Previously on Clerks [missing footage]
July 30, 2015 5:34 PM   Subscribe

Lost TV Pilot of Clerks has emerged (SLYT). In 1995, Disney (Miramax parent company) under the Touchstone Television brand tried to turn the indie hit of the previous year into a PG-Rated sitcom. The results are exactly what you'd expect. (via AV Club)

Planned with no involvement of Kevin Smith and no returning cast members, Smith only learned it was in production after both Brian O'Halloran and Jeff Anderson (Dante and Randall from the original movie) were turned down for the role of Dante Hick. Barely resembling the source material other than Dante's uncertainty towards life and Randal's love for his customers, the pilot features Dante (Andrew Lowery) and Randal (Jim Breuer) plotting revenge over an incident years back in high school. They are joined by two other mall vendors: ice cream salesman Todd (Rick Gomez) and tanning salon attendant Sandra (Keri Russell), as well as Jay and Silent Bob replacement Ray (Bodhi Elfman).

In 2000, Smith would adapt the characters to TV in a short-lived animated series, before picking up the characters again in a sequel in 2006. Plans for a third movie were delayed, as Smith decided to followup with a sequel to Mallrats instead.
posted by lmfsilva (60 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
 
Vegetables of purple type.
posted by Mblue at 5:46 PM on July 30, 2015


Still infinitely more watchable than the movie.
posted by item at 5:46 PM on July 30, 2015 [6 favorites]


The animated series really held its own. The first moment of the first episode set the tone perfectly, skewering sitcom conventions whenever possible:

"Previously, on Clerks... TEST PATTERN"

After the intro: "Clerks is drawn before a live studio audience"

And the second episode? A clip show!
posted by dr_dank at 5:56 PM on July 30, 2015 [20 favorites]


Wow. I could only stomach about two minutes of that horror. The second I saw Jim Breuer, I knew to abandon all hope.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:56 PM on July 30, 2015 [7 favorites]


The animated series really held its own. The first moment of the first episode set the tone perfectly, skewering sitcom conventions whenever possible:

"Previously, on Clerks... TEST PATTERN"

After the intro: "Clerks is drawn before a live studio audience"

And the second episode? A clip show!


For years I've been holding forth on how great that show was. Seriously, years ahead of its time. If it had come out a decade later, we'd be having active threads for season 5 on Fanfare and swapping Buzzfeed listicles of Dante and Randal gifs.
posted by Itaxpica at 5:59 PM on July 30, 2015 [16 favorites]


I was wondering why the painter was invited to my fathers birthday party.
posted by dr_dank at 6:01 PM on July 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


I lasted a few minutes before the 1990s sitcom-ness broke me. It's amazing this didn't make it to Fox. Fox was 90% this crap, for a long time. It gives me bad flashbacks to the pre-web monoculture, not having cable and being stranded with the pop culture of 1991. Oh, early 90s, I spit on your grave.

For decades TV had a truly terrible record when they tried to turn movies into shows. The aesthetics were so different between movies and TV, and you could get away with content in movies that would never fly on TV. So you had a lot of situations like Alice, where Martin Scorsese's prickly little movie Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore was adapted into a broad, multi-cam CBS sitcom with a laugh track and "kiss my grits" and all that stuff.

This Clerks thing was 20 years ago(!!!) and these days a transformation that extreme would seem really weird. TV has become the place where people turn first for quality entertainment for grownups, and movies are generally either big dopey blockbusters or little indie things. If a movie is being turned into a show now, you'd expect it to look and feel like the movie but to have greater depth and more complex storytelling. You'd expect it might be better than the film.

