The Seinfeld Chronicles
|"The Seinfeld Chronicles"|
George and Jerry in Pete's Luncheonette.
|Episode no.||Season 1
|Directed by||Art Wolff|
|Written by||Larry David
|Original air date||July 5, 1989|
|Season 1 episodes|
|List of Seinfeld episodes|
"The Seinfeld Chronicles" (also known as "Good News, Bad News" for syndication or even "Pilot") is the pilot episode of the NBC sitcom Seinfeld. The pilot, the first of the 180 Seinfeld episodes, was written by show creators Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld (the latter starring as a fictionalized version of himself), and was directed by Art Wolff. During the episode, Jerry frets over the romantic intentions of a woman who requests to stay with him while she’s in town on business. It originally aired on July 5, 1989, and was re-broadcast June 28, 1990, after the show had been picked up as a series.
When first broadcast, the pilot was watched by nearly 11% of American households. These ratings were high enough to secure the show's first season, which consisted of five episodes, including the pilot. Seinfeld later went on to become one of the most successful sitcoms in television history.
The pilot episode features several differences from the rest of the series. The character of series regular Kramer (played by Michael Richards) is named "Kessler" (which is eventually retconned in the season 9 episode "The Betrayal"), and he also has a dog that does not appear during the rest of the series. Another regular character, Elaine Benes, does not appear in the episode. The main characters, Jerry Seinfeld and George Costanza (Jason Alexander), eat at "Pete's Luncheonette" (a set that had its exterior left over from The Muppets Take Manhattan), as opposed to Monk's Café. Differences between how the characters behave in the pilot and the rest of the series have also been noted, as well as the different theme song.
The character of Claire the waitress (Lee Garlington) was originally planned as a regular but was dropped and replaced with Elaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus). On the September 2, 2011 episode of Kevin Pollak's Chat Show, guest Jason Alexander (George from "Seinfeld") stated that Garlington made certain unwelcome suggestions to show co-creator Larry David and that her role was dropped because of these suggestions. The pilot guest stars Pamela Brull as Laura.
The series opens with Jerry Seinfeld and George Costanza seated at Pete's Luncheonette, debating the placement of one of George's shirt buttons. The waitress, Claire, pours each of them a cup of coffee. George frets about whether Claire is giving him regular or decaffeinated coffee, saying he does not want caffeine in it. Claire later, to annoy him, implies that she gave him regular. Jerry then tells George about a woman he met in Lansing, Michigan, Laura, who is coming to New York. Jerry wonders if she has romantic intentions. The two continue to talk about her after they leave the luncheonette and go to the laundry.
The next evening, Jerry tells his neighbor Kessler (as the character is known at the time) that he thinks he misunderstood the situation with Laura. Jerry then receives a telephone call from Laura, who asks if she can stay overnight at his apartment. Jerry invites her, but is still unsure whether or not her visit is intended to be romantic. George and Jerry continue to debate the issue, with Jerry determined to find the true nature of her visit.
At the airport, George and Jerry continue to try to identify the possible signals Laura might give upon her arrival, with George explaining the meaning of various greetings. However, when Laura arrives, her greeting is ambiguous. Jerry and Laura arrive at the apartment. Laura then removes her shoes and some excess clothing to get comfortable, and while in her stocking feet asks for wine, turns down the light and asks if she can stay over a second night. As Jerry begins to grow confident, the phone rings for Laura. When Laura gets off the phone she tells Jerry: "Never get engaged." Jerry then realizes that he has no chance with Laura, but has already committed himself – and his one-bedroom apartment – to an entire weekend with her, including a five-hour sightseeing boat ride around Manhattan.
Seinfeld said that the idea of the episode was to show there are "gaps in society where there are no rules." The pilot was filmed at Stage 8 of Desilu Cahuenga studios, the same studio where The Dick Van Dyke Show was filmed (this was seen by the crew as a good omen), and was recorded at Ren-Mar Studios in Hollywood. The stand-up element of the pilot was seen as a distinctive feature; however, some of this material was not included in the broadcast version. In the pilot, Kramer has a dog called Ralph, included so a stand-up routine Seinfeld had written about dogs could be used. However, this routine was cut, and as a result Ralph was never explained, and did not appear in any other episodes.
