Watch the Never-Aired Pilot for Clerks, the Sitcom Based on Kevin Smith’s 1994 Film

Kevin Smith’s 1994 debut Clerks did much to define the low-bud­get, high-pro­file “Indiewood” boom of that era. But set a trend on Amer­i­ca’s cul­tur­al fringe, and it nev­er takes long for the main­stream to come call­ing. In this case, the main­stream want­ed to cash in on a Clerks tele­vi­sion sit­com, the only pro­duced episode of which spent the past cou­ple decades lan­guish­ing in the vast grave­yard of pilots no net­work would pick up before its redis­cov­ery just this year. You can watch it in all its san­i­tized glo­ry just above.

Even though those of us who grew up on the mid-1990s tele­vi­su­al land­scape won’t rec­og­nize the nev­er-aired Clerks itself, we’ll rec­og­nize its sen­si­bil­i­ty right away. “It gives me bad flash­backs to the pre-web mono­cul­ture,” writes one com­menter on the Metafil­ter thread about the show — a mono­cul­ture built, at that time, upon one-lin­ers and their cor­re­spond­ing laugh tracks, flop­py hair and bag­gy clothes. Iron­i­cal­ly, it was that very same dom­i­nant glossy bland­ness that made Clerks, the movie, feel so fresh when it first made its way from fes­ti­val to the­atri­cal release.

Still, this failed TV adap­ta­tion does retain a few ele­ments of its source mate­r­i­al: the con­ve­nience-store set­ting (though here called Rose Mar­ket rather than Quick Stop), the main char­ac­ters named Dante and Ran­dal. But the resem­blance more or less stops there. “Gone are the movie’s icon­ic drug deal­ers Jay and Silent Bob,” writes the A.V. Club’s Christo­pher Cur­ley, “replaced by back­up char­ac­ters includ­ing an ice cream serv­er and a tan­ning salon ditz. Some of the beats of the film are still there, like Ran­dal harass­ing his video store cus­tomers, but noth­ing lands or even remote­ly coheres.”

Kevin Smith made Clerks with $27,575. Clerks the sit­com pilot, made entire­ly with­out Smith’s involve­ment, cer­tain­ly cost much more — mon­ey that bought zero cul­tur­al impact, espe­cial­ly by com­par­i­son to the film that inspired it. The Indiewood move­ment showed us how much untapped vital­i­ty Amer­i­can cin­e­ma still had; almost every­thing on tele­vi­sion looked like life­less pro­duc­tions-by-com­mit­tee by com­par­i­son. But now that Clerks has passed its twen­ti­eth anniver­sary, the tables have turned, and we look to tele­vi­sion for the raw, real sto­ries Hol­ly­wood does­n’t tell. The tra­vails of a cou­ple of young sex- and Star Wars-obsessed dead-enders in grim sub­ur­ban New Jer­sey, shot in black-and-white 16-mil­lime­ter film — would CBS care to hear more?

via Metafil­ter/AV Club

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Watch the Hard­core Orig­i­nal End­ing to Kevin Smith’s 1994 Cult Hit Clerks

Watch Kevin Smith’s Clever First Film, Mae Day: The Crum­bling of a Doc­u­men­tary (1992)

The Always-NSFW Kevin Smith and Jason Mewes Catch Up in Jay and Silent Bob Get Old Pod­cast

Hear Kevin Smith’s Three Tips For Aspir­ing Film­mak­ers (NSFW)

Col­in Mar­shall writes on cities, lan­guage, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer, and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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