When I was a kid you could turn on TV and instantly tell if you were seeing a TV show or a movie. TV shows just looked more basic, with flatter lighting and locked-down cameras. The X-Files was the first show I remember that looked just like a movie. (Although it's dated now and doesn't look nearly as slick as it did in 1990-something.) That show was influential in many ways, but I think its deepest influence is rarely commented on: it got people used to the idea that TV wasn't intrinsically inferior to film, that TV could be at least as good as the movies coming out.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 6:05 PM on July 30, 2015 [18 favorites]


Oh my God! Bear is driving! How can that be?
posted by graymouser at 6:17 PM on July 30, 2015 [39 favorites]


"The second I saw Jim Breuer, I knew to abandon all hope."

So far he's doing a not-so-bad Randall. I'll keep watching to see where it'll all horribly go wrong. How does he end up as a goat?
posted by I-baLL at 6:23 PM on July 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


Nope, nevermind. Can't watch this. Going to find my Clerks the Animated Series dvd and watch the "One of us! One of us!" episode.
posted by I-baLL at 6:27 PM on July 30, 2015 [4 favorites]


On mobile so can't multitask. Managed the first terrible scene before bailing (for now). That was some good melting, though. Essentially I'm torn between loving that we now live in a world where these things mysteriously come to light and actually wanting to rewatch the terrible US Spaced pilot which was less painful.
posted by comealongpole at 6:32 PM on July 30, 2015


I remember tracking this down many moons ago. I bailed a minute or two in. I can't imagine the horrors in store, and I've watched both US Red Dwarf pilots, that god awful "Dads" show they used to send out to make people watch the commercials, and the "Threshold" episode of Star Trek: Voyager.
posted by SansPoint at 6:51 PM on July 30, 2015 [5 favorites]


Wow, didn't know this existed. Clerks has been a movie, a comic book, a cartoon, and a sitcom. So, when's the musical coming out?
posted by FJT at 6:56 PM on July 30, 2015 [5 favorites]


Judging by the overall look, canned laughter, and a cast of 20 year-olds who act like teenagers, I assume ABC intended to put this on their TGIF lineup. Like at 9:30 after Step by Step.

This was the same year Disney bought ABC, so the merger was probably the reason this bizarre thing was produced. Like, Clerks was only a year old and a hit with the 18-49 demo. Miramax and ABC thought this was be an opportunity to cement their new relationship in the Disney Family®. Except ABC's youth-oriented night is Friday, so the adaption would have to fit nicely with Family Matters and Boy Meets World. Which means everything but the title is thrown out.

When Smith pitched the animated series, ABC wouldn't allow Jay and Silent Bob to be actual drug dealers, instead they became "merry mischief makers". But the cartoon still turned out great and is my favorite thing from Kevin Smith.

Were the characters still in high school or not? I watched the whole episode and couldn't tell.

But OMG! The ice cream guy played Endless Mike Hellstrom on Pete and Pete!
posted by riruro at 7:04 PM on July 30, 2015 [6 favorites]


Clerks 3 was on track to be a stage show for a while if I remember correctly, FJT.
posted by comealongpole at 7:05 PM on July 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


So, when's the musical coming out?

Yes! The Happy Scrappy Hero Pup scene is begging for conversion to a show-stopper.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:09 PM on July 30, 2015 [7 favorites]


I'll have to watch the rest at some point, but when "Oh, you're one of those people who think tanning causes cancer?" was accompanied by a laugh track my optimism drooped.
posted by mr. digits at 7:16 PM on July 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


the "Threshold" episode of Star Trek: Voyager.

Man, even in a thread about the Clerks sitcom, we get the Threshold hate. When will that particular geek shibboleth die already?
posted by Ursula Hitler at 7:18 PM on July 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


Huh. Oddly enough, philosophical questions around "snowballs" is still a central plot point in the TV pilot.

