A few months ago, we ran a piece called 20 Fun Facts About The 20 Best Episodes of Seinfeld (as ranked by IMDB users). Despite that it’s still the third most-watched series finale of all time, with 74 million viewers, the Seinfeld series finale wasn’t on the list. There’s a good reason for that: It wasn’t very good. Larry David tried to cram in too many cameos, they took it away from New York City, and, most detrimentally, the finale was about something (a trial) instead of nothing, which is the point of Seinfeld. The finale shouldn’t have attempted to be something that the show isn’t.
It’s not a terrible episode, mind you; it just doesn’t work as a finale for one of the most popular sitcoms of all time. It has not, however, damaged the series in any way. It’s the most popular syndicated sitcom ever, and you can still find reruns on cable almost any time of day. Anyway, since “The Finale Part I” and “The Finale Part II” were not covered on that previous list, I thought 10 quick and fun facts about episode would make for a good Friday post.
1. The working title for the episode, appropriately, was “A Tough Nut to Crack.”
2. It was the first time one of Jerry’ stand-up bits had been incorporated into the episode since season seven.
3. Over on TV Land, the network went black during the airing of the Seinfeld finale as a tribute to the series. Meanwhile, the night before, Dharma and Greg aired an episode called “Much Ado About Nothing,” which centered around them winning a bet involving a public sex act, which they executed during the Seinfeld finale, because “…everybody in the country is going to be watching the last episode of Seinfeld.”
4. Instead of the usual live audience, the finale was filmed in front of NBC executives and friends of the Seinfeld cast and crew, and each member of the audience was required to sign a “vow of silence.”
5. To throw people off, rumors were planted about the finale that included Newman dying, and Elaine and Jerry getting married. (RELATED: In the edited syndication version of the finale, when their plane is falling and Elaine utters, “Jerry, I’ve always loved…” the “loved” is edited out for some reason).
6. The episode ended with Jerry and George having a conversation about the placement of a button on Jerry’s shirt, an almost word-for-word reproduction of the conversation that opened the series in the July 1989 pilot.
7. Some consider the finale an homage to Albert Camus’ The Stranger, in which the protagonist is a callous and self absorbed man who without feeling or even real motivation murders an Arab. In the second half of the book, during the protagonist’s trial, the seemingly innocuous details of his life are used as leverage to convict him.
8. After the finale, Larry David secured a $1.7 BILLION syndication deal. He received $250 million of that in 1998 alone, and although royalties have been steadily decreasing each year since the finale, payments will continue until the $1.7 billion is reached.
9. Frank Sinatra died during the West Coast airing of the finale, and with so many people watching the episode, paramedics had no problem getting to his Los Angeles house in light traffic.
10. Although Larry David had always insisted he had no regrets about the series finale, he did bring back the Seinfeld foursome and, in a sense, created another Seinfeld finale over on Curb Your Enthusiasm (a much better one, I might add). In that Curb episode, Jerry even made a reference to the Seinfeld finale: “We already screwed up one finale” he said, while David responded “we didn’t screw up a finale, that was a good finale!”
Bonus — Ten years after the series finale aired, Bill O’Reilly was still bitter about it, as he wrote in one of his books:
Seinfeld’s closing act rivaled Petticoat Junction in witty payoff. So what the heck happened? .. Since I’m pretty sure I understand the deep cynicism of head writer Larry David and also the middling cynicism of Jerry Seinfeld, I think these guys tanked the final episode on purpose.”
He basically blamed the liberal media for ruining the series, and suggested instead that the series should’ve ended with a one-hour clip show of the best moments of the series, along with bloopers (O’Reilly apparently missed the hour-long clip show that aired before “The Finale.”) (O’Reilly also argued that David Chase intentionally tanked the final episode of The Sopranos).