The ‘Seinfeld’ episode the entire cast refused to shoot
(Credit: Netflix)

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The 'Seinfeld' episode the entire cast refused to shoot

Comedy has long been a realm of boundary-pushing, taboo-breaking, and barrier-shattering, yet even “the show about nothing” had its limits, as the cast of Seinfeld declined an episode sure to stir controversy.

It took a few years for the series to transition from a successful TV show to a cultural phenomenon, but even in its early seasons, with viewership averaging between 17 and 19 million weekly, Seinfeld made a significant impact. However, as its popularity soared, with the last three seasons averaging between 32 and 35 million viewers, the show had more room to experiment and take risks towards its conclusion.

The episode that failed to make it past the table read didn’t have that luxury after being planned for the second season, and it’s easy to see why the cast was so uncomfortable. Larry Charles was a new addition to the writing staff, and as he explained to Screen Crush, the idea for the self-explanatory episode ‘The Gun’ – also known as ‘The Bet’ – was hardly a complex one.

“I think it was as simple as me wondering, ‘What if Elaine bought a gun?,'” the newcomer to the writers’ room recalled. “It was an episode that was going to be shot, but at a certain point the critical mass started moving almost immediately from when it was brought to be an episode. The people around us thought it wasn’t the right episode at the right time.”

The story was equally as straightforward; Elaine makes a bet with Jerry that she won’t have any issues buying a handgun to protect herself, with Kramer’s subplot involving the mile high club on his flight back from vacationing in Puerto Rico. Sets were constructed, supporting roles including the flight attendant who has sex with Kramer and the gun salesman were cast, but the table read was the end of the process.

The read-through was conducted in December 1990, with Julia Louis-Dreyfus instantly realising it was doomed. “I read the script and I remember thinking, ‘We’re not going to do this,'” she said, and she was far from the only key cast member who felt the same way.

Jason Alexander remembered an exchange where Elaine holds a gun to her head and asks Jerry if he wants to be assassinated like Kennedy or McKinley by pointing it at her head and stomach, which caused his co-star to simply tell him, “I’m not doing this.” Befitting his character, Michael Richards didn’t think Kramer would have any issues with a gun-centric episode of Seinfeld, but he was firmly in the minority.

For his part, regular director Tom Cherones – who helmed 81 of the first 86 episodes – offered that “you can’t make a funny show about guns, in my opinion,” and the people in charge were of a similar mind. The rehearsal lasted all of 20 minutes, Cherones informed the executives the ensemble weren’t fully on board, and the decision was made to scrap ‘The Gun’ altogether and immediately make it a key part of Seinfeld folklore as a result.