Surprising.
posted by clvrmnky at 7:23 PM on July 30, 2015


It's not like Clerks the movie would have been a really expensive thing to emulate if they wanted to. Maybe cut down on the swearing and sex with bodies in the bathroom for the sake of the broadcast standards, but it is mostly people talking in a small number of locations. But there is something about the pattern of the dialogue makes it completely different. (Especially with the laugh-track. This was three years after the Larry Sanders show, but they didn't try Clerks as a single-camera show without the laugh-track? )


Riruro, the guy Dante was jealous of said he had just graduated college, and they I think they mentioned it had been years since they were in high school.
posted by RobotHero at 7:23 PM on July 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


This was three years after the Larry Sanders show, but they didn't try Clerks as a single-camera show without the laugh-track?

See, if this happened now it'd probably be a single-camera show on FX or something, and it would quite probably star the actors from the film. Even if it was on a network, there's very little chance they'd go the route of, "Clerks was filmed before a live studio audience!"
posted by Ursula Hitler at 7:40 PM on July 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


More love for the animated Clerks. Well-played, dr_dank.
posted by infinitewindow at 7:41 PM on July 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


Also they don't have Jay and Silent Bob. Were the rights to them sold separately or something? Like how Molly Millions couldn't be in the Johnny Mnemonic movie?
posted by RobotHero at 8:03 PM on July 30, 2015


Still infinitely more watchable than the movie.

I still love Clerks (or I might still love it; it's been 10 years or so since I watched it last), but, you know, at the time I would've been outraged by this. Now I'm like "It can't be worse than anything Kevin Smith came up with!"

That's what time and failure does to you, kids.
posted by octobersurprise at 8:05 PM on July 30, 2015 [6 favorites]


I know, you wind up on a podcast with Wil Wheaton discussing some fictional B-movie with the guy from Roseanne.
posted by clavdivs at 8:16 PM on July 30, 2015


Clerks made me gasp with laughter, but even at the time I knew it had Problems and showed all the seams of a movie made by a guy who didn't really know what he was doing.

That approach got less charming as time went on. Though Dogma had some fun bits.

I'm sure as hell not going to watch a sitcom-ized Clerks, though.
posted by emjaybee at 8:17 PM on July 30, 2015


Saved By The Bell, slightly indie rock edition
posted by bobdow at 8:17 PM on July 30, 2015


you wind up on a podcast with Wil Wheaton discussing some fictional B-movie with the guy from Roseanne.

Nymph, in thy orisons be all my sins remembered.
posted by octobersurprise at 8:28 PM on July 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


That theme song sounded like someone held Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet at gunpoint and forced them to cover a Pearl Jam b-side.
posted by elwoodwiles at 8:33 PM on July 30, 2015 [7 favorites]


Anytime I am reminded of Kevin Smith, I remember he once tweeted this. Now I have to go sit in the hole I dug in my basement.
posted by mullacc at 9:10 PM on July 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'd assumed that this was clearly part of the decline of Jim Breuer's rather short career, but it actually looks like it might have been the first "big" gig that he landed...
posted by schmod at 9:58 PM on July 30, 2015


I think ABC was willing to give this a try because of how cheaply it could be produced. It seems pretty middle of the road quality-wise based on its competition.
posted by Brocktoon at 10:23 PM on July 30, 2015


Dear children currently trying to jump start 90s nostalgia, this is what it actually looked like.

That being said it was a perfectly normal mid 90s sitcom pilot, looks like the writer went on to do a bunch of Cybill and Ellen and ...arrested development? It's very 1995 TV. absolute dead middle of the road. also wow Keri Russel.
posted by The Whelk at 10:29 PM on July 30, 2015 [4 favorites]


I still love Clerks (or I might still love it; it's been 10 years or so since I watched it last), but, you know, at the time I would've been outraged by this. Now I'm like "It can't be worse than anything Kevin Smith came up with!"

Honest to god, I learned about Clerks through an article in a Star Wars fanzine about the contractors scene. At the time, before nerd culture had sunk its tentacles into the world quite so deeply as now, it was refreshing to see characters on screen be geeky and not be stereotypical geek losers.

Had Kevin Smith been ran over by a bus after Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back he would be remembered fondly.

