One of the recurring themes in the recent discussions that we’ve had with Seinfeld‘s writers is how Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld really only had one concern when it came to making their show about nothing: It just had to be funny. They didn’t care about anything other than what made their series hilarious, not the critics (even if Seinfeld was very much a critical darling) and certainly not the network’s “suggestions,” of which there weren’t many, but executives certainly tried to make a Friends crossover happen at least two times.
When we spoke to Peter Mehlman earlier this year, he opened our eyes to the fact that NBC had at one point wanted the gang from Friends to have a run-in with Jerry and George. After all, Friends and Mad About You had a crossover, so why couldn’t the worlds of Monk’s Café and Central Perk collide, too? Well, because David knew that it was a bad idea, and his word was all that mattered.
“We were at a point where as a show we could get away with anything, so it might be interesting to have somebody get knocked off,” Mehlman told us. “There was one time when NBC was suggesting there be a crossover night where the characters from Seinfeld would be on Friends and vice-versa. Larry immediately said, ‘No way are we doing that.’ And I said to Larry, ‘You know what would be good, though, if we just tell NBC we will do the crossover but in our show Ross would die.’ I think Larry’s arm twitched towards the phone. We had a big laugh about it.”
When it came time to discuss the origins of Festivus with “The Strike” writers Alec Berg, Jeff Schaffer, and Dan O’Keefe, we were curious about Mehlman’s anecdote and wondered if NBC had ever wanted Seinfeld to have a more traditional holiday episode. There was “The Red Dot,” which featured George’s frugality on display. Elaine was humiliated by her own nippish Christmas card in “The Pick,” while George ruined his family’s holiday by converting to Latvian Orthodox in “The Conversion.” In “The Race,” a mall Santa Kramer was wooed by the ideologies of communism, and finally, in “The Strike,” we were introduced to Frank’s aluminum pole. But was there ever a push from NBC to tone it down and just enjoy the season?