LOS ANGELES—Recalling the character’s unanticipated popularity with viewers, producers of the hit ’90s TV series Seinfeld told reporters Thursday that in the original version of the show’s pilot, Jerry is the victim of a grisly murder. “The death of this minor character 10 minutes into the first episode was supposed to be the inciting incident that brings together this quirky group of friends who all meet up at his funeral,” said series executive producer George Shapiro, adding that test audiences greatly enjoyed the rapport between the character and his neighbor, Kramer, but responded negatively when Jerry was brutally gunned down in a diner on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. “As it turned out, viewers really liked Jerry’s clever observations about human nature and the sarcastic remarks he made in reaction to his friends’ many foibles, so we decided to give the character a greatly expanded role. Once the writers discovered the actor who played Jerry also performed stand-up, it just made sense to incorporate that into the show as well. The rest is television history!” Shapiro went on to note that when the pilot was rewritten, the series became much more of a comedy, moving away from the original concept of a gritty police procedural featuring hard-bitten homicide detective George Costanza.