Seinfeld was far from an instant hit. The show first aired as The Seinfeld Chronicles in July 1989. Kramer was named Kessler, Elaine wasn't around and a waitress named Claire played a big role. The pilot didn't receive huge ratings, and the second episode didn't air until nearly 11 months later. During this time, Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David worked out the kinks and cast former SNL actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Jerry's ex-girlfriend. Moderate success followed, but NBC knew they had something fresh.
As the months went by and the writing grew sharper, Seinfeld began rising in the ratings. By the third season, roughly 18 million people were watching every episode, and by final season that number had doubled. Jerry was offered incredible amounts of money to carry on, but he knew he'd damage the legacy should he agree. Seinfeld has now been gone for 17 years now, but with constant reruns on cable it really feels like it never left.