Seinfeld debuted in an era when TV theme tunes with lyrics, which typically explained the plot, were still popular. However, in keeping with the show’s idea of “nothing,” the primary theme included no lyrics — just jazzy synths, lip snaps, and one helluva slap bass beat. However, it was almost too pure for this planet to handle. We discover that NBC almost shot it down in a new Yahoo! Entertainment interview with composer Jonathan Wolff (as spotted by The AV Club), which coincides with the recent, belated release of its soundtrack.
A traditional theme tune, according to Wolff, would clash with the show’s beginning, which featured Jerry Seinfeld’s Jerry Seinfeld performing a new stand-up routine. He desired something that would be unobtrusive. So he created a “basic and sophomoric” bass line and incorporated “the human character of my finger-snaps, lips, and tongues doing stuff.” As a result, a memorable theme song was born.
Except it was nearly extinguished at birth. According to Wolff, NBC executives thought it “sounded bizarre and weird.” Others described it as “distracting” and “annoying.” One reason, he claims, is that the slap bass “had not yet achieved ‘celebrity status’ as a solo instrument” — this was before Primus used it for another famous TV theme tune, South Park.
That was the one who saved it? Larry David is a well-known actor. He jumped into action after learning that the suits thought it was strange and fought for its inclusion. “Larry, he loves annoying!” says Wolff. He thrives on annoyance! That is his life’s principal goal.”
And that’s why ‘90s Must-See TV got the funkiest theme song since Barney Miller.