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.
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.
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: