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Culture

Seinfeld’s impossible apartment is only the tip of the show’s interdimensional iceberg

Does Jerry Seinfeld live in Bizarro World? The question, which is somehow not a judgment on the comedian’s luxe lifestyle or past relationship with a high school student, was posed on Reddit based on the specs of his onetime apartment.

User PixelMagic, using a floorplan of Seinfeld’s Upper West Side bachelor pad in his eponymous sitcom, ruled that the comic’s spacious kitchen couldn’t possibly accommodate the hallway we see throughout the series.

Jerry’s Hallway Can’t Exist. from r/seinfeld

Ryan Britt at Fatherly seized on the post, using Seinfeld’s affinity for Superman as a cheeky explanation: “Only Kryptonian tech could explain that phantom hallway, which means, maybe, just maybe, when people walk down it, they’re actually in the Phantom Zone.”

To which I leapt from my chair and shouted “yes!” and quickly applied another piece of red thread to my “Seinfeld” multiverse corkboard. Britt is trying to be cute here, and I respect the hustle, but it’s really no laughing matter. There is ample evidence that in the world of “Seinfeld” we are witnessing regular incursions from another dimension. (Hold your Beef-A-Reeno-eating horses, I’ll get to the episode devoted to this premise, but let me set the scene first.)

The hallway quibble is just one of numerous continuity issues with Jerry’s apartment, the number of which changes regularly across nine seasons. While we see Jerry getting (one of) his new couches on the show, and even see his kitchen cabinets get replaced, there’s no accounting for one feature of the comic’s domestic life: his phone number, which begins with “KL5.”

Even one of the constants in Jerry’s digs, his across the hall neighbor, Kramer, is not consistent. In the pilot, “The Seinfeld Chronicles,” he was called Kessler. In that same episode, Jerry and George eat at Pete’s Luncheonette. Later, they’re regulars at Monk’s which can be seen in many establishing shots of the real-world Tom’s Restaurant in Morningside Heights, as having a sign that reads “Tom’s.” Is that Monk’s first name or what? But while we’re on the subject of diners…

There is another establishment called Reggie’s, parallel to Monk’s, featured on three episodes of the series, including “The Bizarro Jerry.” It’s in this episode that we fully begin to understand the grand implications of the “Seinfeld” universe.

When Elaine decides to be “just friends” with her boyfriend Kevin, she gets attached to his friend group. Kevin’s buddies are Gene and Feldman, quiet, courteous analogues to George and Kramer who enjoy reading, ballet and doing favors for each other. In a pivotal moment for the lore, Jerry, Kramer and George approach Kevin, Gene and Feldman on the street as portentous synth music plays. We are seeing what had long been hinted at — the trick hallway is no more a mistake than Kubrick’s impossible windows.

There’s a reason to the flux in “Seinfeld,” from the inconsistent only-child status of Jerry, George and Elaine to the regular ruptures in the universe signaled by the arrival of Jerry’s female doppelganger or the “nexus of the universe” at 1st Street and 1st Avenue (OK, that last one is just New York geography). There’s a rift in spacetime where all the rules are reversed; Kevin and his friends are all from that reality and their presence in Elaine’s orbit is messing with stuff. But it’s not a one-off phenomenon. Just like Reggie’s, they’ve always been there, even if we haven’t always seen them.

“The Bizarro Jerry” with its polite interlopers is the Rosetta Stone to understanding the laws of Seinfeldia. It’s the key to the principles that hold the show’s universe together with the turbulent duality of a black and white cookie. It’s the root of the logic that make George’s choice to do “the opposite” pay off in spades. At the episode’s credits, we get our first complete, Elaine-free glimpse of the other world, whose breach is responsible for warping the physics of Jerry’s hallway and, perhaps, his compatriots’ moral compass.

Once again we see inside Kevin’s apartment, its orientation the reverse of Jerry’s. But this time the “Seinfeld” bassline is played backwards. A Bizarro statuette is visible on a pedestal and jars of grains where boxes of processed cereal should be. Gene tells Kevin he called the phone company to report a line in his office lobby that accidentally has free long distance (and presumably a KL area code). Feldman knocks to enter, bringing Kevin some groceries. They group hug.

In another world where transgression is the norm, they watch this show: “Kevin” — not “Seinfeld.” In that realm, call it “The Phantom Zone,” Jerry’s hallway makes perfect sense.

PJ Grisar is the Forward’s culture reporter. He can be reached at Grisar@Forward.com.

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