Twenty-one years ago, Kevin Smith splashed onto the indie movie scene (and Hollywood at large) with his first feature, “Clerks.” A genuine labor of love, the filmmaker wrote, directed, produced, edited, and co-starred in the picture, which went on to garner awards at both Sundance and Cannes; win overwhelming critical acclaim; launch Smith’s career, and spawn a sequel (with a third in the works), cartoon, and a failed 1995 live action television pilot.
What’s that? You’ve never heard of “Clerks” the TV series? As AV Club reports, such a thing almost came to be. Now, before you wonder how such a potentially groundbreaking show died before leaving the gate, I should tell you that Smith was not involved in any way. Because of his absence, Jay and Silent Bob are noticeably absent (Jay was repurposed by producers as Ray); more so, though, due to his lack of participation, the show’s pilot sucked. Terribly. For proof, take an 89 second break from reading this to watch the show’s opening scene in the full pilot below, and then come back to me. I’ll wait…
Done? Did you laugh? Not even once? Neither did I. Yet, unfunny—in fact, uncomfortable—as that was, that precious minute and a half of your life was what writers, producers, and on-camera talent thought could set the stage for a new, weekly TV show. The result, painful as it is, is a group of actors hamming it up with horrendous material and contrived lines (and either a laugh track or the world’s highest audience), amid a set and costumes that look borrowed from “Saved by the Bell” (a comparison first attributed to Jeff Anderson, aka Randal Graves from the original “Clerks”).
Speaking of the actors, you probably recognized the tanning-obsessed customer as Keri Russell. The future “Felicity” star was supposed to be a regular on the show, which starred none other than Jim Breuer. Breuer replaced Anderson as Randal Graves, while Andrew Lowery took over for Brian O’Halloran as Dante Hicks (and that’s not to imply that either Anderson or O’Halloran have any regrets about not reprising their roles for this awful series that never was, though they both did audition for the role of Dante).
Of course, it would be another five years until Kevin Smith and his team got back together to make another “Clerks” installment. Short-lived as it might have been, the six-episode cartoon that that aired (for two episodes) on ABC in 2000, and was then released on DVD in 2001 at least reunited the original cast and characters. “Clerks II,” the sequel to Smith’s 1994 feature, came out in 2006. And until “Clerks III” hits theaters, we can all sit back and watch the abysmal pilot for the (essentially unauthorized) 20-year-old sitcom and be thankful Jim Breuer never worked his way into the “Clerks” canon.