Old Friends

30 Years Ago, One Classic Sitcom Episode Made Us Believe Candy Could Save Your Life

Why “The Junior Mint” is still so refreshing.

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SEINFELD -- "The Junior Mint" Episode 21 -- Pictured: (upper left) Jerry Seinfeld as Jerry Seinfeld,...
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Who doesn’t love a Junior Mint? Thirty years ago, on March 18, 1993, Seinfeld did one of the strangest endorsements for a candy brand, ever, and made an entire generation believe, hey maybe junior mints can really save your life!

Three decades later, “The Junior Mint,” is as fresh and funny as ever. The episode aired deep into the show’s fourth season and it checks all the boxes: the gang being selfish and uncaring toward others, an absurd premise, and entertaining individual storylines for Jerry, Elaine, George, and Kramer, Join us as we dig into the candy bowl for a look back at “The Junior Mint.”

“The Junior Mint” Weaves Classic Seinfeld Plots

Jerry dates a woman (Susan Walters) whose name he can’t remember. Elaine reconnects with an old boyfriend, Roy (Sherman Howard), whom she’d dumped over his weight. George fusses over what to do with $1900 in found money and watches Home Alone for the first time ever. And Kramer accuses Dr. Wexler (Victor Raider-Wexler) of using an unsafe device, prompting Dr. Wexler to invite Kramer to watch a surgery … on Roy. Kramer drags Jerry along and, behaving as if he’s at a movie, talks, chows down on Junior Mints, and “psssts” at Dr. Wexler to shift over a bit so he can get a better view of the surgery.

Jerry turns down Kramer’s offers to share some Junior Mints, at one point, pushing Kramer’s arm away, which sends the Junior Mint – in glorious slow-mo -- up into the air and down into Roy’s body, where it goes unnoticed – and ultimately saves his life. At the end of the episode, even the doctor believes some kind of divine intervention helped save Roy.

Jerry Gets Mean. George Gets Greedy

Jerry and crew up the callousness ante here considerably. It’s hard to imagine a contemporary show fat-shame a character the way Roy gets fat-shamed here. Elaine walked away from Roy because of his weight, takes an interest in him again because he’s thin now, and dumps him again when he resumes his old habits. George decides to use his $1900 to buy Roy’s strange triangular art under the assumption it will gain value if Roy dies during the upcoming surgery.

As the surgery approaches, Kramer says, “Come on, Jerry. Hurry, I don't want to miss it,” to which Jerry replies, “Let me finish my coffee. Then we'll go watch 'em slice this fat bastard up.” The look on Seinfeld’s face registers pure evil glee. Is that Jerry, the character, excited to enjoy someone else’s misery, or Jerry, the show’s star and producer, relishing what he’s just gotten away with?

How “The Junior Mint” Got Made

Warner-Lambert, the company that produced Junior Mints, debated whether or not to let their product be featured in such a way on Seinfeld. They apparently gave their blessing when a negative line was dropped and the sweet treat received praise as “refreshing.” Victor Raider-Wexler reprised his role as the doctor in three subsequent episodes, including “The Invitations” (when Susan dies) and the series finale. Meanwhile, Susan Walters returned as Mulva/Dolores in season eight’s “The Foundation.”

And, according to Jennifer Keishin Armstrong’s excellent book Seinfeldia: How a Show About Nothing Changed Everything, “The Junior Mint” writer Andy Robin thought he’d ruined not just the show, but his career, simply by writing such an absurd premise. He also explained that the script referred to the character of Mulva/Dolores as “Cloris.” But then, something strange happened, according to Robin: “The warm-up comedian asked the studio audience, just before the taping, to guess the woman in question’s name, (and) someone guessed Dolores. David and Seinfeld decided that was a better choice and subbed it in at the last minute.” And so, that last-minute joke that ends the episode only happened because of audience feedback.

The Stunt Mint

That Junior Mint that flies through the air? It was a … York Peppermint Patty! Director Tom Cherones, in an interview for the Seinfeld Season 4 DVD collection, explained that he worked with the episode’s camera operator, John Oteri, to determine how they could shoot something as small as a Junior Mint flipping in flight. “(Oteri) says, ‘Well, flip it up and we’ll try to do it.’ Well, we did it several times with the little one, and we just couldn’t catch it. So, we went and bought a York Peppermint Patty, which is much larger, and we flipped that. And he got it the first time. But, it was going up, so we had to reverse it in post-production so that it would fall down. That’s the way we got that show.”

“The Junior Mint,” and the rest of Seinfeld, streams on Netflix.

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