Larry David's Dysfunctional Family Reunion The seventh season finale of Curb Your Enthusiasm capped a year-long storyline about Larry finally agreeing to a produce a reunion episode of Seinfeld which he co-created with Jerry Seinfeld. TV critic David Bianculli explains how both programs — the show and the show within the show — were a comedic coup and a perfect end to the season.
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Larry David's Dysfunctional Family Reunion

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Larry David's Dysfunctional Family Reunion

Larry David's Dysfunctional Family Reunion

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The HBO comedy series, "Curb Your Enthusiasm," created by and starring Larry David, presented its season finale last night with an episode capping a year-long storyline about Larry finally agreeing to a reunion show of "Seinfeld," which he created with Jerry Seinfeld.

Our TV Critic David Bianculli loved both programs: the show, and the show within the show.

DAVID BIANCULLI: Only Larry David could have gotten away with what he just pulled off on "Curb Your Enthusiasm." That's not just praise for his ability as a brilliant sitcom writer and improviser. It's also a plain fact. After Larry and Jerry Seinfeld ended "Seinfeld" when it was the top-rated sitcom on television, Larry, the behind-the-scenes co-creator, went out on his own. He created "Curb," playing an exaggerated version of himself. Larry David, the guy who co-created "Seinfeld," made skillions of dollars, but still found endless irritations in everyday life.

He was the first of the "Seinfeld," gang to succeed in a new venture, and the premise set him up, years later, to attempt the unthinkable: to bring everyone back for a "Seinfeld" reunion show. He and Jerry would never think of doing it for NBC, their old bosses, for real. That would be too ordinary. But to do it for HBO as part of a complicated plot that has the TV Larry agreeing to do an NBC reunion special only so he can get back together with his estranged wife - that's not only different, it's perverse. With the old "Seinfeld" sets pulled out of storage and the old cast members reunited, this entire season of "Curb," has been a flirtation with this alternate reality.

And like some not-quite-real Bizarro world - a "Superman" reference the real Jerry Seinfeld no doubt would appreciate - the whole thing came to a head this weekend when HBO bought ad time to promote - during NBC's "Saturday Night Live" - the "Curb," season finale.

(Soundbite of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" commercial)

Mr. JERRY SEINFELD (Actor): (as himself) We already screwed up one finale. We can't do another.

Mr. LARRY DAVID (Actor): (as himself) We didn't screw up a finale. That was a good finale.

Unidentified Man: The season finale of "Curb Your Enthusiasm," only on HBO.

BIANCULLI: Think of how much salt HBO was rubbing in NBC's wounds with that ad. Eleven years ago, "Seinfeld" was the hugest thing on TV, and NBC had it. But in 2009, the "Seinfeld," cast reunited on cable TV instead, while NBC's peacock has so little plumage left, it's in danger of being killed and served at Thanksgiving. But the amazing thing about this "Curb"-"Seinfeld" combo platter is how beautifully everyone delivered. Jerry and Larry worked together brilliantly, and you can actually sense the chemistry that made them such a creative team.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who's doing her own stellar sitcom work on "The New Adventures of Old Christine" on CBS, was a riot as an older-but-still-not-wiser Elaine. Michael Richards - banished to show-biz limbo after his racist rant three years ago - allowed himself to be the butt of jokes on that very topic. And Jason Alexander, as Larry David's alter ego George Costanza, had an obvious ball portraying himself as someone who didn't like Larry all that much and certainly didn't care for the original "Seinfeld" finale.

Slowly, over several episodes, the "Curb," version of the "Seinfeld," reunion began to take shape. Larry had to overcome several obstacles, but finally succeeded in casting his estranged wife Cheryl - played so endearingly by Cheryl Hines - in the show. That's the clever plot of, "Curb." But the plot of "Seinfeld," the reunion show itself, was just as good. When we got to see all the actors at what's called a table read -the first pass at reading aloud a new script - what I was knocked out by was how well-written it was.

The reunion show plot, filling in the lives of the characters over the intervening years, had George marrying Amanda - the character to be played by Cheryl - becoming a mega-millionaire after developing a particularly useful iPhone application, then divorcing Amanda and losing his money to Bernie Madoff. The table read with Jason Alexander as George and Cheryl Hines as Amanda, made it clear. This would have made a terrific episode of "Seinfeld," for real.

