Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about TV and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the TV urban legends featured so far.
TV URBAN LEGEND: Larry David had scenes from an earlier episode of Seinfeld re-shot so that Jerry Stiller could play the role of Frank Costanza in all of the Frank Costanza appearances.
Over the first few seasons of Seinfeld, viewers got to know the eccentricities of Jason Alexander’s George Costanza…
But we didn’t know where he came from – he talked about his parents but we never saw them. Not until May of 1993, at the end of the Fourth Season of Seinfeld, in the episode “The Handicapped Spot.”
In the episode, George borrows his father’s car but parks in a handicapped spot and, well, hilarity ensues…
In the episode, naturally, George’s father shows up (as well as his mother, played by Estelle Harris), played by…John Randolph?!?
Yep, the veteran character actor played George’s father in the episode.
In the next season, however, they decided to have George move home with his parents, meaning that Frank and Estelle Costanza would be showing up more frequently, and for whatever reason, they decided to recast Frank Costanza.
Enter Jerry Stiller.
He and Estelle Harris would go on to become major parts of the series for the rest of the run, and Stiller even got an Emmy nomination out of it.
Their first episode was in the second one of Season 5 – “The Puffy Shirt”…
That’s all normal enough so far – actors get re-cast all the time, after all.
Heck, a father of a main character had ALREADY been re-cast!
Jerry Seinfeld’s father on the show, Mort Seinfeld, was already portrayed by two actors.
First Philip Bruns…
then, for the rest of the series, Barney Martin…
However, that changeover happened early in the series, when two things were notable…
1. The show was not a big hit yet, so Larry David did not have as much freedom as he would have in later years and, more importantly,
2. The idea of syndication was more like a dream than a reality that you would plan for.
By the time Season 5 came around, though, things were different. The show was one of the biggest hits on TV, and syndication was clearly coming, so in 1995, David actually came up with a bold idea…
He brought in Stiller and Alexander (and others) to re-shoot all of John Randolph’s scenes with Stiller in his place. This way, when the series would go into syndication, there’d be a continuity between actors.
The show did the same thing with Wayne Knight doing voiceover work for the episodes where his character Newman first appeared (Newman originally appeared off camera with his voice provided by Larry David).
On the Season 4 DVD (linked above), both versions are shown (and I believe the Randolph version is also used overseas for some reason).
The legend is…
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