America's favourite comic leaves the stage

Jerry Seinfeld, the New York stand-up comic who created and gave his name to the most-watched show in the history of American television, is calling it quits. The decision, he says, is all about timing.

After nine seasons of making Seinfeld, the comedian and his colleagues told the NBC network that they will be making their last episode next May. Thus will end a sitcom that will take its place on the pantheon of television comedy gems alongside the likes of MASH, Cheers and I Love Lucy. "I wanted to end the show on the same kind of peak we've been doing it for years," Seinfeld told yesterday's New York Times. "I wanted the end to be from a point of strength.".

While Seinfeld is currently the second most popular television show in the United States during this last season it became the most watched show ever produced by the industry. In many ways, it became a signpost for Nineties's East Coast culture and society.

Its demise is a disaster for NBC. The network was reportedly already paying Seinfeld at least $1m (pounds 617,000) per episode. After acrimonious negotiations last spring, it agreed to give his main co-stars, playing Elaine, George and the barmy, hair-style impaired, neighbour, Kramer, $600,000 each per show.

Seinfeld, set in Manhattan, each week alighted on one seemingly trifling challenge of urban life - such as exiting a supermarket and not being able to find the car or the terrors of being a horrible dancer - and turned it into 30 minutes of killing hilarity.

Among phrases that were spoken first on Seinfeld and then entered the everyday lexicon were "Yada, yada, yada" (roughly "bla, bla, bla"), and "Not that there's anything wrong with that".

NBC was said yesterday to offered Mr Seinfeld something around $5m a show to keep it in production beyond next spring, but money was apparently not the main issue. "It was an extremely difficult thing to do. This show has been the greatest love affair of my life," Seinfeld said. "But we were all together on it. We all felt we wanted to leave in love."

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