Directed by Andy Ackerman, written by Marjorie Gross and Carol Leifer, Seinfeld (1989) episode "The Understudy" aired for the first time on May 18, 1995.
Guest-starring Bette Midler, the then-season finale is known for its parody of the Tonya Harding-Nancy Kerrigan scandal. On January 6, 1994, Tonya Harding’s main Olympic figure skating competitor Nancy Kerrigan was attacked after a practice session for the 1994 U.S Figure Skating Championships in Detroit. The news emerged that Harding’s ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly, and her bodyguard, Shawn Eckhardt, had hired a man named Shane Stant to break Kerrigan’s right leg so that she would be unable to compete at the 1994 Winter Olympics, which was to be held in and around Lillehammer, Norway.
In "The Understudy," Jerry (Jerry Seinfeld) is dating Gennice (Adelaide Miller), who humorously bursts into tears over the littlest things, such as her hot dog falling out of its bun. Curiously, though, she shows no emotion after hearing that her grandmother has passed away -- a fact that suggests, like Tanya, Gennice may have little empathy for other people. As it turns out, Gennice is also Bette Midler’s understudy. The Beaches (1988) star is currently in town performing in the fictional Broadway musical Rochelle, Rochelle and will also be playing in Jerry's and George’s (Jason Alexander) improv softball game.
During the game in Central Park, George accidently injures Midler, ensuring that Gennice will take her place on stage. However, enraged New Yorkers who were expecting to see Bette perform, suspect that Jerry and Gennice put George up to the act. Jerry comments that some have even started calling him “Gillooly,” a reference to Harding’s ex-husband. Even Kramer (Michael Richards), who eventually nurses the actress back to health, suspects foul play in one of the character's most unforgettable rants: "So, my dear, you think you can get to Broadway. Well, let me tell you something. Broadway has no room for people like you. Not the Broadway I know. My Broadway takes people like you and eats them up and spits them out. My Broadway is the Broadway of Merman, and Martin, and Fontaine, and if you think you can build yourself up by knocking other people down... GOOD LUCK!"
We realize that Gennice’s tendency to burst into tears mirrors Harding’s story directly when Gennice goes on stage for her first show subbing for Midler. Gennice (who even looks like Harding) starts crying on noticing her shoelace is untied, just as Harding lost all composure when she realized her skate was untied at the 1994 Olympics. Finally, like Harding, the understudy begs the audience for a chance to tie her shoe and start over.