It was a based on a clever concept. But, in the end, the final episode of "Seinfeld" last night was mainly for die-hard fans. By no standard could you call it great.
The concept involved putting Jerry, Elaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), George (Jason Alexander) and Kramer (Michael Richards) on trial for "criminal indifference," the very charge real-life critics of the series are making against the characters as "Seinfeld" ends its popular nine-year run.
The finale started out promising enough, neatly resurrecting the fictional sitcom, "Jerry," that Jerry and George had created and tried to sell to NBC five years ago. A new NBC president, played by Peter Riegert, stumbles upon the pilot and offers them a contract for 13 episodes and the use of the company jet.
The four decide to have a "fling in Paris" at NBC's expense before Jerry and George move to Los Angeles. But the jet has engine problems, stops for repair in Latham, Mass., and the four wind up getting arrested under a new "good Samaritan" law that demands bystanders help crime victims. Instead of helping a fat man who was being carjacked, they had mocked him.
"These four have quite a history of selfishness, self-absorption, immaturity and greed," the prosecuting attorney said in his opening argument, "But this time they have gone too far."
While the trial gave them a neat chance to revisit many of the series' most memorable moments and characters -- the Soup Nazi, Jerry stealing a loaf of marble rye from an elderly woman, Sidra (Teri Hatcher) in a sauna, the death of George's fiance and the Bubble Boy -- it was static and linear, the exact opposite of the innovative, cross-cutting narrative style that the sitcom introduced to prime time. By "Seinfeld" standards, it was a downright boring kind of storytelling.
Furthermore, the flamboyant Johnnie Cochrane-like attorney representing the four was drawn so broad and obvious that you wondered if co-creator Larry David, known for his subtle sense of irony, really wrote this final script.
The funniest moments might have been those at the very end after the four friends find themselves in jail sentenced to a year for their anti-social behavior. Jerry, in an orange prison jumpsuit, is doing stand-up, making jokes about being stabbed in the yard, and bombing big time with the inmates.
"Seinfeld" stayed true to its of "no hugging, no learning" mantra ,, last night.
It made for a mildly amusing but ultimately empty-feeling finale.
Seinfeld and David tried to cross too many "t's" and dot too many "i's" from past episodes. They offered lots of fond memories, but no meaningful sense of closure for the nine years of our lives that many of us shared with their show.
Pub Date: 5/15/98