Seinfeld and Kramer Co-Starred in A Movie Together Before ‘Seinfeld’
Years before Seinfeld hit the airwaves, Jerry Seinfeld and Michael Richards teamed up in a comedy movie that, despite its stars (Taxi star Danny DeVito directed and co-starred with his wife, Cheers’ Rhea Perlman), most comedy fans have never heard of.
The Ratings Game featured DeVito as Vic DeSalvo, a New Jersey trucking tycoon with Hollywood dreams. He tries hawking his scripts at all the TV networks, and of course, he gets turned down — shouldn’t a successful businessman know you don’t walk in without an appointment when you want to land a series deal? I’ll cut to the chase: DeSalvo falls in love with Francine (Perlman), an underling at a ratings company who teaches him how to manipulate the numbers for network success. Hilarity ensues.
Seinfeld fans aren’t missing much if they don’t seek out The Ratings Game (although the entire movie is available for free on YouTube). Seinfeld only appears in one scene as a network executive who isn’t buying what DeVito is selling.
Considering that the movie is from 1984, Seinfeld’s studio exec isn’t too far off from what some might believe about what’s getting greenlit today. “The networks aren't buying Italians, Jews and Puerto Ricans this season,” he says. “They’re buying gays, alcoholics, child molesters.”
As for Richards? He’s a hired goon who breaks into a house to watch DeSalvo’s show, the questionable Saturday morning kiddie show Goombas. It’s all about boosting the ratings, but Richards’ character gets unexpectedly attached to the show nonetheless.
There aren’t many critic reviews up on Rotten Tomatoes, but the ones that are there don’t hate The Ratings Game. Matt Brunson at Creative Loafing says, “The razor-sharp script contains countless knowing digs at the TV industry, and the mock shows created for (phony network) MBC (H.O.T. B.O.D.S. and Levar, the pimp series Nunzio’s Girls, etc.) are inspired.”
Mike McGranaghan at The Aisle Seat isn’t as enthusiastic, partly because the TV industry has changed so much since 1984 that The Ratings Game’s topical jokes no longer land. Even so, “its spoofing of ’80s TV shows is spot-on. Anyone who remembers the worst television fare of that time will get some laughs of recognition.”
One thing’s for sure: The Ratings Game didn’t make either Seinfeld or Richards a star. No matter, as their future team-up on Seinfeld would crush the real-life Ratings Game.