(@LA.COM)
May 14, 1998
That's It? 

Yes, itís a special "Must-Read" Thursday edition of @LA.COM. Consider it a bonus for you readers who have been so faithfully putting up with a couple of recent column delays while I pursue an actual job working the TV biz. (There is hope on the horizon Ė I have a meeting next week with a couple of the guys who helped launch Pauly Shoreís movie career. Really.)

So, did you see the Seinfeld finale?

Admittedly, Iím writing this in the heat of passion, scant hours after viewing it. Maybe tomorrow, Iíll wake up and think it was the best thing ever on television.

But for now, Iím mad. I donít "get it." And when it comes to Seinfeld, both the man and the show, I usually do.

SPOILER WARNING:

If for some reason you havenít seen the last episode of Seinfeld, and donít want to know what happens, then stop reading. Hit that "back" button now, buck-o, Ďcause weíre talking about it.

Now let me see if Iíve got this straight. The series that always promised to be the anti-Cosby Show, the series that promised no hugs, no lessons, no tears, the series that defined cool (and obviously ludicrous) cynicism in the Ď90ís Ö ends with the biggest, non-cynical lesson of them all? Que?

To review, Jerry, George, Elaine, and Kramer are sent to jail for one year for failing to intervene in an armed robbery. (Side note Ė did the attorney ever argue there was no compelling need to intervene, since this was an armed robbery? The law says you should, no, must confront an armed attacker, especially if youíre an innocent bystander? Gah, at least make the law make Seinfeld sense. This is blatantly lame.) And thatís how the series ends, with the gang serving a one-year jail term.

What? You mean there actually is a consequence to their inaction? Jerry and the gang actually pay a price? There is a moral price, moral judgment meted out upon them?

Why now? After all, to me, what makes Seinfeld so great is not, as some have argued, its complete lack of morals, but its strict adherence to its own unique set of morals, similar, but different than those here in the real world. There is a consistency to morality in the Seinfeld universe. That consistency is thrown out the window in the finale of this series.

A writer for the Associated Press described the characters as "essentially unlovable." I actually heard a commentator from TV Guide say on NBC, "These are characters that a lot of people hate, and now, maybe theyíll be happy." Certainly, these are characters that can be a bit boorish at times, but hate? And should that be the demographic target of the series finale: people who hate the characters and want to see them "get theirs?"

Is there anyone in America, besides the bitter Larry David, who thinks this is a television classic? (Donít get me wrong; usually, I find Larryís bitterness quite hilarious. Tonight, it was just annoying.)

I mean, Larry, really, this 75 minute episode just doesnít get it done. Last episodes have to say something special about the characters. Remember the last episode of M*A*S*H? The helicopter slowly lifting off, giving us one last aerial look at the 4077th. The last episode of The Mary Tyler Moore show will always been known for a heartfelt group hug at the end. Thatís what felt right for the show.

But the last episode of Seinfeld didnít do its characters justice. The moral of Seinfeld has always been, Yeah, but these guys get away with it. They're funnier than we are. They lead more wacky lives than we do. Things happen to them that might happen to us, but thereís always a larger than life twist.

And in the last episode of the greatest comedy series in the nineties, Newman won. Newman. Newman!

That ainít right.

In retrospect, the whole series now is nothing more than Newman waiting for that day to come Ö and come it does. Newman triumphant. Yikes.

The guest star cameos were fun, but really pointless. I mean, they were just there to set up a clip, and nothing else. Better, I think, would be to make them a part of the story. Imagine the tapestry that could be woven from Soup Nazi to Baboo. Instead, theyíre all thrown together in a plot contrivance.

A lot of the episode takes place away from New York City. By comparison, the last episode of Cheers didnít take place at Garyís Bar. The last episode of M*A*S*H was set in Korea. The last episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation was set primarily aboard the Enterprise. Jerry and the gang are now locked up far from home, after a mishap in a small town in Massachusetts. Huh?

I enjoyed only one part; when Elaine says to Jerry, "Iíve always loved youÖ United Airlines." In character, funny, revealing, appropriate, and finale-worthy. The rest of the show left me very, very flat.

Further legal advice for Messrs. Seinfeld, Benes, Costanza, and Kramer Ė thereís a couple of great law firms in the Boston area you really should look up.

For example:


               FADE IN:

               INT. JAIL VISITING AREA -- DAY

               A standard jail visiting area, inmates on one side, visitors 
               and lawyers on the other.  We pan to the entry door, and see 
               ALLY MCBEAL, JOHN CAGE, and RICHARD FISH enter.  They're 
               overdressed for this facility, which is somewhat rural.

                                     ALLY
                         Why are we meeting with these clients?

                                     CAGE
                         I went to law school with one of 
                         them for a time.  He said it was an 
                         emergency.