Originally, the pilot was to feature George, as well as Jerry, as a comedian. Early versions of the script featured George, named "Bennett," discussing his stand-up performance. However, this idea was abandoned, and George became a real estate broker. Claire the waitress was originally called "Meg." The character of Kramer did not appear in the first draft of the script. In later scripts, he appears as "Kramer." However, as Kramer was named after a real person (Kenny Kramer) he was called "Hoffman," and later "Kessler," because of worries about the rights to use the name. The original title of the pilot was Stand Up. This later was changed to The Jerry Seinfeld Show, then Good News, Bad News. However, the production staff and writers refer to the pilot as The Seinfeld Chronicles, to avoid confusion with a later Seinfeld episode called "The Pilot". Other titles considered included Signals and The Airport Pick-Up. The pilot features different title music, written by Jep Epstein, which was never used again. Jonathan Wolff takes over as the main person who provided the trademark slap bass music. Some of the people in the studio audience were paid extras, but all the laughter heard is genuine.
A deleted scene from the episode features Jerry and George driving to the airport, where they talk about changing lanes on the road and giving "Thank you waves." This was reused in later episodes "The Good Samaritan" and "The Puerto Rican Day". Some parts of the stand-up material featured in the pilot were filmed for an episode in the second season, "The Ex-Girlfriend", but were cut from the episode.
On its initial showing, July 5, 1989, "The Seinfeld Chronicles" was received poorly by audience testing groups, who gave the episode an overall grade of "Weak". Comments included, "You can't get too excited about two guys going to the laundromat"; "Jerry's loser friend George is not a forceful character"; "Jerry needs a stronger supporting cast"; and "Why are they interrupting the stand-up for these stupid stories?" Other people complained that the show was "too Jewish" and "too New York." Jerry was seen as naïve, dense and powerless. As a result, NBC passed on the show.
However, NBC executive Rick Ludwin believed the series had potential. He therefore gave Seinfeld a budget to create four more episodes, which formed the rest of season 1. Phil Rosenthal later wrote, "Without Ludwin, there would have been no Seinfeld. He commissioned the pilot, took money out of his specials budget to keep the show alive and oversaw the program for its entire run."
This is the smallest sitcom order in television history. Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Elaine) has claimed that she was not aware of the pilot before she became a regular on Seinfeld. Out of superstition, she has claimed she will never watch the episode.
When it was broadcast, the pilot received a Nielsen rating of 10.9/19, meaning that the pilot was watched by 10.9% of American households, and that 19% of all televisions in use at the time were tuned into it. When it was first repeated on June 28, 1990, it received a rating of 13.9/26. These ratings were high enough to secure a second season. NBC research showed that the show was popular with young male adults, a demographic sought after by advertisers. This gave NBC an incentive to keep broadcasting the show. One DVD reviewer, Britt Gillette, wrote that "this initial episode exhibits the flashes of brilliance that made Seinfeld a cultural phenomenon."
Another review, by Colin Jacobson of DVD Movie Guide, said, "As one watches the pilot, it's hard to believe Seinfeld ever became so great. Okay – that's not wholly true, as one can see the sparks of the series' later inventiveness. However, the pilot is almost totally free from humor, as little about it seems amusing. It's got potential but little else." Benjamin Willcock from DVD Active wrote: "The pilot episode entitled 'The Seinfeld Chronicles' was actually not exclusive to the show, it does not, for example have most of the acting talent as seen later on in the show, and some of the references might not make sense at first. It's still a good way to get things rolling, but for the real meat you'll want to check out the remainder of the first season, as vastly abbreviated as it is." In 2010, David Sims of The A.V. Club gave the episode a B. In the review, he stated "Mostly, I wondered what the reaction must have been when this thing aired in July 1989. It’s really kinda odd. The main set-piece is nebbishy guys debating the sexual relevance of handshakes from girls. It’s sort of incredible that this got 10.9 Nielsen rating (and that that was barely enough reason for NBC to order a minuscule four-episode first season)."
