Monday, February 2, 2015

Seinfeld's pilot wasn't any good - or was it?

One of the things that you get to hear when a sitcom pilot isn't any good is the saying that just because the pilot for xxx wasn't any good, we shouldn't necessarily be that worried. After all, Seinfeld's pilot wasn't supposedly good either. 

This claim has been repeated by so many people so many times that certain people in the media have started to believe it. They say that if a show gets cancelled today, it's not only because of the lack quality. It's more because the network executives gave up too easily.

Unfortunately, for them, there's one really big problem with their 'Seinfeld' defense. The fact is that Seinfeld's pilot wasn't actually bad at all. In reality, the pilot - if not totally awesome - was still pretty engaging and well made.

In any case, one big reason that Seinfeld's pilot works is because it manages to signal to the audience that it's a show about something. We get a sense that the show is not only character driven but it also has a well written story(lines) to deliver for the audience.

Another thing that works: the pilot for Seinfeld shows how important the very first scene is. The discussion between the main characters, Jerry and George gets the audience invested in the story and the characters (a girl is going to visit Jerry).  

The pilot works because it uses really well that "something is about to happen" device that most writers unfortunately don't understand well enough. This storytelling trick helps to get over the slow parts where the characters are being defined and the story lags a bit. 

The pilot also uses Jerry's stand-up routines - that we see later on in the episode. There are in my opinion are well utilized too and have a point. They mesh in rather well with the rest of the episode and manage to add to the story instead of taking away from it.

When it comes to the story, there's of course only so much you can do in a multicam sitcom pilot. There can't be that much of a plot in the first episode. Nevertheless, I thought that the ending where it's revealed that the girl is already engaged was well executed too.

Other than that, even though the show does get better during its later seasons, it's obvious that there's a lot of potential in the pilot. It manages to get most of the things right. It's not that 'funny' perhaps, but it manages to give us insight into how we think about things.

As you can see from the clip below - Seinfeld's pilot absolutely should not be compared to any of those failed pilots that never had any potential to begin with. It might not be the best pilot of all time, but it's still way better than most people give it credit for.

No comments:

Post a Comment