The Chicken Roaster
|"The Chicken Roaster"|
|Directed by||Andy Ackerman|
|Written by||Alec Berg & Jeff Schaffer|
|Original air date||November 14, 1996|
"The Chicken Roaster" is the 142nd episode of the sitcom Seinfeld. This was the eighth episode for the eighth season. It aired on November 14, 1996.
A Kenny Rogers Roasters chicken restaurant opens across the street from Jerry's apartment building, complete with a gigantic red neon chicken atop the roof. The light from the Kenny Rogers Roasters sign beams right into Kramer's apartment. The bright red chicken light takes its toll on Kramer's sleeping schedule, so he proposes that he and Jerry swap apartments. Kramer hangs a banner ("Bad Chicken") from his window protesting the restaurant in an attempt to get rid of the neon sign.
Jerry and Kramer switch apartments, and Kramer takes the opportunity to invite Newman over. Newman brings over a box of Kenny Rogers Roasters chicken, to which Kramer unwittingly lets himself become addicted. Jerry finds himself unable to sleep in Kramer's apartment and gradually takes on Kramer's mannerisms, while Kramer becomes more like Jerry.
Jerry sees Newman buying enough chicken for two people at Kenny Rogers and discovers that Kramer is hooked on the stuff after the sales clerk tells Newman that he had forgotten his broccoli, which Jerry knows Newman hates.
After Jerry unintentionally sabotages the restaurant with George's drenched hat, the restaurant shuts down and the neon light finally goes off, and Kramer loses access to his beloved Kenny Rogers Roasters chicken. He is last seen repeating "Kenny" over and over with a banner saying "Kenny Come Back".
While scoping out the new restaurant, Jerry runs into an old college buddy named Seth, whom he persuades to blow off a business meeting in order for them to go have lunch together. However, Jerry learns that the meeting Seth blew off was vital to Seth keeping his job. He then learns that Seth has lost his job and discovers that Seth is working as the assistant manager at Kenny Rogers Roasters. Later, Jerry shakes Elaine's rain-soaked rat hat while at Kenny Rogers Roasters, covering the food with rat fur and prompting a shutdown of the restaurant.
Elaine, acting as the Peterman Catalog president, has fun charging numerous expensive purchases to the Peterman account, including a new sable Russian hat for George which she buys for fun. Elaine gets called out by the Peterman accounting department for her impulsive charges to the company account. George, donning his new hat, brags about his prospective date with Heather, the saleswoman who sold the hat to him. He explains that if the prospect of a second date looks slim, he'll simply pull a "leave-behind" as an excuse to come back:
GEORGE: If there's any doubt, I do a leave-behind. Keys, gloves, scarf - I go back to her place to pick it up. Date number two.
JERRY: That is so old. Why don't you show up at her door in a wooden horse?
Elaine is able to justify all her recent purchases as business expenses, except for George's hat, which cost a staggering $8,000. Heather is unimpressed by George, so he leaves his new hat behind in Heather's apartment. Elaine needs the hat to justify her purchase: "If I don't have that fur hat by four o'clock, they're gonna take me down like Nixon." When George tries to reclaim it, Heather insists that it is not in her apartment.
George and Elaine go there to search but cannot find the hat, and as an act of revenge, George secretly steals Heather's clock. Jerry directs Elaine to a source for a replacement hat to make up for the one George lost; he has a friend who sells Russian hats in Battery Park. However, the Peterman accountant isn't fooled by the substitute hat, which is made of nutria fur. To save her job, Elaine sets off for the jungles of Burma to seek the approval of J. Peterman himself. Elaine locates Peterman, but he refuses to approve her purchases without seeing the hat.
George thinks that Heather is wise to his theft of her clock and is willing to make a swap for the hat. When they meet on a park bench, George learns that Heather is interested in him after all and really believes she does not have his hat. She breaks it off when she discovers her stolen clock in George's possession.
