TV Gallery: Seinfeld In 1989 a group of two dozen NBC executives gathered in Burbank, California to screen the pilot of a television show called “The Seinfeld Chronicles”. The pilot was a 23-minute episode created by comedian Jerry Seinfeld, known then for his stand-up acts, an appearance in a Rodney Dangerfield HBO Special, and a small recurring role in “Benson”, and a popular “Saturday Night Live” writer: Larry David. During this screening there wasn’t explosions of laughter like in previous screenings with “The Cosby Show” or “The Golden Girls”, which made many executives pretty nervous. Warren Littlefield, second-in-command for NBC’s entertainment division stated “There was a sense this was something different. The room embraced the humor and the attitude”, while Littlefield’s boss Brandon Tartikoff was not convinced that the show would work. During this time NBC would recruit 400 households by phone to ask them to evaluate pilots it aired on an unused channel on its cable system. The test audiences were even more harsh. An NBC research department memo summarized the pilot’s performance among respondents as “Weak”, which Littlefield called “a dagger to the heart”. Some other comments included “Jerry’s loser friend George is not a forceful character” and “Why are they interrupting the stand-up for these stupid stories?” NBC announced its 1989-1990 primetime schedule in May 1989, “The Seinfeld Chronicles” was not included, Littlefield and other supporters wouldn’t give up on the show. The pilot first aired on July 5, 1989 and finished second in its time slot. The ratings did not exhibit regional skew that Tartikoff predicted, much to the encouragement of the show’s supporters. Then, NBC executive Rick Ludwin cancelled one of the Bob Hope specials budgeted for that season so that the entertainment division had the money to order four more episodes, which formed the rest of the show’s first season, a move without which Chicago Tribune columnist Phil Rosenthal later stated there would be no “Seinfeld”. It was the smallest sitcom order in television history. Castle Rock attempted to shop the show to other networks, but no one wanted it, so they took the deal with NBC. The show was then renamed “Seinfeld.” The show didn’t return to the airwaves until May 30, 1990. When the show first repeated on June 28, 1990 it received ratings high enough to secure a second season. 3 years later it became a Top 5 ratings success. “The show was different. Nobody had seen anything like it. It wasn’t unusual for poor-testing shows to get on the air, but it was very rare that they became hits.” Preseton Beckman, who was in charge of NBC’s research department at the time, said. It was often described as “the show about nothing”. Many episodes are based off real-life experiences from the writers, but Jerry Seinfeld stated that the premise of the show is about how comedians get their material. Many episodes would revolve around the characters involvement in the lives of others to typically disastrous results, however, unlike most sitcoms the audience was never made to feel any sympathy towards any of the characters. “Seinfeld” was championed by television critics in its early seasons, even as it was slow to cultivate a substantial audience. It wasn’t until season 4 that the show would enter into the Nielson ratings Top 30. The show then proceeded to win Emmys for “Outstanding Comedy Series”. It was the only time the show would win the award despite being nominated in the category every year from 1992 to 1998. The show would continue to win various awards in other categories. In 2002 TV Guide magazine would go on to rank it as the greatest TV show of all time. In 2009 TV Guide ranked the episode “The Contest” as the greatest episode of all time. The show would lead the Nielsen ratings in its sixth and ninth seasons and finish among the top 2 every year from 1994 to 1998. The Writers Guild of America named “Seinfeld” the second best written TV series of all time (“The Sopranos” is first), and Entertainment Weekly gave it third place as the best TV series of all time. As of June 2014, the series has earned $4 billion in worldwide revenue, making it the second most lucrative show in television history behind “Friends.” A television show is unlike any other form of art. Over time a show, or characters within a show, can evolve into something that the original creators and producers never saw coming. With “Seinfeld” many NBC executives took risks on a show that was unconventional and didn’t conform to the average sitcom tropes. The risk paid off when audiences and critics raved about the show, and it slowly, but surely, became one of the greatest television shows of all time. Sources The New York Times – Jerry Seinfeld Biography TV Guide – Top 50 Shows WGA – 101 Best Written TV Series Entertainment Weekly – Top TV series of all time All Movie – Seinfeld Overview Other information came from commentaries and features apart of “Seinfeld” DVD collections.