                                     FISH
                         It'll be a real emergency if they 
                         can't cough up our fee, and by the 
                         looks of this place, what did your 
                         buddy do?

                                     CAGE
                         To call him a buddy is perhaps saying 
                         too much.  We were acquaintances, 
                         nothing more.

                                     ALLY
                              (pointing)
                         Look at that man over there ... he 
                         looks like his head is on fire!

               REVERSE ANGLE to show COSMO KRAMER and ELAINE BENES entering 
               the holding area, escorted by a guard.  They're wearing 
               traditional prison garb.  Kramer enters with his usual 
               panache, which doesn't play well with the guard.  They reach 
               their seats.

                                     KRAMER
                         Cage, Cage, old buddy, I knew you 
                         wouldn't let me down, I knew it!

                                     CAGE
                         Kramer, it's been a long time.

                                     KRAMER
                         Too long, man, too long.  You should 
                         come see me in the city.

                                     FISH
                         Well, now, seeing as you're going to 
                         be tied up here for the next year or 
                         so, that'd be a wasted trip wouldn't 
                         it.  Let's get down to business.  
                         You need us, we need your money.

                                     ELAINE
                         Kramer, I thought you said ...

                                     KRAMER
                              (to Elaine)
                         Well, now, give me a second.

                                     ALLY
                         A second?  To do what?

                                     KRAMER
                         I've got to take a moment.  Gather 
                         myself.

                                     FISH
                              (to Cage)
                         So that's where ...

                                     CAGE
                              (low)
                         Poughkeepsie ... Hudson Valley.

                                     ELAINE
                              (to Ally)
                         I like your outfit.

                                     ALLY
                              (absently)
                         Oh, thanks, I like yours too.
                              (catching herself)
                         Ah ... I mean, your hair!  I like 
                         your hair!

                                     ELAINE
                         Thanks, thanks.  I had it washed by 
                         my new friend Hilda just this morning.

                                     ALLY
                         I bet that was fun.

                                     ELAINE
                         Sure, sure.  Hilda's a real ... nice 
                         woman ...

               They have nothing to talk about, and the conversations settles 
               into uneasy silence.

                                     FISH
                         So, Mr. Kramer, back to the matter 
                         at hand.  You've appealed the verdict, 
                         I suppose?

                                     KRAMER
                         The what?

                                     FISH
                         The verdict has been appealed, right?

                                     ELAINE
                         I think.  Jackie's mind seemed pretty 
                         distracted before he left town.

               Fish is amazed. 

                                     FISH
                         Your previous lawyer was Jackie 
                         Childs?  Wow, he's expensive.

               Cage gets back to business.

                                     CAGE
                         You don't know if your case has been 
                         appealed or not?

                                     KRAMER
                         Yeah, Daddy.  That's the long and 
                         short of it.

                                     CAGE
                         This troubles me.

                                     ALLY
                              (low)
                         What doesn't?

                                     FISH
                              (to Kramer)
                         Okay, as I see it, you've got a couple 
                         of options here.  You,
                              (points to Elaine)
                         Your lovely wife, and your two gay 
                         friends can stay up here in Sing 
                         Sing North East for all eternity.  
                         It makes no difference to me, not 
                         one whit.

                                     KRAMER
                         Well, it matters to me!

                                     FISH
                         And that brings me to my second point, 
                         our fee.  Usually, we collect a fee 
                         for our legal services.  Usually, 
                         this fee is paid in United States 
                         cash dollars, although we have been 
                         known to accept various other 
                         international hard currencies, and 
                         there was the time John signed off 
                         on a writ of sale in exchange for a 
                         goat, although that's certainly not 
                         standard procedure, and we haven't 
                         accepted any other farm animals since 
                         then.

                                     KRAMER
                              (to Cage)
                         Hey, I like this guy!

                                     CAGE
                         He grows on you.

                                     FISH
                         Now, the first thing we have to do 
                         is find out about ...

                                     KRAMER
                         The appeal?

                                     FISH
                         No, your credit.

                                     CAGE
                         Richard, for once, back off.  Cosmo 
                         is an old friend of mine.  I owe my 
                         legal career to him.  This one's on 
                         me.

                                     ALLY
                         That's sweet, John.

               Elaine beckons Ally to one side, for a bit of privacy. 

                                     ELAINE
                              (to Ally)
                         So, are you two ...
                              (indicates Cage)
                         You know ...?

                                     ALLY
                         John and I?

               Ally lets out a laugh, then quickly stifles it.

                                     ALLY
                         Ah, no, no.  We work better as 
                         friends.

                                     ELAINE
                         I know that feeling.

                                     ALLY
                              (low)
                         Are they letting you see your husband 
                         often enough?  We can file an appeal 
                         for more conjugal visits.

                                     ELAINE
                         My husband?

                                     ALLY
                         Yes.  Kramer.

                                     ELAINE
                         Oh, no, no, no, no, no ...

