It’s been 23 years since the Seinfeld finale aired and people are still scarred by the unsatisfying ending to one of the most popular TV shows of the 1990s.
When Jerry, Elaine, George and Kramer said goodbye on May 14, 1998, there was probably no way to make all fans happy so creators went with an approach that made no one happy.
News leaked out on Christmas Eve in 1997, that Jerry Seinfeld was cancelling the show effective May 1998, and North America suffered what can best be described as collective shock. Newspapers published major, front-page obituaries and People Magazine declared: A stunned nation prepares for life without Seinfeld.
The show about nothing as it billed itself, was built around a group of fussy, self-absorbed people who obsessed over the minutiae of daily life. As talked about in Ep. 30 of History of the 90s, Seinfeld went on to become one of the most influential TV shows of all time.
It took a while for the public to pick up on the style of the show but within three years Seinfeld had risen to become one of the biggest comedy hits in North America and served as the linchpin of the NBC’s ‘‘must-see TV’’ Thursday night lineup.
It eventually spawned 180 episodes across nine seasons. Nominated for 68 Emmy Awards and the winner of ten, Seinfeld ranked either first or second in the Nielson Ratings from 1994–95 to 1997–98. In 1996 the TV Guide magazine ran an article arguing that Seinfeld was the best sitcom of all time.
For many, the expansive hour-long finale, which was watched by 76 million people, was a slightly disappointing climax. For others it was an abomination.
It ends with the four friends going to prison for violating a Good Samaritan law in Massachusetts. Jerry, Elaine, George and Kramer witness an overweight man being robbed, but instead of helping him they relentlessly mock him.
And something I noticed while researching for the podcast episode — the final episode ends with the same joke that opened the very first episode. Clever!
Not only did Seinfeld find humor in the mundane, but it opened the door for the TV anti-heroes that came after – the mobsters of The Sopranos, Breaking Bad’s meth-cooking Walter White and the four entitled 20-somethings on Girls.
The characters in Seinfeld didn’t evolve, and they were funnier that way. As Larry David would say on set, there is “no hugging, no learning.”
For more stories from the 90s, check out my podcast “History of the 90s” available on ApplePodcasts, Spotify, Google Play and anywhere else you stream audio. You can also listen at http://www.curiouscast.ca