Rewriting, Rethinking, Development

 

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When you think of George Costanza, what do you imagine? What behaviors? What mindset?

Go ahead, write down a few descriptors.

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Then go back and watch the pilot episode of Seinfeld on Crackle, the one that launched the space ship. This is a very different universe than the one you probably imagined above.

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I had never seen the pilot. Kramer is also a distinctly different fish. Elaine has yet to be born. It’s a bit of a shock returning to this pre-Seinfeldian version, this first draft of the series.

I cannot imagine much springing from this version. Everything that came later was a great leap forward. Without the re-imagining this thing would have sunk out in the bay and been forgotten quickly.

The first two episodes introduce a few ideas that could be expanded upon later. George is a real estate salesman, so he’s a talkative sort, and salesmen are known to be shifty, slimy, untrustworthy–not that he exhibits these behaviors here.

Kramer is a shut-in, unwashed, unemployed loser of sorts. He’s not flamboyant. He doesn’t slide in through the door without invitation. There’s an actual knock.

Even Newman has a place, but not the same Newman at all. A gag inserts the voice of Newman repeatedly as he pretends to threaten suicide by jumping off the top of the apartment building. He too is unemployed, rather than a disgruntled postman.

Lastly, Jerry’s character began as a confused wretch who doesn’t understand women in the slightest. Later, he’s more of an arrogant, over-confident womanizer. He seems to pick up and discard another beautiful model every week for the next nine years.

So, what can we take from this example?

The first draft of anything likely contains ideas that didn’t get developed to their fullest potential. If we revisit these ideas, one at a time, then we may put the mental work into imagining where they might veer. I’d say this is a vital step that amateurs shy away from in favor of banging out something and foisting it on the world before it’s finished cooking.

 

 


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