“The library investigator’s name is actually Bookman? That’s amazing. That’s like an ice cream man named Cone!”
By the time the third season of SEINFELD debuted in the fall of 1991, it had established itself as a show unlike anything else on the television landscape. While not yet the juggernaut it would become, it was quickly gaining popularity, not only because of the main characters on the show, but also the guest star roles, many of whom added their own unique stamp to the show.
One of the best guest stars in the show’s history came in the fifth episode of the third season, which aired on October 16, 1991. The episode, “THE LIBRARY,” saw Jerry taking a trip to the New York Public Library to take care of a book the library claimed he’s had out since 1971. When Jerry, George and Kramer get to the library, they discover that the investigator handling the case, Lt. Bookman, is out on assignment. He later shows up to Jerry’s apartment.
Bookman was played perfectly by Philip Baker Hall, an amazing actor with more than 170 roles on his resume (including the police commissioner in GHOSTBUSTERS II, and guest spots in practically every TV show from the 1980s and early 1990s).
Hall’s delivery of his speech about the library to Jerry is one of my favorite moments of Seinfeld, and for many, it helped to establish the show as something that shouldn’t be missed. Seinfeld, still growing into the role of an actor, probably reacted the way most of us would when confronted by this man…
The rest of the episode was filled with even more memorable moments, as Kramer becomes besotted with the poetry of the librarian and George encountering the high school gym teacher he got fired because of the wedgies the teacher used to torture George with. The phrase “CAN’T STAND YA!” had a whole new meaning after this episode aired.
“The Library” kicked off a string of classic Seinfeld episodes that saw the show really come into its own as possibly the best show on television. And they owe it all to a guy who was trying to protect a kid’s right to read a book without getting his mind warped.