Comedian and Seinfeld co-creator Larry David saved the famed sitcom’s theme song from NBC executives who thought it was too weird. Throughout its nine season run, the series gained a monstrous following, leaving it and Friends as arguably the two most popular American sitcoms of the 1990s. In the years since the show’s culmination in 1998, the series has remained a basic cable staple, and Seinfeld episodes have, for the most part, aged well.
Yet straight from the start, it was clear that Seinfeld wasn’t like any other sitcoms seen on television up to that point. It could even be said that the show’s sarcasm, cynicism and at times downright nihilistic tendencies offered a glimpse at the future of sitcoms. Even the show’s theme song took things in a new direction, allowing for the tune to become iconic in its own right, while remaining nearly impossible to hum along to. Seinfeld placed emphasis on its characters – the likes of which typically made much more of an impact in the show’s opening moments than a well-known theme song would for other sitcoms. And although the series wasn’t originally a hit (thanks no doubt in part to its oddness), in time all the quirks and eccentricities of Jerry, Kramer, Elaine and George became the stuff of TV royalty.
But according to the Seinfeld theme’s composer, Jonathan Wolff, the show’s unique theme song almost didn’t see the light of day. NBC executives at the time felt the theme was too weird to work as a legitimate opener to the series. It was only after Larry David spoke up in its defense that the song was saved from the cutting room floor. While chatting with THR on the subject, Wolff explained that it was when the word “annoying” was used by then NBC president Warren Littlefield to describe the theme song that David’s interest was piqued:
“Since I was there, they made it the first item, and [NBC Entertainment’s then-president] Warren Littlefield laid it out. He said, ‘It’s weird. It’s distracting. It’s annoying,’ “When he said that word… oh, Larry, he loves annoying! He lives for annoying! That’s his primary goal in life!”
Wolff went on to explain that he wasn’t particularly bothered about changing the theme, but when he brought up that possibility, David became so angered by Wolff’s willingness to capitulate that he kicked him out of their meeting. Needless to say, the theme tune stayed as it was, despite the network’s initial objections. David being David, it’s hard to say if he genuinely liked the theme song or if his interest in it was purely contrarian. At any rate, keeping it was the right call, and today even a split second of the bouncy baseline instantly grabs the attention of Seinfeld fans around the world.
It’s strange to imagine what could have been if the Seinfeld theme song we now know hadn’t been the one selected to open the show. Clearly a different theme song wouldn’t have changed who the characters were or how they behaved. Still, some 23 years after Seinfeld ended, it’s difficult to think of any other tune more aptly embodying the program.