12 Things You Didn’t Know About Seinfeld9
By Chris Simmons
12 Things You Didn’t Know About Seinfeld
For a show famously purporting to be about “nothing,” Seinfeld sure has been one of the biggest “somethings” the TV industry has ever seen. The legendary sitcom, which ran from 1989-1998, was about a stand-up comedian named Jerry and his friends, played by the real life stand-up comedian named Jerry, and his friends. Each episode focused on petty minutiae in each of the characters everyday lives.
Although the characters of Seinfeld are notoriously described as an example of the postmodern selfish generation, the talented cast forced us love them and often even relate to their petty issues. And, much like antagonistic friends, Tim and Nick of the series Old Friends, we loved watching them say the wrong things and then pay the consequences.
Seinfeld is considered not only a commercial and critical success, but a cultural phenomenon as well – making its way into the American lexicon with phrases like “yada yada yada,” “no soup for you,” and “master of your domain.” It’s no surprise Time Magazine named it the greatest television program of all time in 2002.
Still, although it was one of the most-watched programs in the history of the medium, we bet there are quite a few things you didn’t know about Seinfeld. Here are some interesting facts… about nothing.
Old Friends – Pilot
1. SEINFELD, THE DOCUMENTARY?
Comedian Jerry Seinfeld didn’t intend to do a sitcom. The original plan for the project that ultimately became SEINFELD was a 90-minute TV documentary called “Stand-Up,” in which Seinfeld shows the process behind crafting his routines. NBC execs saw the footage and decided that it could be the basis for a sitcom. And thus, a medium that Seinfeld thought he’d left behind pulled him back in. In 2002, after the series ran its course, Seinfeld finally made that documentary under the title, Comedian.
2. JERRY BOMBS ON “BENSON”
In 1980, a very young Jerry Seinfeld had a recurring role as Jerry the Speechwriter on BENSON. After a handful of episodes, he was fired, an action the show’s producers neglected to tell him about until he showed up to an empty set.
3. ONE AND DONE?
Far from being the cultural phenomenon it would later become, SEINFELD (its original official title: THE SEINFELD CHRONICLES) was essentially a failed pilot burned off by NBC in the summer of 1989. Luckily, there was one lone exec that believed in the show about nothing. Rick Ludwin, a VP of Late Night Programs, saw the show’s potential and used money from his own budget to finance four additional episodes of the show. Ludwin can legitimately claim to be the man who saved SEINFELD.
The legendary character of Newman began his life on SEINFELD as a disembodied voice in the episode “The Revenge.” And the man who voiced Newman? SEINFELD co-creator Larry David! When it was decided that Newman would be seen as well as heard, Wayne Knight was hired. Knight also re-dubbed Newman’s original “appearance.”
5. “THE SNIFFING ACCOUNTANT”
From the beginning, SEINFELD episodes had a penchant for art imitating life. A most pointed example of this was the 1994 episode “The Sniffing Accountant,” about Jerry and Kramer’s suspicions that their accountant was on drugs. Seinfeld says that in real life, his one-time accountant did disappear with $50,000 of his money to fuel a drug habit.
6. THAT’S BIZARRO, JERRY!
In “The Masseuse” (an episode from 1993), Elaine is dating Joel Rifkin, a luckless dude cursed with the same name as a (fictional) serial killer. When the two discuss a name change for him, Elaine comes up with “O.J.,” a choice Rifkin seems to consider for a moment. Who knew that one year later, “O.J.” would lose all of its juice as a popular naming option?
7. THE SEINFELD-SPIELBERG CONNECTION
When Jerry learned that director Steven Spielberg had taken to watching SEINFELD as a cure for his depression while filming SCHINDLER’S LIST, Seinfeld paid homage by incorporating the film into the fabric of the fan-favorite two part episode “The Raincoats.” In this episode, Jerry and his girlfriend make out during a screening of the movie and are reprimanded for their bad taste.
8. JERRY STEALING A CATCHPHRASE? THAT’S A SHAME.
Jerry had a famous catchphrase, “that’s a shame…” But the real “shame” is that he actually stole the phrase from his best friend George! It was George who first uttered, “That’s a shame!” in the episode “The Chaperone.” Later in the same ep, Jerry repeats the line, and a stolen catchphrase is born!
9. THE REAL STEINBRENNER? GET OUT!
One of the funniest recurring characters in SEINFELD’s later seasons was New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, famously voiced by Larry David. The real Steinbrenner actually DID film scenes for the episode “The Invitations” – although it never aired. Contrary to the persistent rumor that Steinbrenner objected to the storyline of Susan dying of toxic poisoning from licking the cheap envelopes, the real scenes were cut for time considerations.
10. JACK KLOMPUS RALLIES!
Jack Klompus, Morty Seinfeld’s Florida nemesis, made several memorable appearances. But he almost didn’t make his last one. Sandy Baron, who played Klompus, was in a coma days before he was to film the episode “The Money” where Jerry tries to sell the Cadillac to Klompus. The producers were nearly forced to rewrite the role, but Baron revived just in time to torment Jerry as only he could.
11. “THE PUERTO RICAN DAY”
“The Puerto Rican Day,” the last “real” episode before the infamous finale, is perhaps the most unintentionally controversial SEINFELD episode of them all. It included two scenes of “prescient” proportions, both involving Kramer. 1. Kramer inadvertently sets the Puerto Rican flag on fire. 2. Kramer’s off-hand comment that “Puerto Ricans are emotional, excitable people.” forced this episode to be banned from syndication. As for Michael Richards’ post-SEINFELD comments at a comedy club? You know the story.
12. 110 MILLION BUCKS? THAT’S A WHOLE LOT OF NOTHING
Jerry Seinfeld pretty much knew that, creatively, SEINFELD had run its course and ended the show while it was literally on top of the ratings. But did you know that NBC offered him a GUARANTEED 5 million dollars per episode for one more 22-episode season? He turned it down, but I almost wished he would have re-considered. Television in many ways hasn’t been the same since SEINFELD left. A show about nothing, my ass!
Old Friends – Date Night
Old Friends – Tennis
Chris Simmons is a scriptwriter, blogger and professional Story Analyst for motion pictures. He’s written dozens of animated scripts for TV including co-developing the award-winning series STATIC SHOCK! for Warner Bros. Animation. He’s currently in the early stages of development on a situation comedy for BET. He also watches TV, a lot. Chris is married with two children and lives in Los Angeles, CA.