Network censors have never been known to be the most adventurous and fun-loving group in the world of television, though there has been an evolution to what can and still can’t be said on network TV. But the 1990s were full of ill-defined boundaries, as NYPD Blue could show some naked ass, but Seinfeld couldn’t say masturbation or penis. And speaking of the Show About Nothing, it turns out NBC wanted “nothing” to do with any Seinfeldian focus on racial issues, as evidenced by one episode getting canned based all on one observation.
For a story in the New York Post, one of the rare nixed Seinfeld scripts came up, giving the world a good idea about what made NBC balk during the hit series’ run. While it’s unclear what the episode would have actually centered on, the script got axed based solely on the below line uttered by George, which he would have gotten into some kind of trouble for.
You know, I have never seen a black person order a salad.
NBC apparently thought, perhaps correctly, that poking fun at what certain segments of the population don’t eat, as much as what they do eat, is sketchy territory. (I have to wonder if this episode came before or after the one about Kenny Rogers Roasters.) The joke/comment seems pretty innocent in hindsight, unless the rest of the episode went down some scathingly hateful path. I seriously doubt it did, though, because that’s not how Seinfeld worked.
The fact that there were barely any black characters on the show has been a source of debate among fans and critics, and that probably had a lot to do with NBC’s decision. Poking fun at your own characters is fine, but looking elsewhere for humor victims is pushing it. And this wasn’t even the only time the network backed away from an episode revolving around race.
According to the Seinfeld Reference guide by Dennis Bjorklund, there were repeat attempts to get an episode across where Elaine missed her subway stop and eventually ended up in Harlem. But to make any comment about her being afraid in this scenario was deemed to be going too far. NBC also got complaints (from a relatively small number of offended folks) about the second-to-last scripted episode, “The Puerto Rican Day,” for Kramer accidentally burning a Puerto Rican flag. I’m almost certain they would have nixed this episode as well had it popped up before the show became a ratings juggernaut.
On the flip side of things, the Season 2 episode “The Bet” also never made it to air, but that was the decision of the cast and crew and not the network, which was fully set to go with it. In the script, Elaine buys a gun, a somewhat controversial enough plotline, and mimics shooting herself in the head at one point, jokingly calling it “the Kennedy.” At that early point in the series, it was called too offensive by everyone working on it, and it never got produced. It’s a good thing there are still 180 awesome episodes to make up for these three that could never be.