The real Kenny Rogers Roasters restaurant chain initially balked at this episode, claiming that the scene in which Jerry accidentally covers everyone's food with rat fur would be bad publicity. The writers claimed they would alter the storyline, but ultimately did not. However, Kenny Rogers himself supported the storyline because it was great free advertising for his chain, and the restaurant supplied the cast and crew with a catered dinner.
When Jerry and Kramer swap apartments, Jerry suggests Kramer get rid of some things. One is a doll named Mr. Marbles, who Jerry fears will "come to life in the middle of the night and kill him". (This is probably meant to be reminiscent of the serial-killing doll Chucky from the Child's Play movies.) Kramer assures Jerry that Mr. Marbles is "harmless". But when Jerry is back in Kramer's apartment that night, he is terrified as a small, doll-shaped silhouette moves along the wall accompanied by a sound of rapid steps.
When Jerry suggests that George approach Heather's door in "a wooden horse" as a better idea, he is referring to the Trojan Horse. In other words, George's "leave-behind" strategy is even more archaic than the Trojan War.
Linda S. Ghent, Professor in the Department of Economics at Eastern Illinois University, discusses this episode in view of its economic themes, specifically those of externality and cost-benefit analysis. The externality here is the Kenny's neon sign: it advertises the restaurant, but it makes Kramer unhappy. But when he gets hooked on the food, he finds that the benefit of the chicken outweighs the cost of the neon glare.
Eleanor Hersey, an English professor at Fresno Pacific University, discusses Peterman's company in her 1999 essay "It'll Always Be Burma to Me: J. Peterman on Seinfeld," which begins with her premise:
The appearance of J. Peterman on Seinfeld in May 1995 marks the convergence of two significant 1990s media phenomena: the clothing company that redefined the rhetorical conventions of the mail-order catalogue and the television series that redefined the plot conventions of the situation comedy. The influence of these phenomena on one another is striking: while Seinfeld writers predicted and possibly contributed to the real J. Peterman Company's collapse, the presence of Peterman stretched the limits of Seinfeld's status as a show "about nothing." Although J. Peterman catalogues have inspired many satirical commentaries, the foppish character played by John O'Hurley may have had the greatest impact on the real J. Peterman's image as an icon of rugged masculinity and world conquest. At the same time, Peterman's character compelled Seinfeld writers to address issues of colonialism and racial stereotypes that the series had avoided in its attempt to maintain a generally "liberal" but largely apolitical status.
Hersey examines Elaine's wavering corporate ambitions, her relationship with her haughty, eccentric boss and the male power structure at the company, the seduction of consumers by way of clever advertising, and the significance of Peterman's and Kramer's attitudes toward Burma. Pointing to Jerry's query to Elaine about what she gained from a trip to Mexico, "Anything you couldn't have gotten tearing open a bag of Doritos and watching Viva Zapata!?",) Hersey argues that Seinfeld's silence about racial issues is not entirely silent and does, in fact, constitute a political statement.
- "Top 15 Seinfeld Food Related Episodes". Eating the Road. Retrieved July 13, 2012.
- "Script, Episode 142 - The Chicken Roaster". Seinology.com. Retrieved July 30, 2012.
- Hersey, Eleanor. "It'll Always Be Burma to Me: J. Peterman on Seinfeld" (PDF). Studies in Popular Culture. Popular Culture Association. Retrieved August 8, 2013.
- Van Cassel, Elke. "Getting the Joke, Even if It Is About Nothing: Seinfeld from a European Perspective," in Seinfeld, Master of Its Domain: Revisiting Television's Greatest Sitcom. Edited by David Lavery and Sara Lewis Dunne. Continuum, 2006, pp. 166-167.
- Ghent, Linda S. "Seinfeld Economics: The Chicken Roaster". Critical Commons. Retrieved July 13, 2012.
- "Script, Episode 135 - The Foundation". Seinology.com. Retrieved July 30, 2012.