“Seinfield” will be watched even after the finale

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    By FRAZIER MOORE

    It’s 11 down, 11 new “Seinfelds” to go. Then, my friend, it’s all over. Jerry Seinfeld walks away from this decade’s towering sitcom, and from a sky-high pay raise, just because he wants the show to go out on top.

    So let’s tarry no longer. Before we shed another tear, let’s declare 1998 The Year of Jerry.

    Here’s how it goes:

    At every opportunity, we’ll all discuss whether Jerry is doing the right thing by pulling the plug on “Seinfeld” after this season. Some of us will insist the end is overdue, that “Seinfeld” is already on a slide. Some of us will vigorously defend the past couple of seasons of a series that, on its worst night, is funnier than most sitcoms ever dream of being. Then we’ll watch each new “Seinfeld” and slam it. (“Seinfeld” airs in Utah on KSL Channel 5, Thursdays at 8 p.m.)

    Countdown! As the end approaches in May, we’ll batten down the hatches. Remember the media hullabaloo over the “Cheers” finale five years ago? And that was just a hit sitcom — not a parallel universe with a laugh track!

    This summer, we’ll revisit the farewell season as episodes have their repeat airings, and pick them apart again. We’ll also beef about what a disappointment that finale turned out to be.

    Come fall, we’ll keep on watching “Seinfeld,” all 170 episodes, which our local stations will rerun each weekday until Judgment Day. (Locally, it’s Fox 13, weekdays at 6:30 p.m.) We’ll complain about whatever NBC jams into the show’s old slot on Thursday nights. And as we once would have laughed at “Seinfeld,” we’ll laugh at NBC for its failure to adequately fill those huge “Seinfeld” shoes. Scorn and Schadenfreude — that’s the “Seinfeld” way, especially in The Year of Jerry.

    Jerry will walk away with his head high and, even without that raise, his wallet stuffed. For everyone else, it’s going to be a tough year.

    Especially tough for Manhattanites. We take a particular joy in “Seinfeld,” which isn’t just set in Manhattan but also nails so many of its pungent little truths. (Or does it reassert Gotham fables we want the outside world to accept as true? What’s the dif?)

    “Seinfeld” focuses on standup comic Jerry Seinfeld and his three neurotic chums — Elaine, George and Kramer. THERE’S your “show about nothing”! And where else but Manhattan could they accomplish almost nothing while so resolutely self-absorbed, at such a feverish pace, under such trying circumstances — yet never tire of this magnificent treadmill?

    Watching “Seinfeld” every Thursday with the knowledge that it’s also beamed to the rest of the nation — that’s one of the great joys of living in this hopped-up, overpriced metropolis.

    Sure, we’ve always lived with the knowledge that “Seinfeld” wouldn’t last forever, any more than Manhattan’s other cherished amenities. A favorite Upper West Side restaurant can close without notice. Even our precious 212 area code may soon be swiped, replaced by some ginned-up number no one’s ever heard of.

    “Seinfeld” is something special. Its rise from obscurity to pop-culture phenomenon paralleled the breathtaking comeback of New York City, which a decade ago was in a funk even Prozac couldn’t lift. There are New Yorkers who think “Seinfeld” broke that spell.

    Now, “Seinfeld” is about to break the city’s heart. Well, maybe that’s putting it too strongly.

    Even as viewers start the mourning process for “Seinfeld,” we can expect relief when its swan song has been sung. Finally we can relax. There’ll be no more catch phrases and other pop-culture shorthand with which we must be conversant to be accepted by our crowd. Whew!

    From the beginning, “Seinfeld” has been a lingo-slinger like no other series. Its four misshapen heroes, smugly alienated from everyone else they encounter, stay connected with each other through their own shared code. As viewers, we are privy to this jargon, as with “re-gifter,” and “master of your domain.”

    Year after year, week after week, there’s a growing body of knowledge to digest. And if you don’t keep up, buddy, you’re going to embarrass yourself.

    Imagine that someone in your peer group brings up last week’s “Seinfeld” episode. He starts by parroting one of its key lines: “They went farther to the left of the slash than anyone ever dreamed!” Then, flashing a self-satisfied smile, he erupts with his own tart summation: “They sure did!” You better know what he means.

    There’s been so much pressure to stay current, for so long! It’s been such a commitment! Thank goodness that, like Jerry, “Seinfeld” fans can soon rest on the show’s laurels. We earned it.

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