(Soundbite of TV show, "Curb Your Enthusiasm")

Unidentified Man (Actor): D and H(ph) - it's in the coffee shop. This is day four: George, Amanda.

Mr. JASON ALEXANDER (Actor): (as George Costanza) I've been dreading having to tell you about the whole Madoff thing.

Ms. CHERYL HINES (Actor): (as Cheryl, as Amanda) Oh, well.

Mr. ALEXANDER: (as George Costanza) You must hate me for losing our money like that. We're wiped out.

Ms. HINES: (as Cheryl, as Amanda) Actually, I'm fine, George.

Mr. ALEXANDER: (as George Costanza) Fine?

Ms. HINES: (as Cheryl, as Amanda) Yeah. I took my half out of Madoff right after we got divorced.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ALEXANDER: (as George Costanza) You what?

Ms. HINES: (as Cheryl, as Amanda) Yeah. I still have my half.

Mr. ALEXANDER: (as George Costanza) Why did you take it out?

Ms. HINES: (as Cheryl, as Amanda) I bumped into Madoff on the street one day, and he was wearing this quilted jacket with the collar up. And for some reason, it creeped me out.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. HINES: (as Cheryl, as Amanda) So the next day, I pulled all my money out. Turns out, I did quite well by him.

Mr. ALEXANDER: (as George Costanza) Collar up? Creeped you out? That's my money. You have my money.

Ms. HINES: (as Cheryl, as Amanda) Not according to laws of the State of New York.

(Soundbite of laughter)

(Soundbite of music)

BIANCULLI: And then, last night, came the capper. I thought Larry David had reached his career peak with the season-long producer's storyline of "Curb," but last night's show was even better. It actually gave us, in miniature, another episode of "Seinfeld." But it also gave us happy endings and unhappy ones when we didn't expect them, and also served up the delicious plot twist that had Cheryl becoming attracted to Jason. That meant Larry was competing with and losing to the guy who played Larry's doppelganger on "Seinfeld."

And he was losing her precisely because he cast her in the show. That's when, on this "Curb" season finale, Larry flips, Jason walks out, and to save the reunion show and his chances with Cheryl, Larry offers up a desperate solution, which the other cast members reject immediately -Jerry Seinfeld. especially.

(Soundbite of TV show, "Curb Your Enthusiasm")

Mr. MICHAEL RICHARDS: (as himself) Okay. So how do we do the show without Jason?

Mr. SEINFELD: (as himself) It's just a script, Larry. There's no show without Jason. I mean, you don't even the show. What do you have? Yeah, you've a three-legged goat here.

Mr. RICHARDS: (as himself) So what are we doing?

Mr. SEINFELD: (as himself) I don't know. We're not doing anything.

Mr. RICHARDS: (as himself) Larry, what do you want to do?

Mr. DAVID: (as himself) I'll play George.

Ms. JULIA LOUIS-DREYFUS: (as herself) What?

Mr. DAVID: (as himself) I'll play George. I'll play George.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. LOUIS-DREYFUS: (as herself) What?

Mr. DAVID: (as himself) Yes.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. DAVID: (as himself) I can do it.

Mr. SEINFELD: (as himself) Play what? George's butler? What do you mean?

Mr. DAVID: (as himself) No. I will play George Costanza. I can do it. I know I can. I wrote it. The character's based on me. There were two Darrens�

Mr. SEINFELD: (as himself) Yeah.

Mr. DAVID: (as himself) �on "Bewitched."

Mr. SEINFELD: (as himself) Nobody liked that second Darren. I didn't care for the second Darren.

Mr. DAVID: (as himself) But you bought it.

Ms. LOUIS-DREYFUS: (as herself) Oh, my God.

Mr. SEINFELD: (as himself) Do you understand what this is? This is iconic television here. The set's an icon. He's an icon. She's an icon. He was an icon - icon, no con. There's no John, Paul, George and Larry. It's not what they want.

BIANCULLI: Actually, by this point, they're all icons - even Larry. "Curb Your Enthusiasm," is the best TV comedy of the year, and last night's finale didn't let me down. It lifted me up. And the fact that the "Seinfeld" reunion took place on cable, not broadcast TV - well, that's a perfect analogy for quality TV as it exists today. More and more, cable TV is where it's at. Broadcast TV is where it was.

GROSS: David Bianculli writes for and teaches TV and film at Rowan University.

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