Remembering life before Jerry Seinfeld

Sunday, May 17, 1998

BY LAURA PULFER
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Have you recovered yet? Do you think you'll be able to fill the void left by the departure of Jerry and Elaine and George and Kramer? Do you miss them already? They're not going to miss us.

Heck, I don't even think they like us. Jason Alexander, who played George, says he loved the show's script from the very beginning but was afraid it would bomb because "it was written for people like me, and I don't watch television."

Unrequited love, that's us in flyover country. Even in my hometown of Lima, normally a sensible place, there were Seinfeld farewell parties. A group of kids at the Ohio State University branch campus served a buffet of Junior Mints, Snickers bars, marble rye bread and muffin tops. They probably washed the whole mess down with Snapple.

Ancient history

Jerry and Elaine would never go to a party like that. You hardly ever saw them watching TV. They talked. That's what people do who don't watch television. In fact, I can vaguely remember those days.

Oh, we had television. Just one. We didn't have a set in the kitchen and the bathroom and every bedroom in the house. We didn't have them in our cars. We only turned the television on when there was something we wanted to watch. Sometimes a whole day would go by and we wouldn't turn it on at all.

This is an incredible piece of ancient history, I know. But it's true. I swear this on the grave of Rin Tin Tin. I will give you my Captain Midnight decoder ring if I'm lying.

What happened to us? Friday morning, it was reported that 90 million people watched the last episode of Seinfeld. The Cheers finale in 1993 pulled in 80 million viewers. The last M*A*S*H in 1983 still holds the record -- 105 million viewers.

Did we kiss the Mouseketeers good-bye? I don't think so, even though I genuinely prized my official black beanie with ears. My brothers' earliest sexual fantasies were inspired by Annette, who obligingly sprouted Mousekemammaries right before their very eyes.

But I don't remember a Mickey Mouse Club farewell buffet.

Television was -- how can I say this without sounding smug? -- just not a very important part of our lives. It was certainly not our social compass. Rocky the Squirrel and Bullwinkle were not diversity trainers. Roy Rogers never "pushed the envelope" by showing us his bare behind. Ricky Nelson never discussed condoms with Ozzie. Michael Porte, a professor of communications at the University of Cincinnati, told the Enquirer's Phillip Pina that Jerry and Elaine and George and Kramer were "holding up a mirror to our society." He called the show "typical of the morality of the '90s."

So, was the kinder, gentler television of the '50s typical of our morality? It would be nice to think so.

Jerry Seinfeld told his old friend Jay Leno, "I am amazed by what has been going on the past week. It's really only now that I'm realizing how many people the show touched."

Touched? Touched? Are you nuts, Jerry? You made us laugh. And if you'd stopped being funny, we would have dropped you like an exploding Havana cigar. But you knew that, didn't you? That's why you got out of this relationship. So you could dump us first.

We will heal. I will find another way to fill the half-hour void on Thursday nights. How about you, my fellow couch potatoes?

Have you accepted the idea that you will never be able to know if Elaine has to trade sexual favors for a shampoo with conditioner while she's in prison? You will not be invited to a Seinfeld wedding. There will never be a "very special Seinfeld" when somebody gets a disease. Or a serious thought. Are you at peace with this? Have you achieved closure?

Good. Then let's talk about something else.

Laura Pulfer's column appears in the Enquirer on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Call 768-8393 or fax 768-8340. She can be heard Monday mornings on WVXU radio (91.7 FM), and as a regular commentator on National Public Radio's Morning Edition. E-mail her at laurapulfer@enquirer.com

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