Jerry Seinfeld Is Wrong About the ‘Seinfeld’ Finale

Seinfeld says that that one ‘Curb’ joke could have cured ‘The Finale’s ills, which means he still hasn’t learned any lessons
Jerry Seinfeld Is Wrong About the ‘Seinfeld’ Finale

According to Jerry Seinfeld, the closing joke of Curb Your Enthusiasm could have saved the legacy of the Seinfeld finale — but that excuse wouldn’t hold up in court.

In last month’s much-anticipated Curb Your Enthusiasm conclusion “No Lessons Learned,” Larry David leaned into the enduring criticism of the finale of his first historically brilliant sitcom Seinfeld by putting himself on trial and inviting all the offended and wronged side characters from past Curb seasons to recap his many misdeeds. Towards the conclusion of the finale, David encounters his old friend Seinfeld, who returns in the penultimate scene to free David from prison on a technicality following the inevitable guilty verdict as the latter tells his old collaborator, “This is how we should've ended the finale." According to Seinfeld, this clever little subversion was a late addition to the “No Lessons Learned” script, and, as David told him in a Georgia prison, that joke could have saved them both decades of blowback had they considered it for Seinfeld’s “The Finale.”

Seinfeld appeared on a recent episode of Q with Tom Power to talk about the infamous finale that still creates division 26 years after it first aired, and he told his interviewer, “I think the only mistake, if there was one, was leaving them in jail. We didn't really have to do that." You didn’t have to go twenty minutes without a single joke from the main cast in the middle of the final act, either.

"A lot of people didn't like it," Seinfeld judiciously admitted of “The Finale,” saying of the reasoning behind the David-written episode’s arc, "What we wanted at the time was to see all the great characters that we had had over the years … and give them one last chance to speak their peace. We thought that would be fun and it was fun.”

Though Seinfeld had fun in “The Finale,” Seinfeld fans were treated to an extended clip show that called back to all the episodes we’d already watched without adding much of its own contributions to the comedy of the minute. “The Finale” paid homage to all of the interesting side characters in the show’s canon, but it somehow forgot to let the main characters have their moments in the sun as well. The entire second part of “The Finale” was basically just Seinfeld and David saying to the audience, “Remember Bubble Boy? Remember the Soup Nazi? Remember Teri Hatcher’s tits?!” while George, Elaine, Jerry and Kramer sat silently in the corner.

Pivotally, the Curb finale differed from the Seinfeld episode it meta-commented upon by actually allowing the main character to speak his own peace, in Seinfeld’s terms. While “The Finale” forced the “New York Four” to sit quietly at the defendant’s table and occasionally react to the return of another bit role before the editors rolled a clip from the show’s Golden Age, in “No Lessons Learned,” Larry actually got to take the stand in his own defense and prove incontrovertibly that he has not, and will not, ever see the error of his ways. Seinfeld springing David from prison was undoubtedly a better punchline than Jerry doing stand-up in the slammer, but the button wasn’t the only way “No Lessons Learned” improved upon its predecessor.

"I'm personally a fan of the Mad Men finale and I also like The Sopranos final moment," Seinfeld opined of other divisive TV finales, "And we thought, 'Well, we tried. We're not in that conversation of one of the greats.'” Seinfeld said of the Curb ending, “And then we became one of the greats in that moment that we connected two TV series 25 years apart. That was an arrow that landed in the sun, comedically speaking."

Maybe the greatest meta-joke about the Curb finale is that, by claiming that “No Lessons Learned” fixed all of “The Finale's” problems, Seinfeld proved that he, himself, still hasn't learned anything at all.


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