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`SEINFELD,' `HOPE' END SEASON ON SOUR NOTES

Have the people behind "Seinfeld" lost their minds? Or, at the very least, have they lost all ability to distinguish between humor and stupidity?

Has Larry David, who wrote last week's script, so lost touch with reality that he actually thinks that the "Seinfeld" season finale was funny?It wasn't.

For those of you who missed it, the episode marked the end of a continuing story about George's (Jason Alexander) engagement. George, to no one's surprise, was looking for a way to weasel out of the wedding just weeks before it was scheduled to take place. But he didn't know how to break if off with his fiancee, Susan.

And, again to no surprise, George insisted on buying the cheapest wedding invitations in existence. Susan addressed the invitations and licked the envelopes, in the process becoming sicker and sicker.

Now, that strains credulity past the breaking point, but then this is "Seinfeld" - which lost all touch with reality about four seasons ago.

Anyway, George returns home to find Susan passed out on the floor. He takes her to the emergency room, where she quickly dies from the toxic glue in the envelopes.

That's right. She dies.

Ha, ha.

Upon receiving the news, it's all George can do to keep from bursting out laughing. He's overjoyed to have such a simple solution to his problem.

There's not one second of mourning from George, Jerry, Kramer or Elaine.

And to make matters worse, in the final scene George is seen talking on the phone to a woman. He relates the news of Susan's death, allows as how he's tied up with the funeral the next day but adds that he's free for the weekend. The woman at the other end of the line hangs up on him.

Which is what "Seinfeld" viewers ought to do to the show.

This was not even vaguely funny. It was sick. And it was an insult to the intelligence and the sensitivities of viewers everywhere.

Too bad Seinfeld decided to do another year of his sitcom. Too bad he's forgotten what made the show great the first couple of seasons.

Too bad, period.

RECYCLED SCRIPTS: Back when David E. Kelley was actually producing the hospital drama he created, "Chicago Hope," it was fresh, original stuff.

But since he turned the executive producer reins over to John Tinker, the show has increasingly been an attempt to revive "St. Elsewhere." And, while "St. Elsewhere" was a great show, we've seen it before. We don't need to see it again.

(At least Tinker is plagiarizing from himself - he was executive producer of "St. Elsewhere," too.)

A couple of weeks ago, "Chicago Hope" wasted viewers' time with an episode filled with action that never took place. In the opening sequence, Dr. Billy Kronk (Peter Berg) was accidentally shocked into unconsciousness. And everything that happened until the closing sequence was just his dream.

It was lifted right out of the finale of "St. Elsewhere," when Tinker and his co-horts revealed that everything that happened on the series was in the imagination of an autistic boy. That was a crummy ending - one that the show's creators and original executive producers, Josh Brand and John Falsey, admitted to hating. And that installment was a crummy episode of "Chicago Hope."

More recently, "Chicago Hope" led up to its season finale with a big plot line about how the hospital was in deep financial trouble and was about to be taken over by unfriendly business types. And the huge similarity to what happened nine years ago on "St. Elsewhere" cannot be coincidental.

Either do something original, or don't do it at all.

That's not even mentioning the fact that Tinker and Co. went waaay overboard in creating cliff-hangers. Is Dennis Hancock dead or just wounded? Will Kate Austin really kidnap her daughter? Will Diane Grad really go to Africa? Will Nurse Shutt really quit? Will Dr. Nyland really get fired?

It was beginning to look a lot like an old episode of "Dynasty."

"Chicago Hope" has, for the most part, been a quality drama in its first two years. But judging by recent developments, they seem to be spelling quality with a K these days.

WEIRD COINCIDENCES: Normal people don't notice things like this about CBS's fall schedule, but . . .

Former "thirtysomething" star Ken Olin will be starring in an hourlong drama ("EZ Streets") on Wednesdays at 9 p.m. this fall. Former "thirtysomething" star Patricia Wettig - Olin's real-life wife - starred in an hourlong drama ("Courthouse") on Wednesdays at 9 p.m. last fall. (It was quickly canceled.)

This fall, former "Cheers" star Ted Danson is starring in a new sitcom ("Ink") with his current real-life wife, Mary Steenburgen. And former "Cheers" star Rhea Perlman is starring in a new sitcom ("Pearl") with Steenburgen's ex-husband, Malcolm McDowell.

How odd.

VIDBITS: The latest word from Fox is that "America's Most Wanted" and "Space: Above and Beyond" might not be altogether dead yet. The network is considering picking them up as midseason replacement series.

Stay tuned . . .

- How much did Tom Selleck enjoy his stint on "Friends"? Enough so that he's agreed to star in his own upcoming sitcom on CBS.

There's no title or even concept for the show, which is tentatively projected for fall 1997.

- On Tuesday, ABC's "Good Morning America" will unveil a new set. According to the network, the "totally revamped look will include a duplex loft, state-of-the-art technology to report the news and weather, and a major expansion of the former set that allows more flexibility in the overall production of the program."

Now, if only they could revamp Joan Lunden off the show. In the past couple of years, she seems to have acquired the mistaken notion that she's hip, sexy and cool.

- Former "Baywatch" star David Charvet will have a recurring role on Fox's "Melrose Place" next season as a young businessman who battles Amanda (Heather Locklear) for control of the advertising agency she heads.

It's just too funny to think that when Charvet left "Baywatch," he said he was looking for more challenging, intelligent roles.

- It would appear that NBC Sports President Dick Ebersol will still be around when his network broadcasts the 2002 Winter Olympics from Utah. He has just signed an eight-year contract that carries through to the year 2004.

According to his bosses, it's the longest contract ever given to an employee of NBC or its parent company, General Electric.

- "The Odd Couple" is about to join the Nick at Nite lineup. The week before joining the regular lineup, Nick will run a mini-marathon of sorts, airing six episodes from 6-9 p.m. on Monday, June 3, Wednesday, June 5, and Friday, June 7.

(Get it? Odd nights of the week? Only on Nick at Nite.)

Beginning Monday, June 10, "The Odd Couple" will be seen weeknights at 9 p.m.

- When Tamara Haddad decided to give up her job as producer of "The Late Late Show with Tom Snyder" a few days ago, it didn't take long to find a replacement. Bruce McKay has already come aboard as the CBS show's new producer.

It's logical. McKay was the producer of Snyder's "Tomorrow" show on NBC from 1975-78.

- Fox has gone to court in Australia over beer - and won.

An Aussie court has ordered a Sydney brewer to stop marketing Duff Beer after Fox complained that the name had been stolen from "The Simpsons."

Really. I am not making this up.