Clerks was great, Mallrats a misstep but entertaining, Chasing Amy a return to form, Dogma was his best movie and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back was for the fans and underrated. All share a certain nerd aesthetic, one that after that last movie was well and truly mined out by Smith.

To his credit he knew it, but just failed in his attempts to move beyond it.

His movies were very important to me back then but not so much anymore.
posted by MartinWisse at 10:37 PM on July 30, 2015 [4 favorites]


Huh. Oddly enough, philosophical questions around "snowballs" is still a central plot point in the TV pilot.

In the sitcom Sno Balls are a tasty snack sold by our sponsor.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 10:46 PM on July 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


MartinWisse: "At the time, before nerd culture had sunk its tentacles into the world quite so deeply as now, it was refreshing to see characters on screen be geeky and not be stereotypical geek losers."

Man, age brings forgetfulness. I had completely forgotten how differently that scene felt then compared to now. Sure, there were fanzines and conventions and other places where people engaged in geeky Star Wars vs. Star Trek discussions. "Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex" came out in 1969. But when I saw Clerks, you just didn't hear that kind of geeky stuff outside specifically geeky contexts, certainly not in the middle of a random movie. Now it's the air we breathe, but back then it was pretty novel.
posted by Bugbread at 11:24 PM on July 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


The best thing about the animated Clerks clip show was that this was that since the series was aired out of order, most of the clips they flashed back to were things that hadn't happened yet.
posted by ckape at 2:58 AM on July 31, 2015 [2 favorites]


stranded with the pop culture of 1991

I read that entire list. I am now attempting to find the proper Greek and/or Latin roots to construct a word that means "kind of like nostalgia, in that you are remembering things you haven't thought about in years, but you taste copper while your soul cringes".
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 4:13 AM on July 31, 2015 [2 favorites]


As alluded to above ... the aesthetic of this was quite deliberate. 1995 wasn't 1983. Seinfeld and the Simpsons had been hits for years, and had already aired most of the episodes we now think of as classic. Frazier and Friends and Conan O'Brien were new and sharp. The writers and performers of the Silver Age of SNL (Hartman, Carvey, Neelon, etc) were all in LA trying for sitcom glory. At more or less the same time this pilot was being made the first season of Mr. Show was being made!
posted by MattD at 4:49 AM on July 31, 2015 [3 favorites]


Marlboros were only $1.69....
posted by HuronBob at 5:00 AM on July 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


I read that entire list.

For me the big surprise was that songs like Losing My Religion and I'm Your Baby Tonight were so far down on the list. It seemed like they were everywhere at the time!
posted by Ursula Hitler at 5:41 AM on July 31, 2015


For years I've been holding forth on how great that show was. Seriously, years ahead of its time. If it had come out a decade later, we'd be having active threads for season 5 on Fanfare and swapping Buzzfeed listicles of Dante and Randal gifs.
Or put it out on a network with a matching demographic. I could easily see Clerks doing a couple more seasons (or 15-20 more episodes) on Comedy Central or Adult Swim. On ABC... tougher sale. Even now I don't think it would work on network TV.

Also they don't have Jay and Silent Bob. Were the rights to them sold separately or something? Like how Molly Millions couldn't be in the Johnny Mnemonic movie?

From Wiki: The character of Jay was featured, prompting Smith to point out that he owned the character rights to both Jay and Silent Bob (for the purposes of featuring them in separate films). The producers' solution was to change the character's name to Ray.
posted by lmfsilva at 6:05 AM on July 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


When I was a kid you could turn on TV and instantly tell if you were seeing a TV show or a movie. TV shows just looked more basic, with flatter lighting and locked-down cameras.

Wasn't this more caused by the difference between film cameras (24 FPS) and TV cameras (60 FPS)?
posted by ymgve at 6:42 AM on July 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


The animated series episode with the Jay suing the quickstop is by far my favorite.

