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Finale Analysis

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After five months of fake plot leaks, magazine cover stories, and nationwide tear-soaked farewells, the countdown to the last “Seinfeld” episode ends tonight at 8:45. The question on everyone’s mind is, Can the finale possibly live up to the anticipation?

According to Entertainment Weekly television critic Ken Tucker, the show faces a couple of self-created challenges. First is its marathon 75-minute running time. “Comedy thrives on being tight,” says Tucker. “The extra length is a creative problem, but if anyone can pull it off, it’s Larry David [the show’s cocreator, who returned after a two-year absence to write the finale].” “Seinfeld”‘s other obstacle is living up to the episode’s endless publicity: Tucker believes that Jerry and friends have become like houseguests who, it seems, will never leave. “NBC is really shooting itself in the foot with hype, and is making people want the finale to be over,” he explains.

Even if the episode proves itself the master of the sitcom domain, NBC could have a tough time luring fans back to the show’s summer reruns. The finale’s amped-up sense of closure could make the reruns seem anticlimactic in comparison. The same thing happened to “Cheers,” which got a 45.5 Nielsen rating for its highly touted 1993 finale. Immediately after that, the show’s average rating of 16.1 dropped to 10.6.

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