clips is shown with the John Williams "Superman" theme playing.
"The Finale" Part 2 (1998) - A year after "Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman" went off the air, Teri Hatcher returns to network television for her third and final appearance as Sidra Holland, the woman with the real and spectacular breasts. She testifies against Elaine and Jerry, then ends up in bed with Jackie Chiles, the gang's defense lawyer.