Charles Barkley: Hey guys! I got five dollars for breakfast today. I hope this trial will never end!
posted by dr_dank at 7:55 AM on July 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


short-lived animated series

Short lived is an understatement here, I understand that the call from the ABC executive to cancel the show came down within the first ten minutes of it being on the air. The only reason that there was a second episode was that they couldn't come up with a replacement for that half hour timeslot in less than a week's time.
posted by radwolf76 at 8:41 AM on July 31, 2015


The animated series episode with the Jay suing the quickstop is by far my favorite.
It made the Judge Reinhold as judge joke before Arrested Development. And that ending is funnier than anything in any of Smith's movies.
posted by cottoncandybeard at 8:46 AM on July 31, 2015 [3 favorites]


So I showed the first couple minutes of this to my roommate and he asked "wasn't there a Clerks cartoon" and I assured him he had not imagined that, and in fact he owns it on DVD.
posted by RobotHero at 9:01 AM on July 31, 2015 [4 favorites]


It was more laughs than he got in Head Office, cottoncandybeard.
posted by dr_dank at 9:06 AM on July 31, 2015


TV has become the place where people turn first for quality entertainment for grownups, and movies are generally either big dopey blockbusters or little indie things. If a movie is being turned into a show now, you'd expect it to look and feel like the movie but to have greater depth and more complex storytelling. You'd expect it might be better than the film.

In defense of the 90s, this was true for animated series (e.g. Men in Black, The Mask, The Real Ghostbusters (made it to '91), Jumanji, Clerks, etc).
posted by deathmaven at 9:34 AM on July 31, 2015 [2 favorites]


Related to that, there's talk of a Minecraft movie, and it occurred to me that back in the day, video games had to become cartoon shows, not movies. See Pac Man, Pole Position, Pokemon, Super Mario Super Show, Sonic the Hedgehog, Legend of Zelda, Earthworm Jim. I'm sure there are others I haven't thought of.

But is that no longer the fashion? What happened?
posted by RobotHero at 10:36 AM on July 31, 2015


All of those characters were ready-made Saturday morning heroes. That type of IP isn't being made anymore in video games now that all the money is going towards games for..ahem..adults.
posted by deathmaven at 10:40 AM on July 31, 2015


RobotHero,

You've clearly forgotten video game cinematic classics like Super Mario Bros., Mortal Kombat, and Street Fighter.
posted by Sangermaine at 10:42 AM on July 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


Surely if you can make a Robocop Saturday morning cartoon, you can do the same with GTA.
posted by ckape at 11:24 AM on July 31, 2015


It's not like Clerks the movie would have been a really expensive thing to emulate if they wanted to. Maybe cut down on the swearing and sex with bodies in the bathroom for the sake of the broadcast standards, but it is mostly people talking in a small number of locations. But there is something about the pattern of the dialogue makes it completely different.

This thread -- and your comment in particular -- has helped me put my finger on what's bugged me about most of Kevin Smith's later output. In Clerks, you have a different kind of dialogue than most people had heard in movies at that point (in the US, anyway). It's unmistakably a comedy, but so much of the humor comes from the dissonance between the realism of the scene and dialogue and the quirkiness of the characters.

When you look at each of Smith's movies since Clerks, you see more and more of a Comedy-with-a-capital-C structure. Until you get to Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back -- which, let's be honest, is basically a sitcom (albeit a very entertaining one). There's no laughtrack, but there are characters literally shouting at the camera telling you when to laugh.

I like those movies, but I don't feel the need to go back and rewatch them, like I do with Clerks every few years.
posted by roll truck roll at 12:59 PM on July 31, 2015 [3 favorites]


I'm trying to watch this pilot because I didn't have time last night, and the thing that's painfully awkward is that it's not really in New Jersey, nobody sounds like they've even been to New Jersey, and it feels like the writers just knew "it's in New Jersey, that's close to New York." There's a whole gag about stealing beer from a convenience store – in a state where they don't sell beer in convenience stores. That is just missing the mark. Before Jersey Girl, Kevin Smith was a demigod in New Jersey because he made films that were unapologetically set in and about our state. By comparison, a slapped-together generic sitcom that puts some NJ lottery stickers around for set dressing is kind of an insult.
posted by graymouser at 4:09 PM on July 31, 2015 [3 favorites]


Oh my God! Bear is driving! How can that be?
posted by graymouser at 6:17 PM on July 30 [37 favorites +] Favorite removed! [!]

