NEW YORK — After a cavalcade of catch phrases and character actor witnesses, Jerry Seinfeld departed from the NBC airwaves Thursday night, as an estimated 79 million viewers watched Jerry and his three pals pay for their “selfishness, self-absorption, immaturity and greed.”
For those of you who missed the final episode, the “Seinfeld” gang was put on trial and eventually found guilty of being “indifferent to everything good and decent” and sentenced to a year in jail.
The storyline for the 75-minute series finale finds NBC picking up Jerry and George’s spec script for a 13-episode run. While on a private jet en route to Paris, Kramer’s endless pratfalls damage the jet’s controls and the group must make an emergency landing in Latham, Mass. Stuck in the sticks, the four observe a carjacking, film it with a handycam, and laugh it up. But this being the New America, such insensitivity is a crime, and they are hauled off to trial.
But wait a minute. Was it really a jury of their peers? “The New York Four,” as they are dubbed in the final episode of “Seinfeld” — Jerry, George, Elaine, and Kramer, in effect are without peers. No one, we know deep down, can be truly like them. Yet everyone knows part of themselves to be just like them: They are flesh-and-blood neuroses and bad moments and habits of all our lives. But their physical embodiment of all such pettiness would be too simple; America laughed for nine years at “Seinfeld” because in its characters we see ourselves.
“Seinfeld” managed to do it by bringing to the living room all the topics that make network censors (and Congressmen in an election year) twitch, foam, and rant: masturbation, cunnilingus, urination, menage a trois, contraception, breast implants, … penile shrinkage.
And, in the final go-round, it was all revisited in testimony from the litany of slobs, bubble boys, library cops, single mothers and Major League Baseball owners that they’d managed to offend over the nine seasons.
Unfortunately, it was done as one big plug-a-thon for NBC, with special appearances by Geraldo Rivera, a CNBC reporter, and all manner of Peacock executive references.
Even with all this heavy-handed network promotion, the show still managed to introduce a few more witticisms, including the call waiting “phone face-off” and the cruelty of the “cell phone walk & talk.”
And “Seinfeld” stayed true to his, and its, whining, ‘Ya-know-what-annoys-me?’-shtick right to the end.
“And what’s with the lock-down?” asks Jerry in stand-up gig at the prison rec room, “As if the weightlifting and sodomy weren’t enough?”
On Thursday’s “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” Seinfeld joked that what he’d really had enough of was comedy. “I feel like I need some kind of break from being funny. I have been funny every day for nine years and it’s exhausting… I am amazed at what has been going on this past week. Can you imagine what it is like being me? I am sick of myself.”