What’s the deal with all these posts about Seinfeld, 3.5 readers?
Ah, Jerry Seinfeld. He was that comedian who taught us all that you don’t necessarily need a punchline so long as you can offer a humorous observation. In 9 seasons, he brought us a show about nothing that surprisingly, meant something to many of us, not to mention how it added a lot of sayings and expressions to the cultural zeitgest.
Channeling Jerry. “What’s the deal with bloggers using the word zeitgest like they know what it means?”
The finale was greatly panned back in the day and there are still fans who despise it. Why am I even talking about it 23 years later? 23 years. Wow. It’s been off the air that long.
In the last episode, Jerry gets the call he has long been waiting for – that NBC has decided to resurrect his long defunct Jerry TV show. An earlier season saw Jerry and George trying to get the NBC to pick it up only to fail in a variety of humorous ways, from skirmishes with the actors to misunderstandings with the network prez.
Jerry, now a network big shot, is granted free use of the company plane, and decides to celebrate by taking pals Elaine, George and Kramer to Paris. Alas, a Kramerian goof up causes to the plane to have to make an emergency landing in rural Massachusetts. There, the quartet runs afoul of a new Good Samaritan law which requires bystanders to help those in need. The fab four sees a portly fellow getting robbed and rather than help, they laugh, make jokes – heck, Kramer even records it on a camcorder.
This leads to a trial that basically turns the whole thing into a glorified clip show. The DA argues that the 4 are by far the most selfish, self-absorbed people in the world, with a long track record of hurting people with their cavalier debauchery filled lives. He even brings in all the people who have suffered due to their shenanigans over the years, from the old lady that Jerry stole a marble rye from (in his defense, George really needed it) to Cidra aka Terri Hatcher who is convinced Elaine’s accidental stumble in a gym sauna was designed to determine if her breasts were real or fake so she could report the info to Jerry. (In Jerry’s defense, Elaine’s stumble was an obvious real accident because given the option, men have no problem finding out on their own, and frankly, would prefer doing their own detective work.)
It’s funny how time flies. I remember being very young when this came on. I remember everyone being disappointed. Yet, I also remember thinking basically the same thing I think today. How else could they have possibly ended it?
Larry David’s rule for the show was “no learning, no growing.” Seinfeld is a comedian’s comedian who truly believes his job is to make an audience laugh. It isn’t to educate or lecture or scold or give you a special message or anything like that. He makes with the ha ha and if you want a show where characters learn or grow, you’d better change the channel.
Ultimately, they worked that into the series. The characters literally never learn or grow. They start the show as a quartet of young schmucks and they end the show as middle aged schmucks. Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer all have their problems. They’ll be the first to tell you that, ad nauseum and in way too much detail if you let them. Yet, for some strange reason, they demand perfection, be it from their lives, their careers, or most frustratingly, from their mates.
George is bald but has qualms about dating a bald woman. George isn’t very handsome but has a problem dating a woman with a big schnozola. Jerry is a skinny health nut germaphobe and on the show, is a comedian who earns a middle class living on his craft. He’s a better catch than George but he’s far from perfect and rejects women for having man hands, catching gonorrhea on a tractor, having a belly button that he imagines has a funny voice and on and on.
Elaine’s boyfriends are more of a parody of what women have to go through – the schmuck who takes “it” out on a first date, the guy with a bad back who buys her an orthopedic mattress and she can’t tell if it’s because he is trying to give her a thoughtful gift or if he’s hoping to sleep with her and so on.
Kramer is the wild of the bunch. Is he so stupid he has no idea that his life is a mess or is he so smart that he has realized the secret that life is a mess no matter which way you play it so you might as well goof off all the way through it?
At any rate, though I admit the finale is rather lackluster, I’m not sure they could have done better. Could they have had Jerry and Elaine get married? Could they have had George finally settle down? Ultimately, as the jail doors close on the crew, the final joke is that these four are stuck in an eternal purgatory- they will never change their ways, they will never settle for less yet they will never get better enough to accomplish more (Which Larry David has always said is the source of his psychosis as well as his comedy.)
To the show’s credit, there is a moment where Elaine almost tells Jerry she loves him when the plane is going down, Jerry and George do finally get their big break (albeit as George says God would never allow him to be successful and thus why something bad happens to intervene) and it does feature the greatest Newman “I’ll get you, Seinfeld” speeches followed by maniacal laughter of all time.
Bonus points because it tackled the whole “why do people stand around, making fun of someone and recording them in peril rather than help them” long before cell phones with video cameras were ever invented. Overall, the Good Samaritan law seems rather unlikely because while it sounds like a good idea to demand people help those in need in theory, in reality, could an untrained bystander really disarm a mugger without getting mugged or killed him or herself?
STATUS: Shelf-worthy. Credit to Jerry for going out on top rather than try to squeeze another five years, let the show get crappy while he cashed in. It’s not the best episode but I’m just not sure anyone could have come up with a better ending. The idea behind the show is that these people never get a happy ending or even any kind of an ending or closure. They will never change their ways and thus, they are forever trapped in a purgatory of their own design, a Waiting for Godot style life that they carry with them wherever they go.