TV URBAN LEGEND: The cast of “Seinfeld” refused to do an episode about guns even after filming had begun on the show.
The storylines featured on classic TV sitcom “Seinfeld” were typically influenced by the lives of the creators of the show, as well as the writers who worked on the series. Jason Alexander’s George Costanza was basically just a fictionalized version of co-creator Larry David, while the show’s other co-creator, Jerry Seinfeld, was more or less just playing himself. You would be surprised by how many of the plots actually came from real life, like the episode where George quits his job and then tries to pretend it never happen, which actually did happen to Larry David! It was this type of situation that led to what is perhaps the most infamous unproduced episode of “Seinfeld” ever, “The Bet.”
Originally scheduled to air early in Season 2 (the first season of “Seinfeld” was only five episodes long, so this would have been still in the single digits for episodes of the series, which might explain why there was more hesitancy to perform this particular episode at this particular point in time), “The Bet” was written by longtime “Seinfeld” writer, Larry Charles (who has gone on to become a successful director of TV and film, directing many episode of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and almost all of Sacha Baron Cohen’s films) and was based on the real life story of Elaine Pope, one of the writers on the show and how she dealt with buying a gun or thinking about buying a gun (no one seems to remember if Pope ever actually purchased the weapon).
The episode would have involved Elaine insisting that she was going to buy a gun for protection, while Jerry bets her that she will back out. The gun dealer was even cast (the great character actor Ernie Sabella got the job). Meanwhile, the secondary plot would also involve a bet. Kramer told George that he had sex with his flight attendant on the way back from Puerto Rico and George does not believe him, so he bets him on whether he is telling the truth (the flight attendant was also cast). Sets were built and everything.
However, both the cast and the director of the episode, Tom Cherones (who directed many episode of “Seinfeld”) were wary about the subject matter. Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who played Elaine, recalled, “I read the script and I remember thinking, ‘We’re not going to do this.'” The most controversial part of the script was a sequence where Elaine would joke about the ways different Presidents were shot. Jason Alexander, who played George, later remembered that the bit was that she would point the gun at her head and say, “Where do you want it, Jerry? The Kennedy?” Then she would point the gun at her stomach and say, “The McKinley?” That was just too much for Louis-Dreyfus. Cherones and the cast went to NBC executives and they gladly agreed to stop production on the episode, as they were wary about the concept, as well. Seinfeld and Larry David wrote a new episode, “The Phone Message,” in just two days.
Reflecting on the lost episode, Charles still defends it. He noted, “If it were on ‘Louie,’ you wouldn’t think twice about it … I think ‘Louie’ has proven and ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ has proven as well that those subjects are worthy of exploration and comedy. I reject the idea that certain subjects should not be touched upon.”
What’s really funny is that the episode would have revealed Kramer’s first name very early on. Instead, viewers would have to wait four more seasons before they learned that his first name was Cosmo! Charles explained:
And that might have been my biggest disappointment actually. I had given him a first name in that episode and because the episode fell by the wayside, that also fell by the wayside at that time and didn’t come up again until later. It was Conrad. Because I was kind of thinking of Conrad Birdie from ‘Bye Bye Birdie.’ So, it was Conrad, actually. And then eventually it became Cosmo. I remember feeling mixed feelings because I had named him Conrad. Although, Cosmo is a great name. But Conrad was good, too.
The legend is…
Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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