Seinfeld ended with the controversial season 9 finale, despite the show being a ratings hit for NBC; here’s why the iconic ’90s sitcom ended.
In 1998, Seinfeld ended with its season 9 finale, bringing an end to a TV sitcom that dominated popular culture throughout the ’90s. Love it or hate it, Seinfeld was undeniably influential, and it remains a popular show in syndication twenty years later. Even in the final seasons, Seinfeld dominated the ratings, as fans turned up faithfully every week to see the latest antics of Jerry Seinfeld, George Costanza, Elaine Benes, and Cosmo Kramer. So why did the series end?
Despite being such a cultural juggernaut today, Seinfeld initially struggled to get made. The pilot was poorly reviewed, and series creators Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld weren’t initially interested in continuing the series past the first four episodes they produced; however, the two comedians were eventually convinced otherwise, and Seinfeld went on to make TV history. The show won numerous awards during its run, and remains a common fixture in “Best TV Series of All Time” rankings.
Despite its status as a beloved sitcom, the Seinfeld series finale is hated; this is largely because it lacked the typical antics fans had come to expect from the core cast, but also because it summarized all the horrible things the characters had done over the years. Seinfeld still managed to go out on top, with its final season being at the top of the Nielsen chart. Seinfeld wasn’t canceled — it was far too big of a hit for that — but by 1998, the show had run its course.
Jerry Seinfeld was the driving force behind his sitcom — which should be no surprise, given that he was its star and it bore his name. Larry David was Seinfeld‘s co-creator, and acted as showrunner for most of the sitcom’s history; however, he opted to step away from the project at the end of season 7, leaving the standup comedian Jerry Seinfeld to fill that role for seasons 8 and 9. By the end of the final season, Seinfeld simply didn’t want to do the show anymore; the time felt right to end the sitcom while it was still on top. Today, he has no regrets about ending the series when he did: as he told The New York Times in 2018, “It was the perfect moment, and the proof that it was the right moment is the number of questions you’re still asking me about it.“
In the New York Times interview, Seinfeld goes on to discuss the merits of his sitcom and the delicate balance of priorities required to make something truly great. Describing the “proportions” of comedy, he goes on to argue that understanding such nuances is “what makes it art or what makes it mediocre.” This explains why Seinfeld was so averse to continuing past season 9, even though he was offered an unprecedented $5 million per episode, for a total of over $100 million, to do another season. Seinfeld prioritized the quality of his work over financial gain, and ultimately, that’s why Seinfeld ended after season 9.
The show’s run – and its end – are once again hot topics in 2021, thanks to Seinfeld‘s recent move to Netflix. Netflix paid a high cost to stream Seinfeld, with all nine seasons now on the platform for the first time ever, after years spent on Hulu. While some controversy has erupted among diehard fans concerning the altered aspect ratio of the episodes – Seinfeld was shot for TV’s classic 4:3 dimensions, but the HD remasters are cropped to 16:9 widescreen – they were cropped on Hulu as well, and the issue seems likely to simply blow over eventually, unlike the eternal hatred toward the series finale.
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