Until now, Larry David played the proverbial Fifth Beatle to the "Seinfeld" Fab Four: a driving, behind-the-scenes force, unseen (but not unheard – he provided the show’s booming George Steinbrenner harangues).
With the new season of HBO's "Curb Your Enthusiasm," which kicks off Sunday and centers around a fictitious "Seinfeld" reunion show, we'll finally get to see the co-creator interact with all of his old comic collaborators.
The inevitable collision of two interrelated shows about “nothing” – and populated by characters who are self-absorbed losers – offers the tantalizing promise of a win-win for the casts and fans.
For Jerry Seinfeld & Co., “Curb” provides the perfect cover for a reunion of sorts while avoiding the familiar routes of a mawkish clip show – or worse, a one-off special or TV movie bringing the old gang back for a new adventure, potentially marring the memories that will live on in syndication.
“Seinfeld” was never about learning lessons, group hugs, happy endings or other sitcom mainstays – “Curb” will give the cast a chance to sate an 11-year-old reunion jones while sneering at TV convention.
For David, he gets a strong story arc for his seventh season – the most promising premise since the brilliant Season Four, which traced his journey to Broadway for a disasterous starring turn in “The Producers.”
Jason Alexander and Louis-Dreyfus figured in past “Curb” episodes, and Seinfeld made a solitary, soundless cameo – cringing and fleeing after watching David in “The Producers.” But the sum is greater than the parts, raising hopes of some explosively funny moments.
Michael Richards’ racist rant meltdown will be explored. Promos show sad-sack Marty Funkhouser (Bob Einstein) trying to tell a joke to a squirming Seinfeld. There's alway the danger that David and Alexander will morph into a Mega-Costanza that could destroy the world with a tidal wave of neuroses, if it only would move out of its parents’ house.
David helped create the “Seinfeld” universe, but now the cast is entering his world, where there are no set rules – only the ones David makes up as he goes along. The shows are improvised, for the most part, and populated by stars playing variations on themselves (Ted Danson and Richard Lewis, to name a couple) and characters like Susie Greene (Susie Essman), who spews creative curse combinations at David.
It’s a sign of how far “Curb” has come that the “Seinfeld” reunion is just one enticing subplot in a season set to tackle David’s efforts to repair his broken (TV) marriage, and his ongoing relationship with the Black family.
This season, Larry David is getting what he no doubt variously wants, dreads and deserves: the chance to be the star of “nothing.”
Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is the former City Editor of the New York Daily News, where he started as a reporter in 1992. Follow him on Twitter.