10 Years of Nothing

NUVO | May 9, 2008
Ten years. Same 180 episodes, same litany of embarrassing social gaffes, same 12 boxes of cereal.

It was 10 years ago – May 14, 1998, to be exact – that Judge Art Vandelay sentenced Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer to a year in prison in Latham, Mass., for violating the Good Samaritan law by failing to stop a carjacking.

Ten years since the last original episode of Seinfeld. Yet we're still watching.

The reruns are a daily staple. Nationwide, TBS began airing Seinfeld in October 2002. The show started out averaging 1,176,000 viewers a night; it's now at 1.25 million. And locally, viewership remains strong. On May 6, just to pick a random day, approximately 72,000 viewers in central Indiana watched the 7:30 p.m. rerun on WXIN (Channel 59), and another 62,000 tuned in at 11:30 p.m.

Reruns tend to wear out over time, but not Seinfeld. There's always something to discover. Did you ever notice that the actress who played Marlene (the cashier with the Southern accent who broke up with Jerry because she thought his comedy act was "so much fluff") in the episode The Ex-Girlfriend was also Kelly (the waitress with the nasal New York voice who broke up with George after he told her he liked the word "manure") in The Soup? Her name is Tracy Kolis, by the way.

Or that you can hear Jerry Seinfeld laughing in the background of The Implant episode when George attempts to get a copy of his girlfriend's aunt's death certificate so he can get a bereavement airfare? And the actress who played George's girlfriend in that episode? Look closely – it's Megan Mullally, who went on to star in "Will and Grace."

But even if you don't study the episodes diligently, it doesn't matter. The show remains funny. It has relatively few pop-culture references, so the episodes haven't become dated (think All in the Family or Murphy Brown). The situations, characters' quirks, their verbiage – "spongeworthy," "close-talker," "a Festivus for the rest of us" – are timeless.

And there's a "Seinfeld" line for almost any situation. I once told a relative, who was defending her abilities as a parent, "As George Costanza said, 'It's not a lie if you believe it.'" And no one in my house can say the word "puke" without someone else saying, "Puke – that's a funny word."

A number of critics were let down by The Finale – the title of the May 14, 1998 episode – but actually, it was perfect. Here were Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer, forced to face many of the people they'd wronged. Larry David, who co-created Seinfeld and wrote The Finale, gave the characters their ultimate karmic payback. They'd spent nine years living up to the show's edict of "no hugging, no learning." And now, they would pay. (The Finale, by the way, is better when viewed in full on DVD. In the televised rerun, there are several awkward edits. The Bubble Boy's testimony was cut, for example, but there's a later reference to what he said on the witness stand.)

Ten years. You have to figure they're out of prison by now. Even those four couldn't have found a way to turn a one-year sentence into 10. Or could they? As Jerry said in The Yada Yada episode, "I wouldn't put anything past anybody."


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