Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Season 1, Pilot Episode: The Seinfeld Chronicles

The Seinfeld Chronicles

There's something unsettling about watching a pilot episode for a show that we're so familiar with. When we've watched the same characters in hundreds of 22 minute installments over and over and over we tend to think of having a sort of crude intimate relationship with them and pilots can rip that familiarity away from us.

As it often happens in American television, especially comedies, things... change. Between filming a pilot and a series being greenlit a lot can happen. An actor can be replaced. Sets can be changed. Characters can be added or removed. Watching a pilot is like wandering into the Mirror Universe or the Other Side or the Twilight Zone or Bizzaro World. Everything seems familiar but nothing seems right. And when you watch a show with that mindset, the differences begin to stick out and the aspects still familiar fade away.

And it's that mindset with which I watched the pilot of Seinfeld; a strange voyage to a Universe where Jerry and George eat at a diner called Pete's, Michael Richards behaves more like his UHF character than Kramer (and he has a dog-further proof we're in an alternate timeline), George has a steady job (Real Estate), Jerry's apartment is Bike and Superman free, Kramer hasn't been out of the building in 10 years, and Elaine is... dead, or something-I don't know, she's not here and that's what matters. Even the name of the show in the pilot "The Seinfeld Chronicles" has the ring of a 50s Anthology series.

So while the basic themes and structures are essentially in place- Jerry and George act more or less like themselves, the stand-up is present and the observational material is there, I found it almost impossible to focus on any of the story with all those Bizarro World style differences. Once Elaine shows up I'm sure things will feel better.

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