'Curb Your Enthusiasm': Reunited and It Feels So Good
This week's episode of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" did what many people thought was impossible: It brought together the cast of "Seinfeld," more than 10 years after the series went off the air, for a reunion show. Sort of, anyway.
In true "Curb" tradition, there's more than meets the eye here as the "Seinfeld" reunion itself is wholly fictional, a fantastic display of meta-theater that will only be glimpsed in tiny pieces this season on "Curb." Just as Jerry and George once pitched NBC a show about "nothing" on "Seinfeld," so too is Larry back at NBC doing a "Seinfeld" reunion as a deeply layered show-within-a-show.
And, yes, some uncertainty about the way that "Seinfeld" ended its series run is brought up as well, at least by the "Seinfeld" actors, even if Larry seems to be content with that downer of an ending.
The kumquat and the quail. The "Seinfeld" gang -- Jerry Seinfeld, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Michael Richards and Jason Alexander, natch -- are back together and, well, it feels so great. Yes, there were rumblings of trouble among the quartet (fans will remember those arguments over DVD royalties, and then there was Richards' brush with notoriety a few years back for some racially insensitive remarks), but there's a sense of frisson at seeing them back together on the set of Jerry's apartment that's really indescribable. It's nostalgic and comforting and exciting all at the same time, even if it's just a fantasy sequence. (I think I cheered when they all ran in.)
But this is "Curb" and the course of, well, everything never did run smooth. So there's a whole bunch of obstacles standing in Larry's way to mounting a "Seinfeld" reunion, not least of which is his lack of desire to do a "Seinfeld" reunion -- even with NBC champing at the bit (and, yes, it IS champing, no matter what Julia says) for a cash cow like this.
Despite the distaste Larry has for reunions, there is an ulterior motive at work, namely the mere whiff of possibility of reuniting, not with the "Seinfeld" cast, but with ex-wife Cheryl, who is impressed by Larry's newfound attitude about returning to work. Cheryl's hedging for a part in the "Seinfeld" reunion, and Larry promises her the role of George's ex-wife whom -- in a meta-theatrical twist of its own -- George is attempting to woo. Not that Larry has checked this fact with Jerry, who has plans of his own for the role, offering it to Meg Ryan, who cheerfully accepts.
Masters of their domain. Each of the former "Seinfeld" cast members gets a plot line in this episode, from Jerry's pitching of Meg Ryan to Larry, Jason and Larry arguing over splitting the tip at a restaurant, Larry accusing Julia of lying about taking her daughter to a birthday party, and Michael... Well, Michael Richards doesn't get much of a storyline, sadly. There's a subplot involving Michael getting distracted by some blatantly erotic photography at a lunch meeting with Larry to the point that he agrees to do the reunion without hearing what Larry's actually saying. It doesn't quite pay off in any meaningful way and feels somewhat tacked onto the rest of the action.
Richards himself seems smaller in this episode than he ever did as the flamboyant Kramer on "Seinfeld," as though he's still doing penance for his brush with infamy; there's a quiet solemnity to him here that's at odds with the colorful and larger-than-life personality he played for so many years on television. Or that's what we're meant to believe on "Curb," anyway. Despite the fact that they're portraying themselves, there's definitely some acting going on here, so it's hard to really get a read on Richards.
The benefit of the doubt. As always, this week's episode also presented a moral dilemma for Larry David. After correctly diagnosing Susie's mystery ailment as Lyme disease, Larry is faced with a hell of a quagmire. After he's humiliated by the president of NBC, Sandy Goodman (Todd Stashwick), who gave him lousy Lakers seats to "celebrate" their deal for "Seinfeld" and screens his call, Larry curses him out only to be forced to apologize when he realizes Sandy has Lyme disease. He can either save this man's life by diagnosing him ... or gloat at his funeral. Decisions, decisions.
Despite his general misanthropy, Larry's not evil. He saves Sandy's life and saves the "Seinfeld" reunion to boot. But any shot of reconnecting with Cheryl go up in smoke when he learns that her part has been snatched by Meg Ryan. Those of you who think Cheryl's going to give Larry the cold shoulder can raise your cup above your teapot ... now.
What did you think of this week's episode? How great was it to see the "Seinfeld" cast together again on TV? Is there any shot for Larry and Cheryl now? And would you have coordinated the tip? Speak up in the comments section below!
-- Jace Lacob (follow my musings on television, food, and more television on Twitter at @televisionary)
Photo: Yada, yada, the "Seinfeld" gang reunites on "Curb Your Enthusiasm." Credit: Doug Hyun / HBO.