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Hugs, Tears and Jerry's Everlasting Wit End 'Seinfeld'

Television: With the finale top-secret and friends hanging on till 2 a.m., the NBC hit calls it a wrap.

April 10, 1998|GREG BRAXTON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The mantra for "Seinfeld" has stayed the same through its nine years: "No hugging, no learning."

But in the end, which came early Thursday morning, the rule was broken and arms were extended. Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer--or, at least, the actors who play them--finally hugged.

Emotional displays and tearful embraces among the core "Seinfeld" cast--Jerry Seinfeld, Jason Alexander, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Michael Richards--marked the filming of the final "Seinfeld" episode--minus the top-secret ending that was filmed without any spectators--in front of an invitation-only audience of 250 executives, family and friends of the hit NBC comedy, which is ending its run May 14.

"There were clearly tears in everyone's eyes," said Rick Ludwin, NBC's senior vice president of specials, prime-time series and late-night, who was one of the network executives in attendance. "They were all hugging each other at the top of the show during the introductions. Julia in particular was overcome with emotion."

Although the filming started more than 2 1/2 hours late and lasted till 2 a.m. Thursday, the entire audience stayed and cheered the cast as they took their final bows.

Among those looking on from the studio bleachers on Stage 9 at the CBS Studio Center in Studio City were Rob Reiner and his partners at Castle Rock Entertainment, one of the producers of "Seinfeld"; actors James Spader and Jon Lovitz, who have both guest-starred on the show; and former "Seinfeld" writer Carol Leifer, creator and star of WB's "Alright Already."

"It was really a combination of emotions--funny, sad, exciting," said Ludwin, one of the early network supporters of "Seinfeld." "The only thing I have experienced like it professionally is when Johnny Carson left 'The Tonight Show.' "

Much of the hourlong episode already had been shot without an audience on several stages, and details about the finale are being held tightly under wraps.

Many aspects of the evening deviated from the normal "Seinfeld" sessions.

As usual, Seinfeld came up in the audience before the cameras rolled. But instead of his routine of asking questions, he took note of the atmosphere surrounding the evening.

"Should I make you cry now?" he quipped. "No. We're supposed to do a comedy. There are so many people in this building who have meant so much to the show. We feel like we're giving back to you tonight. So I'm going to stop there."

Several scenes were played out in front of the audience, and previous scenes that had been shot were also shown. The cast also re-created other scenes that had been filmed but were not yet ready for viewing.

At the end of the evening, Seinfeld, who usually returns to the audience to say good night and to tell jokes, stayed on the set. The cast was introduced again, then Seinfeld declared, "That's a wrap!"

Cigars appeared, and the hugging continued.

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