                                     ALLY
                         No what?

               Elaine thinks for a moment, looking Kramer up and down.

                                     ELAINE
                         Conjugal visits?

                                     ALLY
                              (puzzled)
                         Yes.

                                     ELAINE
                         Okay, sign me up.

               Back with the guys, Kramer is shaking Cage's hand.

                                     KRAMER
                         Okay, John old buddy, I knew you 
                         wouldn't let me down.

                                     CAGE
                         Say no more of it, Kramer.  I owe 
                         you.

               Kramer makes a zipping motion across his lips, and "throws 
               away the key."

                                     KRAMER
                              (muffled)
                         Mmpff, plpmphophfofo.

                                     FISH
                         We'll let you know about the appeal 
                         date.  Tell your gay friends we said 
                         hi.

               Fish, Ally, and Cage get up to leave, as do Elaine and Kramer.

                                     ELAINE
                         Ally, is there one thing you could 
                         do for me?

                                     ALLY
                         Sure, what's that?

                                     ELAINE
                         I used to work ...

               She stops, sniffling back a tear.

                                     ELAINE
                         I used to work for the J. Peterman 
                         company.

                                     ALLY
                         You worked at Peterman?  Do you have 
                         my credit card number memorized?

                                     ELAINE
                         I'm a writer for the catalog, not an 
                         operator.

               Ally, chagrined, backs away.

                                     ALLY
                         Sorry.  I'll bring you a copy of the 
                         new catalog.

               Elaine brightens.

                                     ELAINE
                         Could you?

                                     ALLY
                         Consider it done.

               Ally, Cage, and Fish exit.  Elaine joins Kramer on the walk 
               back toward their cells.

                                     KRAMER
                         That John Cage fellow, whoo-hee!

                                     ELAINE
                         That's what you said about Jackie 
                         Childs.

                                     KRAMER
                         Yeah, but John Cage!  Whooooo - 
                         eeeeee!

                                                                    CUT TO:

               INT. CELL -- CONTINUOUS

               JERRY and GEORGE sit on bunks, opposite each other.

                                     JERRY
                         And what's the deal with that airline 
                         food, anyway?

                                     GEORGE
                              (building steam)
                         I'm going crazy in here!

                                     JERRY
                         George, you know I have to stay sharp.  
                         It's my only hope once we get out.  
                         I need to have professional comedy 
                         skills.

                                     GEORGE
                         If, Jerry, if we get out!

                                     JERRY
                         We'll get out.

                                     GEORGE
                         Oh, you'll get out, but not me!  I'm 
                         dyin' in here!  That's right.  I'm 
                         searching for my own Shawshank 
                         redemption!

               A beat.

                                     JERRY
                         You never saw "The Shawshank 
                         Redemption," did you?

                                     GEORGE
                         But that doesn't mean I can't search 
                         for it!

                                     JERRY
                         All right, all right, quiet down.  
                         You'll wake the guard.

                                     GEORGE
                              (baby voice)
                         "Oh, you'll wake the guard!"
                              (normal)
                         What, you think he deserves a solid 
                         day's sleep, with us locked up in 
                         here?

                                     JERRY
                         Apparently, the man's entitled to 
                         sleep on the job, I say let him!  If 
                         his biggest worry is you, he's 
                         probably sleeping soundly.

                                     GEORGE
                         Oh, comedy boy, gotta' work the 
                         timing, stay in shape!

                                     JERRY
                         I do!

                                     GEORGE
                         We'll see about that, when they 
                         transfer you to super-max!

                                     JERRY
                              (losing patience)
                         There is no super-max, this is a 
                         county jail!

                                     GEORGE
                         Oh, there's a super-max all right!  
                         And you're going to be laughing all 
                         the way to it!

                                     JERRY
                         All right, just calm down.

                                     GEORGE
                              (yelling)
                         I am calm!

               The guard rustles, then wakens.

                                     GUARD
                              (sleepy)
                         What's making all that noise down 
                         here?

                                     GEORGE
                         Sorry, officer, my friend Jerry and 
                         I were just discussing ...

               Jerry is behind George, shaking his head silently.

                                     GUARD
                         That's what I thought.

               He unlocks the cell door.

                                     GUARD
                         Come on, Tubby.  I'm taking you to 
                         your own cell.

                                     GEORGE
                              (panicked)
                         No, Jerry, don't let them!  I'm going 
                         to super-max, Jerry!  You'll never 
                         see me again!

                                     JERRY
                         So long!

                                     GEORGE
                         Jerry, please, remember me.

               George is dragged off.

                                     GEORGE
                         Remember me, Jerry!  Remember me!

               Jerry leans back on his cot, and picks up a comic book.

                                     JERRY
                         Yeah, yeah, it's all about you.

                                                                  FADE OUT:


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Colin Campbell - jenolen@earthlink.net
Last updated May 24, 1998