Skip to main content

‘Seinfeldia’ Spelunks Quirky Crevices of a Classic’s Legacy

In TV’s pantheon of classic shows, Seinfield stands alone as one that has never really gone away. While it technically ended in 1998 after nine seasons on NBC, it still feels remarkably omnipresent. Jennifer Keishin Armstrong’s Seinfeldia: How a Show About Nothing Changed Everything (Simon & Schuster; $26) credits the show’s staying power to its multiple cycles of syndication, the explosion of digital media, and the acclaimed run of cocreator Larry David’s HBO show Curb Your Enthusiasm.

Many key players didn’t formally cooperate with the book, but Armstrong tracked down several dozen cast and crew members and makes able use of the public record ranging from Reddit AMAs to a chat-room FAQ to Jerry Seinfeld’s memoir, Sein Language.

The book’s title offers a helpful organizing conceit. “Seinfeldia,” Armstrong writes, is a “special dimension of existence, somewhere between the show and real life.”

Patches in this crazy quilt include industry-exec-turned-show-character Joe Davola, “Soup Nazi” actor Larry Thomas, catalog purveyor John Peterman and Kenny Kramer, David’s onetime roommate who was the basis for the Kramer character and now runs a successful Seinfeld tour.

Even the buffest of buffs will be impressed with the amount of narrative texture Armtrong lends to the show’s original four-episode order, reluctant renewal and steady ascension through the 1990s. (Industry success, it turns out, does have many fathers.)

The book teems with Easter eggs like the reaction of author Richard Yates to the show’s portrayal of the character Elaine’s father, a version of him, or the roots of the “Festivus” holiday, which run amazingly deep.