BOSTON — Call it living for the moment, procrastination, or just plain denial. Ever since the news about "Seinfeld" broke last Christmas, I have conveniently put it out of my mind. Like finding coal in your stocking, I never thought it could actually happen.
But now there's no escaping the cold, harsh reality: only six new episodes left. TV critics and talk-show hosts are determined to remind me and the show's 32 million other fans that the dreaded countdown has begun.
The final episode airs May 14, and according to NBC, there's no script yet. But there's plenty of guessing going on: Will Jerry and Elaine get married? (He says no.) Will Kramer strike gold with one of his entrepreneurial schemes? Will George's parents cause him embarrassment one last time? Whatever happens, the phenomenally successful sitcom must go out "in full blazing color," says its star.
After the last laugh, how will "Seinfeld" be remembered? And why has it been such a hit for so long? On a certain level, we can relate to Seinfeld and his sidekicks. OK, some more than others. But like us, Jerry, Elaine, George, and Kramer are all trying to find their way in today's complex world.
As they face hurdles in their lives and relationships, we stumble with them, we laugh with them, we even talk like them, using such catch phrases as "yada, yada, yada" or "close talker."
Granted, "Seinfeld" has sometimes strayed toward the sinister (George's fiance died from licking toxic glue on their wedding-invitation envelopes, and George reacted with indifference), and like most sitcoms, it has its excesses.
But there's no denying the show's delightful eccentricity. Remember Kramer careening through the streets of New York on a fire engine, George saving a whale with a golf ball in its spout, or, of course, the Soup Nazi, who refuses to serve his popular broths to customers who ask for extra bread, fumble for their money, or don't form a perfect line?
It may be a show "about nothing," but it's also about everything to do with the human condition. Actor Ben Stiller, who has appeared on the show, put it this way: "It's a show about what is in people's insides that they wouldn't say themselves."
Seinfeld underplays his show's impact: "The only significant thing about this show is that it's funny," he told Time magazine last month.
He's chosen to leave us while we're still laughing. No problem there. But after May 14, it may not be quite as much fun to laugh at ourselves.
* E-mail your thoughts on 'Seinfeld' or your own conclusion to the final episode to firstname.lastname@example.org