Goodbye, Seinfeld? Good riddance!
An inevitable backlash has set in among people who aren't quite mourning the imminent demise of America's favorite television comedy. Not that there's anything wrong with that, of course.
"The closer the fateful date gets, the less tragic and traumatic it seems," wrote Washington Post television critic Tom Shales. "Is it really going to be that hard to live without? To quote a frequent Seinfeld expression,'I don't think so.' "
From the looks of a current series of Doonesbury strips, cartoonist Garry Trudeau is pretty clear-eyed about it, too.
Millions of Americans will tune in to say goodbye to Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer on May 14. The final show will last more than an hour, and NBC is trying hard to keep its plot a secret.
Yet it won't just be rival television executives who will be happy to see it go.
Ron Rosenbaum, a television columnist for the New York Observer, wanted to start his own "Can't Stand Seinfeld Society" a few years ago. The response told him he'd have more than a few fellow members.
"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," Rosenbaum wrote last week. "We get it, we just can't stand it."
Mocking the obsession over the final Seinfeld, Rosenbaum wrote that the last script will feature Jerry falling in love with a nanny who shakes a baby until it dies and George having a crush on JonBenet Ramsey.
In Thursday's Doonesbury strip, the character B.D. tells his old college buddies that Seinfeld is bowing out in the nick of time.
"If there's anything our generation should have learned, it's that middle age and adolescence don't mix," the character says. "It's no longer hip to be some whiny boomer who never manages to get his life together! In fact, it's just plain pathetic!"
Writer David Remnick made his debut as a commentator for CBS News Sunday Morning last week comparing Seinfeld to The Honeymooners and finding Jerry's gang wanting.
While Seinfeld was about eternal adolescence, The Honeymooners was about responsibility, dreams and real love between ordinary people, he said.
"At the end of its run, it feels like The Honeymooners is the classic and Seinfeld a show about its vacuous time," Remnick said.
As with many entertainment programs, debates over Seinfeld have been raging on the Internet. Seinfeld foes have been happy to poke fun at melancholy fans.
"I always think of Seinfeld as a fairly well-written show," wrote one viewer who posted a message on the Internet, "about a bunch of people I can't stand doing a bunch of things I can't bear myself to care about in the slightest and doing those things in as repellent a way as possible."
Seinfeld has generally been television's second-rated show behind ER this season. Yet despite NBC's promotions counting down the number of episodes until the end, its audience has remained remarkably steady. Last week's show, an original episode, drew 30.6-million viewers. That's only slightly above the season average of 29.9-million, including reruns.
Shales, in his critique of the show, pointed out that it has remained far above most other sitcoms in quality.
But he said the show had "fallen in love with the freedom to be mean and perverse," specifically criticizing it about its attitude toward religion as epitomized by jokes about Schindler's List.
The headline on his column: "Let Me Show You the Door, Jerry."