References in later episodes
The pilot was a reference point for various incidents and storylines in later episodes of Seinfeld.
- The opening scene in which Jerry and George talk about the placement of a shirt button is repeated almost word for word in the second to last scene of "The Finale", the final episode of Seinfeld (with George remarking about having that conversation before).
- The process of making the pilot became the inspiration for the main story arc of season 4, in which Jerry and George write a sitcom pilot for NBC called Jerry.
- Jerry's calling Kramer "Kessler" is explained in "The Betrayal", the "backwards episode" in season 9. This features a scene from 11 years in the past, in which Jerry moves into his new apartment. Jerry calls Kramer "Kessler" after reading his name on the apartment buzzer, but Kramer quickly corrects him.
- George's philosophy of doing the opposite to his natural instincts reappears in the episode "The Opposite".
- George has an extra crop of hair in the front, which would later become bald for the rest of the show's run. A flashback in “The Slicer” is set in '89, the year this episode was filmed, and shows George with a full crop of hair at the beach.
- In the episode "The Shoes", Jerry admits he is unable to write for women. When Elaine is offended by a woman pointing out her shoes, Jerry is surprised to know that she is offended, and reminds Elaine "this is why you're not in the pilot".
- Seinfeld Seasons 1 & 2: Notes about Nothing - "The Seinfeld Chronicles" (DVD). Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. 2004-11-23.
- "The Seinfeld Chronicles - Pilot". Seinfeld Episode Guide. Sony Pictures. Retrieved 2010-07-18.
- Sims, David (2010-06-03). "'The Seinfeld Chronicles' and 'Male Unbonding'". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 2010-07-18.
- "Kevin Pollak's Chat Show".
- Kytasaari, Dennis (2007-08-09). "Seinfeld (a Titles & Air Dates Guide)". epguides.com. Retrieved 2008-03-19.
- Jerry Seinfeld (2004-11-23). Seinfeld Seasons 1 & 2: Inside Looks - "The Seinfeld Chronicles" (DVD). Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.
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- Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David (2004-11-23). Seinfeld Seasons 1 & 2: Inside Looks - "The Seinfeld Chronicles" (DVD). Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.
- Littlefield, Warren (2012-05-29). QA: Former NBC honcho offered Jerry Seinfeld over $100 million for one more 'Seinfeld' season. Interview with Gostin, Nicki. Fox411. http://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/2012/05/29/qa-former-nbc-honcho-offered-jerry-seinfeld-over-100-million-for-one-more/. Retrieved May 30, 2012.
- Boudreaux, Jonathan (2004-11-24). "Seinfeld: Season 1 & 2 DVD Review". tvdvdreviews.com. Retrieved 2008-03-19.
- Duffy, Mike (2004-11-24). "Give thanks for 'The 'Seinfeld' Story'". azcentral.com. Retrieved 2008-03-19.
- Rosenthal, Phil (August 21, 2005). "NBC executive stands apart by taking stands". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved September 26, 2012.
- Julia Louis-Dreyfus (2004-11-23). Seinfeld Seasons 1 & 2: Inside Looks - "The Seinfeld Chronicles" (DVD). Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.
- Rapp, David (2006-05-31). "Seinfeld: The Unlikeliest Success Story". American Heritage. Retrieved 2008-03-19.
- Gillette, Britt (2006-09-20). "Seinfeld (Seasons 1 & 2) DVD Review". Article City. Retrieved 2008-03-19.
- Jacobson, Colin (2004-11-18). "Seinfeld: Seasons 1 & 2 (1990-1991)". DVD Movie Guide. Retrieved 2008-03-19.
- Willcock, Benjamin. "Seinfeld: Season 1 & 2 Boxed Set". DVD Active. Retrieved 2008-03-19.