Sometimes, a television show still lingers with you even after it goes off the air. Seinfeld happens to be one of those shows for many critics and fans. The series elevated the names of Jerry Seinfeld, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jason Alexander, and Michael Richards, and left a benchmark on the television landscape altogether. However, Seinfeld is far from perfect. Though the comedy has won ten Primetime Emmys including Outstanding Comedy Series and Outstanding Individual Achievement in Writing in a Comedy Series within its nine seasons, many aren’t too fond of the series finale. However, while many consider the series finale a weak point of the show, many don’t seem to realize that Seinfeld took some time to get into a solid groove. That’s to say that the pilot for the series just wasn’t as good as some of the best episodes that define what makes it such an unforgettable show. Why?
Well, Seinfeld does everything a pilot is supposed to do. It immediately thrusts you into the world of Jerry Seinfeld as the very first scene is the comedian doing his traditional stand-up comedy routine. The joke is solid, though it’s not exactly gut-bustlingly funny. Granted, comedy is extremely subject and arguably the hardest genre to do because everyone has different tastes in humor. Perhaps you uproariously laughed at the joke of going out, and Seinfeld’s performance is never the issue here. The key to great comedy is that there’s a layer of truth that makes the joke really something special. There’s no denying that the opening gag is coded with truth bombs, but it’s just average at best. That’s kind of the way I would describe the entire pilot: average at best. There are some really good zingers here and there, namely George trying to prove to Jerry that the woman just isn’t into him or the laundromat scene, but everything else is…there. Maybe it’s the fact that Elaine is not part of the crew here. Fun fact: Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s Elaine Benes almost never happened in the show period. Originally, Claire – the waitress who had some nice banter with George and Jerry at the diner – was going to be the female lead of the show. Now, there’s several reported reasons as to why Lee Garlington was dropped. In Dennis Bjorklund’s book, Seinfeld Reference: The Complete Encyclopedia with Biographies, Character Profiles & Episode Summaries, the author stated this, “After the pilot, her character was dropped to add more sex appeal to the only female supporting role.”
There were also reports that Garlington rewrote David’s dialogue, something that didn’t sit well with the creator. Or even the explanation of from the NBC Entertainment Chief that the gang needed someone to hang out with Jerry and the crew, something that the local waitress wasn’t going to do. The reason I spent so much time with this is due to the fact that Elaine added so much to the dynamic of George, Jerry, and Kramer. She’s a great counterbalance for the men and her presence is sorely missed. This isn’t a shot at Lee Garlington because she was fun in her scenes, but the dynamic was a bit off in the pilot. So was the structure. The biggest part of this episode is mainly Jerry’s stand-up, which often bogs down the momentum of capturing the dynamic between George, Jerry, and Kramer. Notably, the stand-up scenes fade out as the show moves along, and for good reason to. It’s not that these moments are bad, it just feels random and interrupts the flow of the overall story. It would’ve been great if Kramer was more involved with the pilot as well, mainly getting his perspective on the situation with Jerry and the mysterious woman who happens to have a fiancé. Obviously, this is a show about nothing, so a coherent storyline wasn’t expected, and despite the fact that Seinfeld mainly focuses on the real-life aspect of every-day ventures, the show never feels as if its losing steam in terms of content. It feels a bit disjointed, but only because Seinfeld cuts back-and-forth to the comedian’s stand-up.
Still, the pilot is funny more often than not and none of the jokes feel dated. What Seinfeld does so well is incorporate events that could happen in real life and adds a humorous twist to it. This review seems overly negative but in reality, it’s a decent opener to a series that finds its groove as time goes on. Would I have watched Seinfeld past the pilot? Maybe, though leaning towards no. There’s nothing that really gets me excited to continue exploring the world of Jerry and his friends. Though at the end of the day, it’s still ten times better than a good majority of pilots that hit the network landscape yearly.Julia Louis-Dreyfus
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