The Official Student News Site of Parkway West High


The Official Student News Site of Parkway West High


The Official Student News Site of Parkway West High


No hugging, no learning

How “Seinfeld”’s finale stands as an example of artistic integrity
Lauren Holcomb
Comedians Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David came up with the idea for the premise of “Seinfeld,” the show about nothing, after they realized that there’s nothing funnier than two funny people just talking. “[‘Seinfeld’ is different from other sitcoms] because no other show delves as deeply into the intricacies of society in a way that Jerry Seinfeld and the crew do whenever they get into wacky adventures,” said senior and “Seinfeld” enthusiast Tommy Eschbach.


What’s the deal with the “Seinfeld” finale? 

Long-running HBO sitcom “Curb Your Enthusiasm” recently ended on April 7th, 2024. The finale episode, “No Lessons Learned,” was released to great acclaim, and not just for its dry wit and charm. The finale received a lot of attention for serving as a homage and reference to the controversial finale episode of creator and star Larry Davids first show, “Seinfeld.”

“Seinfeld” had already been recirculating in the news back in October after stand-up comedian, actor and co-creator Jerry Seinfeld hinted at a possible future project finale. The comedian said at a comedy show that both he and co-creator and head writer David were in talks about doing “something”. What that something entails was left vague, but a reunion was implied. However, it isn’t clear how serious Seinfeld is, since actors Jason Alexander and Julia Louis-Dreyfus both seem to be left in the dark about this project, and Michael Richards has not mentioned it. 

Seinfeld has openly admitted that he regrets the drama of the finale, and believes that “big is always bad in comedy.” The finale is, to many, not that funny, but does that devalue it completely?

“Seinfeld” famously ended on a high note. It left a legacy as the fourth most-viewed TV show finale in history, which put it ahead of competition like “Friends and the “Cosby Show.” It was incredibly lucrative as well; by the final ninth season Jerry Seinfeld was making $1 million an episode while co-stars Louis-Dreyfus, Alexander and Richards each brought home around $600,000.

While the network it ran on, NBC, never wanted the show to end, Seinfeld didn’t agree. David left the show at the end of the seventh season because he feared the quality would decline. While they were equipped with a number of talented writers, the loss of David was a massive hit. The show still remained funny, and the ratings stayed on top, but the show ended just two seasons later. According to Alexander, it was a result of burnout and a feeling amongst the writers that there was nothing new that could be done with the characters.

According to information from Lycos and Television stats, this graph shows the significant difference in popularity between “Friends” and “Seinfeld,” particularly in the later seasons of the show. Though retroactively, many people perceive “Friends” as more popular, “Seinfeld” had a much larger popularity and cultural influence at the time of airing. 

“[The first time I saw the finale], I cried for no less than an hour. I liked how it moves back around [and touches on earlier plotlines]. At the same time, seeing something so beautiful would make any respectable person just fall to their knees in tears,” said senior Tommy Eschbach.

“Seinfeld” is one of just a few shows to end on a high note. Far too often we see shows —  particularly sitcoms — grow uninspired and exhaust once-devoted fans. As one of America’s most beloved shows, the end of Seinfeld was always going to be bittersweet. However, the finale did not receive a melancholic send-off. Instead, it was met with controversy, disappointment, and even betrayal.

The finale showed Jerry and his best friend George, portrayed by Jason Alexander, finally getting the deal of a lifetime. NBC is not only going to commission their show, but they will fly the two and their friends Elaine and Kramer out to any destination they choose. The four choose Paris, but on the flight there they have to make a quick pit stop in Latham, Massachusetts after complications with the plane arise. 

While walking around the town, the group witnesses a man being mugged, but instead of doing anything about it, they mock the man for his weight while their friend Kramer films. They are found to have violated the town’s good samaritan law and are put on trial. In a proper full-circle moment many of the past guest characters who our main four have wronged in the past come back as witnesses, testifying of the wrong they had to endure as a result of their antics.

After hearing the testimonies of all the awful things Kramer, Elaine, Jerry and George have done, the judge overseeing their case decides they should end up in jail. The last conversation held by any of the characters is Jerry criticizing Georges’s shirt buttons — the same conversation that took place in the very first episode.

Though this ending is humorous, it’s polarizing. Fans felt upset; they had rooted for these characters for a decade, only for them to wind up with a horrible ending. 

