When Seinfeld started airing, there was nothing like it on TV -- no other sitcom had dared to talk about the real issues, like penile shrinkage, "no fap" contests, or the fact that Chinese restaurants sure seem to take their sweet time finding you a table sometimes. Of course, once this wildly original show became a hit, several other TV producers said, "Hey, let's be wildly original too by doing the same thing as those guys." Or they tried to, anyway. Hence sad and forgotten Seinfeld-lite shows like ... 

The Michael Richards Show (2000-2000) -- The Self-Hating "Kramer Spin-Off"

 

The Michael Richards Show was a sitcom written by a bunch of former Seinfeld writers and starring Kramer's actor, Michael Richards, as a new character who totally wasn't Kramer. No, this was a private detective who simply acted and sounded like Kramer, and that NBC promoted by showing some Kramer-like moments and assuring us that "We're gonna have fun with that Seinfeld guy." We're surprised they didn't name the show The That Seinfeld Guy Show.

Reportedly, Richards wanted to stay away from Kramer and "play something low-key and verbal," but NBC forced him to dial up the physical comedy. Basically, if he didn't bump into things a whole lot, there'd be no show. One big difference, though, was that all of the seemingly random wacky stuff Kramer would pull on Seinfeld was carefully written and planned out beforehand, whereas, in this show, Richard was prone to improvising his Kramer-isms at the last moment, to the annoyance of the other actors. One of his co-stars called the show "stupid," "unfixable," and "a nightmare." 

NBC canceled the show after only two months. The good news is that Richards did manage to pull away from Kramer's image a few years later through his, uh, stand-up work.

TMZ

Why this moment is so iconic, we don't even have to embed the video for you to hear it in your head. 

Cursed a.k.a. The Weber Show (2000-2001) -- A Show About A Magic Cursed Nothing

 

Cursed didn't start out as a Seinfeld ripoff, mainly because we don't remember Jerry ever being hexed by a date and suffering from a supernatural curse that brought him absurd amounts of bad luck.

But then, after only a few episodes, NBC ditched the "cursed" angle and changed the sitcom's name to The Weber Show, after lead actor Steve Weber (who was famous, but not The (His Name) Show famous). Suddenly, this became a show about a single guy doing whatever and talking about inane topics with his three pals: the stocky best friend, the wacky roommate, and the outspoken ex-girlfriend/obligatory female cast member to break up the sausage party. Oh, and it also featured the actor who played J. Peterman on Seinfeld as, pretty much, J. Peterman (skip to 7:30 below). 

The actor who played Seinfeld's Uncle Leo also shot a scene in the pilot, but it ended up being cut after NBC demanded changes. Turns out they were never really into the "cursed" angle and made the writers tone it down before the show even started airing. The curse, however, was more powerful, and the show was canceled after 14 episodes. 

It's Like, You Know ... (1999-2000) - Seinfeld In Another Coast, Basically

 

It's Like, You Know ... was hyped as "Seinfeld in L.A.," ran by a former Seinfeld writer/producer, with a pilot by a former Seinfeld director, and endorsed by a former Seinfeld actor called Jerry Seinfeld, who performed a stand-up set to warm up the audience before the first episode. ABC promoted it as "It's like, a new kind of comedy ... from one of the producers of Seinfeld."

The cast included the bland, somewhat anal-retentive main guy, the amoral best friend, and the quirky neighbor who "has never worked a day in his life," and Jennifer Grey as an L.A. version of Elaine called "Jennifer Grey." We do have to give this one props for including a second female cast member, who also served as a love interest for the protagonist ... played by an actress who once served as a love interest for Jerry Seinfeld (the one with the mentor). But, to be fair, like 90% of actresses working in the '90s did that.

Despite the strong initial "Hey, here's a new Seinfeld for you to watch!" marketing push, the show bounced through different time slots before being canceled so hard that ABC didn't even bother airing the last six episodes, leaving it at 18 -- exactly 10% of Seinfeld's number. 

The Single Guy (1995-1997) - The Middle Point Between Seinfeld And Friends, Literally

 

The Single Guy aired in the coveted time slot between Seinfeld and Friends and seemed coldly calculated to appeal to fans of both shows: it had a single protagonist going through an endless succession of flawed girlfriends like on Seinfeld, but he was surrounded by a group of friends who were capable of human emotions and liked to loiter in a trendy coffee shop like on Friends. One of the earliest girlfriends-of-the-week, by the way, was Seinfeld's Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who played a woman addicted to dangerous situations (probably as a favor to The Single Guy creator Brad Hall, who happened to be her husband).

NBC

That or she did it as a stealth audition for a Spider-Woman reboot. 

The episode right before that featured David Schwimmer as Ross from Friends, firmly establishing this show within the NBC sitcom-verse (again as a personal favor, since Schwimmer was a real-life friend of the lead actor). This wasn't a one-scene cameo or something, like when Kramer showed up on Mad About You -- Ross sticks around for the entire episode. You can tell they were trying really hard to make this one special because the plot revolves around characters thinking other characters might be gay, which was the single most "hilarious" comedy premise that '90s sitcom writers could conceive.

The Single Guy managed to last two entire seasons thanks to its decent ratings, which were totally due to the quality of the writing and not because it happened to be sandwiched between two pop culture phenomenons. It was canned at 43 episodes and immediately forgotten by society at large until this article. 

SPECIAL MENTION: Dharma & Greg (1997-2002) -- The "Why Aren't You Watching Seinfeld?" Episode

 

Dharma & Greg was about a free-spirited flower child marrying a stiff lawyer and the hilarity that ensued. What does that have to do with Seinfeld? Nothing, until the next-to-last episode of season one, which happened to air on the same week as Seinfeld's hotly-anticipated series finale. Instead of trying to compete with an episode that ended up attracting 76 million viewers, Dharma & Greg's writers decided to acknowledge their situation in a pretty creative way. The episode "Much Ado During Nothing" is about the title characters trying to have sex in public places as Seinfeld's finale airs because they correctly assume that "no one will be watching Dharma and Greg."

Basically, this was the only contemporary show to admit that Seinfeld was superior. It's probably not a coincidence that it ended up lasting five seasons and 119 episodes. It was a neat gimmick for an episode, but it overstated the positive effects of public sex on a marriage, considering that Dharma and Greg were eventually revealed to be miserable and bordering on divorce on the Two and a Half Men finale years later.

Of course, even a five-season show like Dharma & Greg only had a tiny, tiny fraction of the cultural impact Seinfeld had. In the end, only Seinfeld himself could have replaced Seinfeld … or, you know, his pal Larry David, whose show Curb Your Enthusiasm started as a one-time HBO comedy special and is still churning out new episodes 22 years later. Most impressively, it spawned a massively popular meme format, which we assume is all future historians will care about.

Follow Maxwell Yezpitelok's heroic effort to read and comment on every '90s Superman comic at Superman86to99.tumblr.com.  

Top image: NBC 

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