Seinfeld is commonly listed as one of the best television shows of all time, thanks to its plethora of relatable moments and the strong cast of Jerry Seinfeld, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jason Alexander, and Michael Richards.
However, one of its most iconic episodes was almost never made – and almost caused co-creator Larry David to quit.
David first teamed up with Seinfeld in 1989 to create a pilot for NBC titled The Seinfeld Chronicles. David served as inspiration for Alexander’s character George.
Chinese Restaurant is one of the show’s most notable episodes. It’s a classic example of a “bottle episode” – an episode that features a single location and limited cast members. Not only is it a cost-saving measure, it’s also much easier to film.
However, David had to fight for the episode to be made. The episode centers around Jerry, Elaine (Louis-Dreyfus) and George waiting to be seated at a Chinese restaurant… and that’s pretty much the whole plot of the episode. The maître d’ refuses to seat them until George’s date arrives, leaving the three hungry and yet still unwilling to leave the restaurant.
The episode was based on David’s real-life experience of he and Seinfeld waiting to be seated at a Chinese restaurant in Los Angeles.
It fits in perfectly to the show’s description of being “a show about nothing”. In fact, when NBC executives first received the script for the episode, the assumed there must be pages missing.
“[’The Chinese Restaurant’] was the point where the network said, ‘You know, we really don’t understand what you’re trying to do with this show, and we think it’s wrong’,” Seinfeld explained.
The studio also believed that there were too many B-plots in the episode, although David insisted that these were all important to the plot.
It took David threatening to leave the show, backed up by Seinfeld, to finally convince the executives to give the episode a try. However, they pushed back the episode until near the end of the season.
The studio made the right move in the end, though, with the episode being heralded as a “groundbreaking” piece of comedy television.
In a write-up about the episode, [Vulture] stated, “It’s truly an exercise in elongation and minimalism as it (https://www.vulture.com/2015/07/how-seinfeld-truly-embraced-nothingness-in-the-chinese-restaurant.html) keeps so many plates spinning while training you to stay focused on the ground instead.”
[The A.V. Club]https://tv.avclub.com/seinfeld-the-baby-shower-the-jacket-the-chinese-r-1798165311 agreed, writing, “It’s a deftly-plotted, extremely funny example of the “show about nothing” label that Seinfeld assigned itself… Of course, it’s not a show about nothing, it’s just a very clever study of social minutiae as well as an incredible example of how to make the “uninteresting” interesting.”
It might have taken Larry David threatening to quit to get the episode on the air, but it was worth it to get one of the most memorable episodes of Seinfeld‘s nine-season run.