The problem with that kind of mindset lies with people’s misunderstanding of the characters. Each episode typically features the same plotline: one of the characters is stuck in an unfortunate situation, and then does something morally questionable but understandable, either as a reaction or to get out of the situation. People can see themselves in these characters; no one is perfect, and people do bad things.

“Jerry clearly does [belong in jail]. But George? My George? No. [To Elaine and Kramer] I’m indifferent,” said Eschbach.  

But these poor actions accumulate over the years. Regardless of how understandable the actions may be sometimes, the characters are bad people. 

The eponymous Jerry Seinfeld, like his namesake and actor, is also a stand-up comedian and Superman fanatic. He is often made into the straight man of the show, showing shock and sometimes disgust at the actions of his cohorts. But he equally commits such immoral actions. In the episode “The Rye,” Jerry steals a loaf of marble rye from an old woman. In another, “The Implant,” he breaks up with a woman because he suspects her breasts are fake. And in “The Merve Griffin Show” — or what would probably be the worst episode of the entire show had it not been for Kramer’s sub-plot — Jerry drugs a woman to play with her rare toy collection.   

George is cold-blooded. In the episode “The Invitations,” his fiancée — whom he was dreading marrying — dies after he purchases cheap envelopes, and she passes away after licking them shut. Yet, George is not sad at his partner’s death, nor does he feel guilty that it was his cheapness that killed her. He’s not even indifferent. He is elated that his fiancée, a woman with a family and friends who love her, has died. 

Kramer’s awful actions are typically more out of cluelessness than bad intent, but he has his moments. In “The Handicap Spot,” Kramer pressures George into parking in a handicapped spot, which indirectly leads to a woman in a wheelchair injuring herself. Kramer and George then go to replace her wheelchair, but a mix of Kramer’s apathy and George’s cheap streak ends with them buying the least expensive wheelchair in the store. Consequently, the wheelchair has faulty breaks, and the episode ends with the wheelchair speeding down a hill. 

Even Elaine, arguably the most morally sound of the four, makes bad decisions. In the beginning, in a few episodes, we do see her having a strong moral compass. In “The Couch,” she hesitantly breaks up with a man she liked a lot because he was pro-life, and in “The Suicide” she gets herself and George kicked out of a psychic apartment because Elaine is appalled that the psychic is smoking while pregnant. Elaine’s antics rarely come close to the level of her male counterparts, but that doesn’t negate her selfishness. In “The Engagement,” she hires Kramer and Jerry’s antagonistic Newman to kidnap a noisy dog that lives in her apartment complex. Or in “The Soup Nazi,” she puts a small restaurant out of business because he hurt her feelings after she purposely provoked him.

These characters are simply not fit for society. Judge Art Vandelay, who appears in the finale, says it best. “I do not know how, or under what circumstances the four of you found each other, but your callous indifference and utter disregard for everything that is good and decent has rocked the very foundation upon which our society is built. I can think of nothing more fitting than for the four of you to spend a year removed from society so that you can contemplate the manner in which you have conducted yourselves.” 

It would’ve been easy for the writers to phone it in and write some unmemorable, typical finale. They could’ve given the viewers exactly what they wanted: Jerry and George move to LA, they throw in the classic “one last walk around the apartment” scene, maybe finally revealing Jerry’s hidden fourth wall. And a kiss between Jerry and Elaine that is shoehorned in, and fans are happy.

But they didn’t. They did what was not only funny but made sense for the characters. “Seinfeld” has never been a sentimental show. The second any of the characters show real emotion, the others freak out. It would’ve been a disservice to the characters, to the fans and to art itself to pretend that the characters deserved any more than their stint in jail. This dedication to the integrity of the show alone is why many consider “Seinfeld” to be the first sitcom to transcend from a mere show to art.

The last conversation the characters have — the one about George’s shirt buttons — may seem like one final trivial conversation, but it’s probably the only deep one that they ever share. It reflects that throughout the series not a single character experienced any growth. They never learn a single lesson, inspiring the “no hugging, no learning” mantra that the show was famous for. 

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Lauren Holcomb
Lauren Holcomb, Staff Writer
Pronouns: she/her Grade: 12 Years on staff: 3 What is your favorite piece of literature? "The Bell Jar" by Sylvia Plath. Who is your hero? Either Joan Didion or Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth. If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be? 
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    Mikalah OwensMay 3, 2024 at 9:57 am

    i <3 Lauren