On May 14, 1998, 76.3 million people watched as Seinfeld ended with Jerry, Elaine, George, and Kramer sitting in jail. The Bubble Boy, the Low-Talker, George Steinbrenner—all their old enemies throughout nine seasons came back to testify against them for breaking a good samaritan law by filming an overweight man getting carjacked. Reviews at the time were mixed, with Entertainment Weekly calling it "off-key and bloated," and the New York Times saying the "hilarious final episode was everything Seinfeld was at its best."
It was an ending that nearly 20 years later remains a controversial one. Even Jerry Seinfeld himself is conflicted about it.
"I sometimes think we really shouldn't have even done it," he said this weekend during a New Yorker Festival interview with David Remnick. "There was a lot of pressure on us at that time to do one big last show, but big is always bad in comedy."
Back in the late '90s, the biggest sitcom of all time coming to an end was a big deal. The Times described the "endless frenzy" around the finale as ludicrous. "Reports on the show and its stars read like obituaries," the Times wrote.
But, as Seinfeld admitted this weekend, it shouldn't have been this way; he told Remnick that comedy should be "small and cheap and quick" rather than the "impossible" episode that co-creator Larry David returned to write. "That's why TV is always funnier than movies, because you don't have that much time and that much money."
At least the rest of the series was gold, Jerry.