Vantage point

Monday, October 05, 2009

The Seinfeld Reunion

The only reason I subscribed to HBO recently was the announcement that the new Curb Your Enthusiasm would have a story arc centering around a fictitious Seinfeld Reunion. The first episode from that story arc aired last night. And boy, did it live up to its ultra-hyped expectations!

The thing about reunion episodes is, they always suck. There is an odd forced feel about them, and although they started off promising fans nostalgia, they end up tarnishing the legacy of the once great show. Which is why Seinfeld, a show that arguably never jumped the shark, and ended with people clamoring for more rather than wishing for a speedy wrap-up, could never have a proper reunion. So what we have on Curb is NOT a proper reunion. Instead, it is a parody of the very concept of reunions.

For those of you living under a rock, Curb Your Enthusiasm is a show with a unique premise. It pretends to document the real life of Larry David, the sociopath co-creator of Seinfeld, living in Los Angeles. His friends and many other showbiz bigwigs make frequent appearances - Richard Lewis, Ben Stiller, Ted Danson, Wanda Sykes etc playing exaggerated and comically obnoxious versions of themselves. The show does not have a script, but instead has a 3-4 page outline of the story and the scenes. Based on these brief outlines, actors improvise the dialog and their reactions, giving the show a very realistic feel.

The Seinfeld story arc promises to be hilarious. Last night's episode had him meeting one-on-one with the "Seinfeld Four" to convince them for a reunion show. I loved the scene between Larry and Jason Alexander. George has always been my favorite character on the show, based on Larry's personality and played by Jason. The scene between the two of them, which featured an argument about the series finale and about co-ordinating the tip for the meal, was TV gold - it felt like there were two Georges going against each other.

The scenes with Jerry and Julia were great too, both of them displaying traits similar to the characters they played on the show. And of course, Michael Richards, who was very Kramer-esque in getting so distracted by erotica in the restaurant that he does not even realize what he is agreeing to when he agrees to the reunion show.

The rest of the season will show us ostensibly behind the scenes action of the four of them and Larry working on the reunion show. The teaser on HBO shows that some other favorites like Newman, Estelle, Bania among others will also be involved. I can't wait for the coming episodes when the whole gang will return to the old sets and slug it out while putting the show together. And of course, there will be the eventual reunion episode, which I am guessing they will show large portions of in the season finale. American TV in the 21st century can't get any better than that.

There is however bound to be a sad side-effect of the Seinfeld and Curb "worlds colliding". Many actors who played memorable but small roles on Seinfeld also played different small roles on Curb in previous seasons. So they can not possibly be brought back in the reunion. For example, Philip Baker Hall, who played the gruff library cop Mr. Bookman in The Library episode of Seinfeld, plays a salivating doctor in Curb. And of course, the ravishing Brenda Strong who played Sue Allen Mishky, the candy heiress on Seinfeld will have to be omitted too, because she played a doctor who dates Larry in the sixth season.

Regardless, this season of Curb is sure to be a classic. Totally worth the 7 dollars a month extra I have to pay for HBO.