Ten years ago today, the greatest sitcom of all time came to an end.
Seinfeld ended its nine-season run on May 14, 1998 with The Finale, an episode that brought back memorable supporting characters from throughout the show’s run, and sent the “New York Four” to prison.
At the time, I hated the episode. While it had some great humorous moments, the idea of sending Jerry, Elaine, George and Kramer to prison for not helping out a carjack victim was preposterous and a bit of a cop-out.
Looking backat this today, while I still think the finale was funny, but weak overall. However, I think a lot of my ill feelings toward the episode had more to do with the fact that the show was ending than the individual merits of the episode.
The thing I realize now is that like George, the show was going out on a high note. Seinfeld didn’t outstay its welcome or become irrevelant by coming back year after year with even more episodes. Compare that with other long-running series. I love the Simpsons, and could probably quote classic episodes all day long. But while the antics of our favorite family are still good for a few laughs, the show isn’t as memorable or ass must-see as it once was. Same goes for M*A*S*H*, which had a longer run than the active combat phase of the conflict it was based on.
Instead, Seinfeld limited itself to nine seasons of comedy which people quote (and life still imitates) to this day. A recent article in Newsweek claims the show’s relevance was minimal due to the self-centeredness of the characters. I’d say that the show’s focus on the little things in life, as well as the character’s own self interest is what made it great. Take George, for instance. I think George Costanza is one of the great characters of all time. No one could be like him all the time, but I’m sure everyone has parts of them that wish they could be. However, when we see George in action, we’re reminded why it’s good that we don’t live life the way George does.
If Seinfeld had continued production, it most likely would have gone the way of all the other shows that held on too long. But I guess as George and Jerry learned, it’s better to go out on a high note and always leave the audience wanting more.
Kramer: And it’s a waste of my talent. It’s just a little burning. Mickey, he
got bacterial meningitis.
George: I guess there are no small diseases, only small actors.
The other three start laughing.
George (leaving): Alright that’s it for me. Good night everybody.
Elaine: What was that?
Jerry: Showmanship, George is trying to get out on a high note.