Why ‘Seinfeld’ Resonates (Not That There’s… Yada Yada Yada)

'Seinfeld's Michael Richards, Jason Alexander, Julia Louis Dreyfus and Jerry Seinfeld (NBC)

'Seinfeld's Michael Richards, Jason Alexander, Julia Louis Dreyfus and Jerry Seinfeld (NBC)

A line of people with hearty appetites for soup reportedly stretched around a Manhattan block this week for the reopening of the homely soup stand that first became famous on ‘Seinfeld‘ 15 years ago.

Yes, 15 years ago.

And yet, the return of The Soup Man (real name: Al Yeganeh, otherwise known as “the Soup Nazi,” thanks to ‘Seinfeld’) after a six-year absence became an exercise in crowd control for New York City police. As Jerry himself might ask: What is the deal with that?

Or to put it another way: Why are we still obsessed with ‘Seinfeld’? It’s been 12 years since they stopped making this show, but the reruns – sometimes four or more of them a day when you take your local station reruns plus the ones on TBS into account – have kept this show’s mystique alive to a degree that will likely never be matched by any other show.

How many times does a ‘Seinfeld’-ism come up in your everyday conversation? The other day, some guy pulled up to our car here in New York City and asked us where the nearest gas station was, as he was just about running on empty – a situation he likened to the time Kramer became determined to challenge the accuracy of a car’s fuel gauge. “My whole day has been like an episode of ‘Seinfeld’!” this guy declared, greatly overestimating our interest in his life.

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Does a day ever go by when something doesn’t remind you of ‘Seinfeld’? It could be anything: You might come across something as ordinary as a jar of macadamia nuts and immediately recall Uncle Leo’s obsession with them in the 1995 episode in which Leo, along with Jerry’s parents and grandmother, trash a hotel room.

Or it might be something more notable, such as the recent death of New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner. Half the stories and sidebars dealt with  ‘Seinfeld’s fictional Steinbrenner character – so much so that TBS is showcasing those episodes all this week (at 7/6c and 7:30/6:30c).

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How obsessed are some people with ‘Seinfeld’? One Ivy League economics professor – Avinash Dixit of Princeton – last month produced a paper using Elaine’s search for the discontinued contraceptive known as “the sponge” (from an infamous 1995 ‘Seinfeld’ episode) as the basis for an explanation of an economics principle known as “option-value.” (Read the whole five-page thing here – it’s a hoot.)

There was no sign of the over-bearing, soup-loving comedian Kenny Bania on line at the Soup Nazi’s stand the other day. But just the fact that you might wonder whether Kenny Bania, a fictional character, had heard of the storefront’s reopening is enough to make you ask yourself: What is the deal with this show? And why can’t I get it out of my head?

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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