(a few spoilers here)
Yesterday Curb Your Enthusiasm wrapped its season-long Seinfeld reunion arc. We hadn’t seen any of the characters since May of 1998, when the much despised finale aired, but I’ll be surprised if any Seinfeld fan was let down this time (I’m not, however, surprised Giampaolo was displeased by 2012–I advised not to go!)
I was hesitant about the reunion considering Curb Your Enthusiasm had refrained from ever getting too Seinfeld-meta over its 7 seasons, effectively making the show its own thing instead of feeling like a spin-off (remember Joey?) At its best, it is edgier, rawer, and funnier than Seinfeld ever was, thanks to HBO’s creative freedom. In previous seasons, Seinfeld was a topic of consternation to “Larry David” and we believed it was the same for the real Larry David. The Seinfeld arc felt like a sell-out.
It wasn’t. Here were the 5 biggest surprises:
(1) JERRY CAN ACT. Although Seinfeld was the lead in the most successful show of all time, his acting had always been viewed as endearingly inept. He lights up every scene he’s in here. The camaraderie between Larry and Jerry was genuinely moving. He’s the closest thing Larry David has to a soulmate yet he seems able to fit in with polite society.
(2) NBC DIDN’T CAUSE A FUSS. Thank God. This was the only way we could get something so wonderfully honest and fun.
(3) THE REUNION SHOW WORKED. Deconstructing Seinfeld into table reads and rehearsals added a level, but the snippets of the show-within-a-show were funny on their own terms. Despite having aged 11 years, the actors slipped right back into their characters with little discomfort (Michael Richards is 60!). We learn Jerry had donated the sperm for Elaine’s baby and George had gotten rich inventing the i-Toliet application but lost it all to Bernie Madoff. “It’s tough to find work these days, Jerry” Seinfeld’s unfunny rival comedian Kenny Bania notes, in a cameo. Jerry replies, “Yeah, but you weren’t working BEFORE.”
(4) LARRY IS DEFENSIVE ABOUT THE FINALE. It’s unclear whether the season’s running joke that all of the gang felt the Seinfeld finale was weak except for Larry was based on reality, but, since the series is consistently close-to-home, you can almost bet on it. Larry is in denial. “It was a good ending!”
(5) THEY ADDRESS THE MICHAEL RICHARDS INCIDENT. Against all odds, Michael Richards is redeemed after leaving a bad taste in our mouths in November 2006. Larry sends his black housemate Leon over to Richard’s pretending to be a victim of Groat’s Disease (don’t ask just watch). “Oh, don’t kill me,” Richards pleads, answering the door, “I made a MISTAKE 3 years ago!” Later, he almosts re-creates the incident. The witnesses instinctively pull out their cellphones and blackberries. Thank you, Curb. Thank you.