This and that . . .
Listen carefully amid the "Seinfeld" hysteria as the comedy series prepares to air its last original episode, and you might hear the cha-ching of cash registers.Between now and May 14, when the series wraps up, NBC will continue to raise its rates for a 30-second commercial, in stages, to an estimated $1.5 million for the actual finale.
This rising inflation from the regular price of $575,000 will place the show's rates on par with what deep-pocketed advertisers might shell out for a 30-second commercial on "event" television, such as the Super Bowl or the Oscars.
Such a price would certainly exceed the previous record for commercial time charged for a TV program, which was the most recent Super Bowl. Advertisers paid up to $1.3 million for a 30-second spot.
The reason for the fat price tag for "Seinfeld's" farewell is clear: NBC anticipates that the show's normal audience of about 29 million will swell to about 133 million for the finale. That would place it in pretty good company, alongside such shows as "MASH" and "Cheers," whose final programs also became event TV.
"Seinfeld" has all the ingredients of financial windfall, including its pet status among ad-ver-tis-ers. Its audience includes a high number of relatively affluent people that advertisers seek, particularly those ages 18 to 49.
It could be said "Seinfeld" is something of an anomaly: a cult hit that's become a mainstream commodity. Its sign-off is being covered by nearly everyone in some form, thanks in part to the usual pack mentality of the TV and print media.
This isn't to say that "Seinfeld" doesn't deserve respectful ink - it was a smart, witty, original series. But to see story after story about "Seinfeld" trivia and visits with everyone from its writers to the show's warm-up act is getting a bit ridiculous. (Newsweek offered a U.S. map showing "high," "average," and "low" concentrations of "Seinfeld" viewers, proving "it's not just neurotic New Yorkers who are mourning.")
To put so much importance on a series that's already aired twice a day in reruns seems a bit much.
"Seinfeld's" departure comes at the same time as the finale of another long-running comedy series. "Murphy Brown's" hourlong May 18 departure is being pushed into a deep, dark hole by "Seinfeld." Similarly, six years ago, Johnny Carson's departure from "The Tonight Show" overshadowed "The Cosby Show's" exit when it said goodbye after eight seasons.
Perhaps it's best when series of equal stature (or no major stature) walk off together, like in 1989 when "Who's the Boss," "Growing Pains" and "MacGyver" all bid farewell with equal doses of media attention. Which is to say, not much.