With 37 favorites its credit I couldn't add another.
posted by euphorb at 7:44 PM on July 31, 2015 [5 favorites]


I really really like Clerks 2. Probably because I spent my 20s in university - but my 30s drifting.

I am so glad this never happened. I think I'll just go watch Clerks 2 again.
posted by jb at 9:03 PM on July 31, 2015


A really smart television comedy producer (I want to say it was Geoffrey Perkins because the dude was golden, but it may have been Graham Linehan) said that a good situation comedy traps its characters and sticks them all together in a setting they desperately wish, however consciously or unconsciously, they could get out of. The humor comes in how all these trapped characters relate to each other while forced to be together. While some programs such as Red Dwarf or Gilligan's Island literally trap their characters in an unrecoverable situation, others focus on the workplace which is infinitely more relatable to us, I guess, than being stuck six million light years from home. While you can go home after work, you're still stuck eight hours a day interacting with a bunch of people, some of whom you wouldn't want to hang out with if given the choice.

The more menial the job, the more people will want out, even if they've got nowhere else to go. That's point of the Clerks film. Dante and Randal are trapped in low-paying, boring, soul-sucking retail jobs in a small town because that's all they can get, they either can't or won't "grow up" and pursue careers. To compensate, they consider themselves superior to the job and the customers, gawking at the egg man and the guy with his hand stuck in the Pringles can, and skiving off work to play hockey on the roof or go to a funeral.

The pilot fails to catch nearly any of this. The three guys in this show aren't trapped, they're having a great time! They're passing burritos around like footballs, flirting with the tanning salon girl, throwing parties after hours, and the crushing boredom that needs to precipitate this behavior doesn't show at all. Randal is rude to a customer but she doesn't deserve it (also, the Kids in the Hall called; they want their Presumed Innocent gag back). Nobody feels superior to the customers; Randal just made a promise to stay immature forever and he's gonna live with it. Maybe it's supposed to be a given that these kids are so bored with the going nowhere that they'll happily goof around, or maybe ennui just didn't fit in with the gameplan at Touchstone.

So instead, reality stops by in the form of Dante's father and his long-suffering motherly girlfriend (there's a role that no woman ever needs to play again, ever) who want him to get his act together, move on, and move up. Dante doesn't know what he wants to be, but he'll happily take advice one moment and discard it the next. Meanwhile we have Cliff, who's actually on the verge of getting out, but we're not supposed to like him because A. he graduated college and is on the verge of getting out and B. he once ratted on Dante after a high school prank. He's not obnoxious or arrogant, but the guys treat him like he is. It makes about as much sense as Veronica telling Dante at the end not to go for the boring insurance job because she just wants him to be "like himself". The only thing more confusing was the cop letting the kids go because they were apparently too romantic to be arrested. I was kinda hoping Dante wouldn't make the job interview cause he'd been jailed overnight. Guess that would have been too deviant for the time slot.

So much for that pilot. Good thing someone realized it wasn't going to get any better and canned it.
posted by Spatch at 10:01 PM on July 31, 2015 [4 favorites]


euphorb: With 37 favorites its credit I couldn't add another.

Try not to favorite any comments on your way to the parking lot!
posted by dr_dank at 5:18 AM on August 1, 2015 [8 favorites]


jb, so do I!
posted by radioamy at 9:57 PM on August 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


« Older Black American Motherhood   |   Not exactly Nas vs Jay-Z... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments