Love or hate Clerks, Kevin Smith’s 1994 debut film, at least its low-key vulgarity and geeky soliloquies were filled with genuine slacker élan. The same cannot be said of the aborted 1995 Clerks television series, a hacky, nigh-unwatchable PG reconfiguration of the movie into a Saved By The Bell-esque sitcom. The pilot, which was supposedly passed on by Disney, found its way to the web earlier this year, and is to some degree a fascinating study in awfulness and adaptation gone awry. Gone are the movie’s iconic drug dealers Jay and Silent Bob, replaced by backup characters including an ice cream server played by Rick Gomez (a.k.a. Justified’s David Vasquez) and a tanning salon ditz played by a pre-Felicity Keri Russell, while a pre-Saturday Night Live Jim Breuer plays co-lead Randal Graves (replacing Jeff Anderson). Some of the beats of the film are still there, like Randal harassing his video store customers, but nothing lands or even remotely coheres.
Unlike 2000’s Clerks: The Animated Series, director Smith had nothing to do with this pilot, which everyone involved probably wishes had stayed buried forever, but this is the internet, so it was not to be. The pilot does work in a few ways: as a study in 1990s fashion, an exercise in masochism, or as a tonic to the knowledge that no matter how bad Clerks III is, it won’t be worse than this.