The Controversial ‘Seinfeld’ Episode That Never Aired Might Pass on TV Today
Now 22 years removed from when Seinfeld left the airwaves (and 31 since it debuted), the show is still more popular than ever. That and Friends prove how much of a goldmine NBC had during the ’90s and early 2000s with both shows on Thursday nights.
In more recent years, some interesting stories have come out about planned Seinfeld episodes, yet ultimately pulled due to controversy. One intended for the second season was revealed in the media about six years ago, though seems more relevant now in the wake of our violent culture.
This episode (called “The Bet”) dealt with several storylines, but had one involving a wager whether Elaine would buy a gun. Having a show revolve around guns made everyone uncomfortable then. So would such an episode go over better today or still be too sensitive?
‘Seinfeld’ writers were pushing the envelope early
Any fan of Seinfeld knows the show tackled numerous taboo topics that no other prior sitcom dared try passing by NBC censors. Only 1970s-era All in the Family could be said to push similar buttons, though managed to get by because of the context of being within a family.
Within the world of Seinfeld, it was about being single, which is going to equate to a lot more salacious content. Sometimes this meant going into subjects single people usually deal with, which might include buying a gun.
Having a plot of the guys betting whether Elaine would buy a gun to protect herself reportedly had a negative reaction from the cast when it came time to rehearse. It created such a stir that NBC decided to let the episode pass.
Part of this involved using a specific term for guns the actors didn’t agree to utter on-air. Yes, it was a little daring to refer to “a Kennedy” as a gun shooting technique.
Back in 1991, Americans had no idea what it was in for on gun violence
Consider this was 1991 when The Bet was written, a time most would say was a little complacent here in America. Even though there was a threat of war earlier that year with Iraq, most of that was out of mind before summer, leaving most of the ’90s in a state of bliss.
By the time Seinfeld found its stride creatively, Bill Clinton was President and everyone had no thoughts of violence becoming overly endemic here in the states. Mass shootings were still going on, yet at least not in the news nearly every week. Why this was the case then is still up for debate.
Some will still say increasing violence in entertainment later established a more violent frame of mind. Others will say 9/11 permanently changed the trajectory of our country in mental health and in economic turmoil.
All of these factors are arguably to blame, not including loosening gun laws in some states. Little did the writing team at Seinfeld realize their little banned episode could have really resonated 25-30 years later.
The episode would likely still be banned today
From the outset, it might seem an episode like this would go over better now if Seinfeld was still in first-run. After all, with many of the topics the show covered being fairly standard today (or at least on cable/streaming), it’s worth pondering whether a comedy episode about buying a gun for protection would really resonate.
During a time when mass shootings are occurring virtually every day in some parts of the U.S., what would be the reaction to such an episode in 2020? Would it be allowed in a time when comedy is more open to daring subjects? Or would it face the wrath from anti-gun viewers and lead to a complete episode banishment?
If Seinfeld were strictly a streaming show today, they could get away with it — probably not had they still been on NBC, though. All the more reason to believe a show like Seinfeld won’t happen again on mainstream networks, especially on NBC where more family programming has taken precedence to eliminate anything overly edgy.