So I get a call from a producer on the Today show who wanted to know if I was willing to be interviewed for a segment they were doing on Seinfeld mania, Jerry hysteria, in the run-up to the final episode. I was, needless to say, supposed to be the Dissenting Voice, a role I’m happy to fill. It seems to be my fate, my legacy (along with getting the Chrysler spire lit up all night long) to be the Anti-Jerry.
But I had misgivings about the Today show invitation and still do. After all, it’s NBC: Are they likely to give full weight and respectful attention to someone who can’t stand Seinfeld ? Or are they more likely to frame it, frame me, as a humorless grinch who just doesn’t get it? When I know–as the groundswell of support for my “Can’t Stand Seinfeld ” Society campaign demonstrated a couple years ago–that I’m not alone, that there is a vast, or at least substantial minority of Americans, and not just New Yorkers, who find the insipid, overrated, timid, smug, insular and self-satisfied sitcom just sets their teeth on edge. We get it, we just can’t stand it.
Particularly annoying is the endlessly repeated mantra that the show’s genius is that it’s “about nothing,” a thin, impoverished esthetic insight that is pronounced with much self-congratulatory profundity by those who think it gives them a high-toned rationale for settling for so little. How many times in the coming few weeks will we have to hear inane variations on the “nothing” theme? How many times will hacks with nothing to say make the worship of nothingness into a national religion?
Where was I? Oh yeah, deciding whether to do the Today show taping. As I write this, I’m having second thoughts about having agreed, but let’s set aside my personal dilemma for the moment because I have some inside information about the oh-so-secret final episode.
I’m not sure it’s the one they’re going to go with; I’ve heard there were several competing concepts for the final episode. They may even have shot several different versions, but I have to say I hope they go with this one, because from what I’ve seen of the top-secret synopsis, if they have the courage to go with the concept, it might turn out that the last Seinfeld show ever will turn out to be the first one I actually like.
The concept for the episode, as I understand it, is that the characters finally reveal to each other, and to the audience, some secrets they’ve kept to themselves, some episodes in their lives that give us a truer feeling for who they really are as we say goodbye to them.
The way I piece it together from the fragmentary synopsis I’ve seen and the gossip from people who know people who know people-in-the-know, it’s done through a series of flashback subplots. In the central one, dealing with Jerry, of course, we see him visiting Boston for a stand-up gig. After the show, he meets a very young English girl, she’s only 17–it seems like a daring reference to his romance with Shoshanna, and she possesses some of the same, um, attributes, as Jerry’s ex.
It turns out she’s kind of an au pair for a local family, and Jerry has to sneak in his trysts with her during the day when the parents are at work and she’s minding the baby. Much laughter is derived from Jerry’s complaining about making love in the afternoon, trying to get the baby to sleep through the nanny’s noisy lovemaking, etc. Then one day the baby’s bawling throws Jerry off stride, so to speak, and he tells the nanny that one way to keep a child like that quiet is to give it a good, firm shaking. The nanny comes back from the nursery, the baby’s quiet, only, get this–in one of those daring twists that make Seinfeld breakthrough TV–it turns out the nanny has shaken the baby too hard and it’s turned blue and stopped breathing!
Much wacky fun ensues as Jerry dials 911 and makes fun of the operator’s accent, then ridicules the ineptness of the E.M.S. crew that unsuccessfully attempts to revive the dead baby while Jerry hides in the closet, hoping his role in what will later become known as the British nanny murder trial is kept from his adoring public.
Meanwhile, in another flashback subplot that’s intercut with Jerry’s madcap baby-murder adventure, George has a wacky new job again; this one is judging beauty contests for subteen girls. George confesses to the gang that, while he’s horrified by the way the stage mothers of these little beauty queens exploit them and tart them up with shamelessly seductive costumes, nonetheless he can’t help feeling he’s developing a “thing” for one of the contestants. Sure, it’s wrong; he knows this little 8-year-old with the unusual name of JonBenet is way too young for him, but, as he jokes to Kramer and Elaine, “She’s old beyond her years, and I think she really likes me in a more than superficial way.” The gang tells him they disapprove of December-January romances (“not that there’s anything wrong with it”), but George is determined to pursue his dream.
Again, there’s much wacky fun as he flies out to Colorado to meet secretly with his 8-year-old flame, only to discover that his rival for the very young lady’s affection is not some callow fourth grader, but her own father! Jerry and the gang come up with a plan to help George that is a comedic masterpiece: They’ll stage a fake kidnapping and somehow pin it on the father as a way of getting George the quality time he wants with JonBenet. Only on the night of the kidnapping, everything goes wrong with the plan and … well, the rest is history.
Meanwhile, Elaine is over in Paris on a buying trip for her wacky employer, J. Peterman, who puts her up at the Ritz. She has this thing about Frenchmen always bragging to her about how they can hold their liquor as a way of trying to impress her. Like Elaine is really going to be impressed by a line like that. So one night she’s at the bar of the Ritz, and this smooth-talking Frenchie named Henri is drinking with her and giving her some line about being the secret bodyguard for Princess Di and her boyfriend. Elaine’s heard everything, but this is too much! She challenges him to a drinking contest because she knows if he were really occupying such an important position of trust, he’d have to stay sober. Much wacky fun ensues when it turns out he really is Di’s bodyguard, and he hears on his pager that he’s been called on to be part of an elaborate plan to fool the paparazzi. Elaine has to help him prove he’s sober enough to drive while she stirs up the paparazzi to follow the wrong car, but she gets confused and points them to the right one. The rest is history.
Meanwhile, Kramer has been conducting an Internet correspondence with a guy in California named “Charlie” whose on-line address is helter/skelter.com. Kramer finds his philosophy of life and in particular his unusual interpretation of Beatles songs to be fascinating and persuasive. So he’s not deterred when it turns out that the guy is a prison inmate. In fact, he gets involved in a campaign to help win him parole because he believes the guy when he says he was framed for some murders way back in the 60’s. Much wacky fun ensues when Kramer is sucked into a plan to break him out of jail and the prisoner, who turns out to be Charles Manson, turns up in Jerry’s Upper West Side apartment with a crew of bloodthirsty zombielike killers who murder Jerry, George, Elaine and everyone on the show, including poor Kramer himself. The joke’s on him, all right!
What do you think? I hear the network feels the final episode seems a little too dark, that connecting Jerry and the crew with the murder of the British nanny baby, the death of JonBenet, the fatal car crash of Princess Di and a new series of slayings by the Manson gang is “a downer.” But at least it’s not about “nothing.”