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Thursday, May 14, 1998 Published at 16:31 GMT 17:31 UK

World: Americas

Seinfeld's last laugh
image: [ The fabulous four (Courtesy: NBC) ]
The fabulous four (Courtesy: NBC)

New York may be a city that never sleeps but for one hour on Thursday, you can expect an eerie quiet to echo through the street. From the Lower East Side to Washington Heights, most New Yorkers will be glued to their television sets watching the final episode of Seinfeld.

[ image: Jerry Seinfeld (Courtesy: NBC)]
Jerry Seinfeld (Courtesy: NBC)
It is the last episode to end all last episodes. NBC is expecting the number of viewers for the hour-long show beginning at 9pm (0100 GMT) to reach Super-Bowl levels or a 67% share of the viewing audience. Advertisers are paying around $1.7m (£1m) for a 30-second spot, a US television record.

But for the 30 million viewers who have tuned in regularly to the hit situation comedy about "nothing" for the last nine years, it is the end of an era.

"The last episode has really become kind of an event - especially among the 20-something generation," said Pete Fornatale, a 25-year-old editor at publisher Simon & Schuster.

"My friends have watched the show since college. To me the thing that is amazing is the way the show has had an effect on the way people talk.

"Not that there is anything wrong with that," he says imitating one of the show's most famous lines.

[ image: Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Courtesy: NBC)]
Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Courtesy: NBC)
There is no doubt of the show's impact on American society. Like other long-running, popular sit-coms Cheers and Murphy Brown, Seinfeld has been required watching for anyone aspiring to be plugged in. Over the water-coolers at work or in the playground at school, those in-the-know know Seinfeld.

"Like it or not, the end of Seinfeld has become an inescapable communal experience," writes New York Times TV critic, Caryn James.

"Knowing a Seinfeld catch phrase like 'master of your domain' makes you an insider, even if you're one in millions."

Saluting Seinfeld

[ image: Jason Alexander (Courtesy: NBC)]
Jason Alexander (Courtesy: NBC)
Seinfeld hysteria reached a fever pitch at the end of April when the City of New York flat-out rejected any public celebration of the May 14 finale.

Advertisers and fans had suggested an outdoor party at Yankee Stadium, Times Square and Central Park, but the city feared too many people would attend and the events would spin out of control.

But Seinfeld fans across the country will still pay tribute to TV's four most famous characters: Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer.

On Wednesday night, Wayne Knight, who plays Jerry's scowling neighbour Newman, threw out the first pitch at Yankee Stadium as part of Seinfeld Appreciation Night.

[ image: TK (Courtesy: NBC)]
TK (Courtesy: NBC)
Parties will rage across the country. Some will serve Junior Mints (in honour of the episode when Kramer dropped the chocolate candy into a woman's body while observing surgery). Others might go for a BIG salad (in tribute to the time Elaine obsesses about eating - you guessed it - a BIG salad).

And in the ultimate forgiveness, the craziest may even allow "double dipping" (in memory of the episode when George is lambasted for dipping his crisps twice in a bowl of dip).

Others are being even more creative. Brad Stone, a 27-year-old journalist in New York who is inviting 10 of his friends over to watch the last episode, says he is flirting with the idea of giving his television away to the person who does the best imitation of one of Kramer's famous entrances.

"I don't really need my TV. Seinfeld was the only show worth watching," he lamented.

Sad words. But life goes on - especially in New York. And Brad and his friends will hardly have time to slip out for a drink before ER comes on at 10pm.

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