On May 14, 1998, Seinfeld ended its dominant run in prime time.
We said goodbye to puffy shirts, Kramerica Industries, and Newman.
We said goodbye to Uncle Leo, Festivus, and doing the opposite.
We said goodbye to Jerry, Elaine, George, and Kramer.
The final episode of Seinfeld placed the four characters in the small town of Latham, Massachusetts after their plane ride to Paris made an emergency landing. They fought charges of breaking a Good Samaritan law; when they saw an overweight victims getting mugged, they failed to intervene.
It was an episode that brought back characters from episodes past to testify for the prosecution.
For example, we saw Bookman, the library cop who tracked down Jerry after some 20 years for not returning a Henry James book to the New York Public Library.
We also saw George’s alter ego. Sort of. The name of the judge is Arthur Vandelay. Art Vandelay the name of George’s favorite alias.
Jackie Chiles, a fast-talking attorney inspired by Johnnie Cochran, defended Jerry, Elaine, George, and Kramer.
The episode ended with the four major characters going to prison and a tag scene showcasing Jerry doing standup comedy for his new prison friends.
Seinfeld eclipsed a sitcom in its final week, a sitcom that also enjoyed a terrific success. Murphy Brown. Where Seinfeld was a show about nothing, Murphy Brown was a show about something. Women in the workplace. Politics in Washington, D.C. Television news. Murphy Brown bowed out with its final episode just a few days after the Seinfeld finale, but the groundbreaking program starring Candice Bergen in the title role of a high-powered television network journalist did not garner media attention commensurate with its successful tenure in prime time.
In a story line involving Kramer going to Hollywood to pursue an acting career, a scene from Murphy Brown featuring Kramer playing one of Murphy’s secretaries. A recurring gag on Murphy Brown was Murphy’s bad luck in finding a competent secretary.
Character actor James Rebhorn played the district attorney in the Seinfeld finale. Rebhorn appeared in Meet the Parents, Independence Day, Scent of a Woman, The Game, and My Cousin Vinny, among many other films. His television credits include Homeland, Now and Again, From the Earth to the Moon, The Knights of Prosperity, and Law & Order.
In the end, the show about nothing gave its characters a comeuppance because they did nothing. Self-absorbed? Sure. Egotistical? You bet. Selfish? Affirmative.
But what would life be like for the New York Four in prison? Would things be any different?
Would George continue to invent schemes, perhaps to smuggle in food and other amenities?
Would Kramer continue his wild entrances into Jerry’s cell instead of Jerry’s apartment?
Would Jerry continue his observations of the mundane parts of life to find the humor in them?
Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld co-created Seinfeld. A slew of guest stars appeared on the show, sometimes in recurring roles, including Bryan Cranston, Matt McCoy, Courtney Cox, Jane Leeves, Brenda Strong, Sandy Baron, Patrick Warburton, Debra Messing, Jerry Stiller, Wilford Brimley, Bette Midler, Raquel Welch, Phil Morris, Lloyd Bridges, Kathy Griffin, Jeremy Piven, Mariska Hargitay, Catherine Keener, Amanda Peet, Wayne Knight, John O’Hurley, Michelle Forbes, Lisa Edelstein, James Spader, Rudy Giuliani, Reni Santoni, Sheree North, Philip Baker Hall, Janeane Garofalo, Fred Stoller, Jon Voight, Jami Gertz, Fred Savage, and Judge Reinhold.