Inside the ‘Seinfeld’ Spinoff That Failed To Launch
Over 20 years have passed since the iconic TV sitcom Seinfeld ended, but fans still want more. Whether it’s a reboot, reunion, or yada yada yada, the more Seinfeld, the better. As it turns out, the show almost had a spinoff based on a side character, but never took off.
Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld had this spinoff idea
With the massive success of Seinfeld, co-creators Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld wanted a way to cash in after the show’s end. In 1999, just after the series finale, David and Seinfeld came up with a spinoff idea for NBC and planned to executive produce.
The premise didn’t feature any of the main cast members (Seinfeld, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Michael Richards, or Jason Alexander) but may have allowed for a cameo here and there. Instead, the Seinfeld-based world revolved around attorney, Jackie Chiles (Phil Morris).
In a report by Chicago Tribune, the untitled show was slated for a mid-season premiere. Morris, who appeared in six episodes of Seinfeld throughout its nine-year run, loosely based Jackie off of famed attorney, Johnny Cochran.
Jackie would’ve worked in an “austere white law firm and sparks will fly. Jackie needs to be in constant conflict,” Morris told the outlet.
“I don’t think Michael Richards wants to revisit the (Kramer) character. Julia (Louis-Dreyfuss) isn’t that interested in another weekly grind, and I don’t think Jason (Alexander) is, either. Jackie has his own energy and conflicts. We’ll go from there,” he added.
Why didn’t the show happen?
Morris has had a plethora of credits since his last appearance on Seinfeld. His voiceover work can be heard in dozens of animated shows. Jackie Chiles also still lives on through the Coen Brothers-produced Honda commercials, Jim Beam commercials, and several Funny or Die videos.
His inspiration for the role came directly from Cochran, whom Morris knew from the same Los Angeles barbershop.
“It was almost like I was doing homework,” Morris told The News-Press. “At the time, he was a public defender. He was always pretty much a mouthpiece. But he hadn’t yet become JOHNNIE COCHRAN. He was just another blowhard at the barbershop.”
He continued: “The producers wanted that energy,” he said. “Everybody knows his inflections and his look. That wasn’t hard.”
Morris got the part after reading three lines in the audition. When he pitched the spinoff idea, Seinfeld rejected it — at first.
“He said, ‘You know, you’re right. It’s time for this guy. He’s a killer character. You’re going to be a big-time TV star.’ Those were his exact words,” Morris said, referring to the call he received from Seinfeld later on.
He continued on his pitch: “They’ve given us the sense that this character would exist outside the Seinfeld franchise. The public wouldn’t let him go. Since the final episode, people had been clamoring for something that reminded them of Seinfeld. “
So why didn’t the spinoff come to fruition? Conflicting reports suggest the network had no knowledge of the series or any meeting to pitch the idea.
“This is the first we’re hearing about it,” an NBC spokeswoman said when at the time. “It’s news to the network.”
Others have stated that an entire show based on [the now-deceased] Cochran might’ve exploited the entirety of the O.J. Simpson trial beyond parody. Morris described the character as “part pimp, part hustler and part street-corner preacher,” to The News-Press.
Those things may not have held up after Seinfeld‘s run. We may never know.
‘Seinfeld’ alum Jason Alexander had a few spinoff ideas
Though Morris didn’t get to re-live his Jackie Chiles days in a show of his own, Alexander has a few spinoff ideas for Seinfeld-lovers. Talking to Chris Hardwick and Matt Mira on the Nerdist podcast, Alexander shared two ideas that NBC should’ve snagged.
“The No. 1 that I thought, through the roof, would’ve been the four parents down at the condo in Florida. That would’ve been unbelievable…I don’t think they ever looked at it,” he said.
“The other one that I thought really would have been timely was the Johnnie Cochran character [Jackie Chiles]. If they had made a legal comedy, with [actor Phil Morris] as the centerpiece, that would be absolute gold.”
There you have it — even George Costanza approved of a Jackie Chiles spinoff. Then again, this is from the man who invented “The Human Fund” and lied about being an architect (among other things). So, take it with a grain of salt.