It all started with a Pez dispenser. A Barney Rubble Pez dispenser. In an Entertainment Weekly cover story last April about the hit NBC series Seinfeld, we used a Pez container capped with the Flintstones’ neighbor to illustrate an item about the candy — an important Seinfeld-ian icon. Later we realized that the Pez holder seen briefly in the show was topped by a different cartoon character, Tweety. A minor gaffe, we thought. But not in the eyes of Seinfeld purists.
They wrote us, scolded us, threatened us en masse, and the magnitude of their emotional outpouring led us to believe that the offending story, ”Sein Language” (yes, that’s where Jerry Seinfeld got the title for his new book), ; by staff writer Bruce Fretts, had legs. This story, we thought, could be a book! So we locked young Fretts in his office with tapes of all 61 episodes of the show. Two weeks and several inches of goatee growth later, he emerged with the text for The Entertainment Weekly Seinfeld Companion — Atomic Wedgies to Zipper Jobs: An Unofficial Guide to TV’s Funniest Show (Warner Books, $7.99).
Containing a glossary of all essential Seinfeld terms and catchphrases, episode summaries, and profiles of the show’s quirky characters, this 96-page volume is available in bookstores this month. It’s the first in what we expect will become a long line of entertaining, authoritative EW books.
All in all the Seinfeld Companion is not a bad accomplishment for Fretts, a guy who sees himself as a younger version of Jerry’s hapless, perenially unemployed buddy, George Costanza. ”I relate to his desperate neurosis-I’m always on the verge of a panic attack,” says Fretts, 27. ”There’s a bald man inside of me just waiting to break out.”
Fretts’ other similarity to Costanza is that he doesn’t operate alone. The original Seinfeld story, and ultimately the book, were the result of a collaboration that began in the office of senior editor Jeannie Park. It was there that Fretts and his TV-section cronies — critic Ken Tucker, writers Benjamin Svetkey and Lisa Schwarzbaum (who contributed the book’s introduction), researcher Suelain Moy, editorial assistant Heather Keets, and photo editor Alice Babcock, with L.A.-based writer Alan Carter sometimes joining in by phone — would gather on post-Seinfeld mornings to recount hilarious moments from the previous night’s episode.
Those mornings-after have been quieter during rerun season, but the TV staff is still busy. This week, they have put together our cover story — the most insightful guide available to the new TV season, a night-by-night analysis of new and returning series and a look at the tube’s most intriguing faces. The TV staff is indeed master of its domain. And if you don’t get the full meaning of that phrase, you’d better buy our Seinfeld Companion.