The Big Picture
- Season 7 of Seinfeld introduced a new storyline where George gets engaged to Susan, resulting in hilarious and awkward moments.
- The cast of Seinfeld did not enjoy working with Heidi Swedberg, the actress who played Susan, due to differing acting styles.
- Susan’s character was killed off in a season finale episode titled “The Invitations,” providing a bizarre and awkward twist to the storyline.
One of the running gags during Seinfeld‘s nine-season run was how every member of the foursome couldn’t keep a relationship going. Every week it seemed like either Jerry (Jerry Seinfeld), George (Jason Alexander), Kramer (Michael Richards), or Elaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) was dating something new. That poor soul became fodder, a character to be criticized or used by someone else in hilarious fashion, until they were either cast aside or dumped out of disgust.
In Season 7, Seinfeld went for something new and different. They had a relationship stick, and not just for a few episodes, but an entire season. More shocking, they even had one of the Seinfeld four get engaged when George proposed to Susan (Heidi Swedberg). It made for some funny moments, as George came to almost immediately regret his decision, but in real life, none of the main stars liked working with Swedberg. It got so bad that finally, Larry David had to resort to drastic measures.
The continuing misadventures of neurotic New York City stand-up comedian Jerry Seinfeld and his equally neurotic New York City friends.
- Release Date
- July 5, 1989
- Jerry Seinfeld, Jason Alexander, Michael Richards, Julia Louis-Dreyfus
- Main Genre
George and Susan’s Relationship Created Some of ‘Seinfeld’s Most Awkward Moments
Susan first showed up in Seinfeld during Season 4 as an NBC exec when Jerry and George are pitching their show about nothing. She became George’s girlfriend, but during her time with Costanza, the poor woman suffered. Kramer vomited on her, and if that wasn’t enough, he accidentally set fire to her dad’s cabin. A kiss from George got her fired from NBC. She even started dating another woman, which George is convinced is because of their failed relationship.
Susan didn’t appear in Season 5 or 6. She wouldn’t be seen again until the Season 7 premiere, “The Engagement.” It’s there that Jerry and George decide they can’t stand living their lives alone anymore. “I want to be normal!” George screams. He admits that he still thinks about Susan. What about her lesbianism? “It didn’t take.” George shows up at her door and blurts out a proposal, which Susan accepts. George is happy until Jerry tells him he decided to break up with his girlfriend and is not going to change after all. Now George is stuck.
Season 7 finds Susan being put upon again by a man who doesn’t want to be with her but can’t get out of it. And boy does George try. One episode has him taking up smoking because he thinks it’ll make Susan leave him. He does this even though everything about smoking makes him sick. Those cigarettes got a hold of him and he can’t stop now! Nothing works, and Susan stays. But then, in a moment that is shocking even for Seinfeld, Susan dies after licking what turned out to be toxic envelopes for their wedding invitations. Susan is dead and George is free.
The Cast of ‘Seinfeld’ Hated Acting With Heidi Swedberg
Susan and George’s relationship may have made for some great comedy, but it could also be awkward at times because Susan is so different from everyone. She’s not self-absorbed and awful like them. She’s normal. She’s boring. She’s just a regular person, and for some reason, she keeps putting up with George when she could do so much better. Susan wasn’t an intentionally funny character. She played it straight, but what happened to her was certainly funny. Those different acting styles caused a clash with the other actors.
In 2015, Jason Alexander told Howard Stern it was “fucking impossible” to work with Heidi Swedberg. It wasn’t that he had anything against her as a person. Instead, it had to do with their differing styles as actors.
“I couldn’t figure out how to play off of her. Her instincts for doing a scene, where the comedy was, and mine were always misfiring. And she would do something, and I would go, ‘OK, I see what she’s going to do — I’m going to adjust to her.’ And I’d adjust, and then it would change.”
Alexander didn’t like it either when he found out that his character would be getting engaged to a woman whose actress he felt that he had no chemistry with. He had no say, however. The idea to put George and Susan together, and even have them get married, was all Seinfeld creator Larry David, who actually loved their pairing, because as he told Alexander, “What [David] said was, what Heidi brought to the character is, we could do the most horrible things to her, and the audience was still on my side.”
That is true. In a normal series, we would have felt bad for Susan. She was a good person. She didn’t deserve to be treated so horribly. But this was Seinfeld, where nothing was normal. The series made its mark shining in the absurd and over-the-top. We loved seeing the core four be horrible people, even if sometimes it might make Seinfeld hard to watch now. The worse, the funnier. It’s like a slasher movie, where you’re rooting for Jason Voorhees or Michael Myers and not their victims.
Still, if the cast didn’t like working with Swedberg, how could that relationship go on? It was fine when Alexander complained, but then even Jerry Seinfeld and Julia Louis-Dreyfus had something to say after sharing several scenes with Susan. Alexander said, “They go, ‘You know what? It’s f—ing impossible. It’s impossible.’ And Julia actually said, ‘Don’t you want to just kill her?’ And Larry went, ‘Ka-bang!’”
Larry David Decided To Kill Susan’s Character
That off-hand remark by Julia Louis-Dreyfus sealed Susan’s fate (no pun intended). No longer would George and Susan be getting married, because, well…Susan had to die. Would the audience still be on George’s side though if they killed off his bride-to-be, especially when it was his fault? George, being the cheapskate he is, gets the cheapest wedding invitations he can get. That leads to Susan being poisoned by the toxic glue on them that she licks over and over again until we watch her drop dead in the season finale aptly titled “The Invitations.”
It should be a tragic moment when the doctor tells George that his fiancée is dead, but it’s not. It is awkward, yes, but Seinfeld loves its awkwardness. The audience laughs, confused about how to react. George’s reaction seals the way this will go. He’s kind to the doctor, but there’s relief behind his eyes. When he tells his friends the news they don’t know what to say. “I’m so sorry, George,” Elaine says, her tone almost a question. “So I guess you’re not getting married?” Jerry says. George smiles and almost laughs with a sigh of overwhelming relief. During the season, Jerry has tried to grow. He’s now engaged, too. It’s not fair if he’s engaged and now George isn’t. “I don’t know what to tell you,” Costanza says.
The Susan storyline continued into Season 8, with George now having to help with a foundation set up by her parents. (Great, he still can’t shake her?) While the cast may have not liked working with Heidi Swedberg, on camera Seinfeld thrived during Season 7. It took the actors out of their comfort zone. They had scenes that they didn’t feel connected with either them or the audience, but that was the whole point. George is supposed to be in a constant state of conflict and in a life he doesn’t want.
Seinfeld is available to stream on Netflix in the U.S.
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