In its last two seasons, Larry David’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm” pushed politically correct notions of Jewish identity and race to cringe-worthy and hilarious extremes. David, playing an exaggerated version of his misanthropic self, briefly made nice when he mistakenly believed he had been adopted and was not born Jewish, then he returned to his callous self when his wife — now estranged — took in an African American family that had been displaced by Hurricane Katrina. “So your last name is Black,” he says to the family upon their first meeting, arriving late to pick them up at the airport. “That’d be like if my last name were Jew: Larry Jew.”
Now the seventh season of HBO’s “Curb,” premiering Sept. 20 on HBO, will tackle a different kind of faux pas that the real David has condemned: the sitcom reunion show. In particular, a reunion of “Seinfeld,” one of the most successful television shows of all time, which David co-created with comedian Jerry Seinfeld. The show ran for nine seasons, from 1989 to 1998, and continues in reruns.
Although David had often dismissed the notion of a “Seinfeld” reunion as “lame,” he said at a press event earlier this year, it dawned on him that a fictional “Seinfeld” reunion on “Curb” could be funny. The four stars of “Seinfeld” agreed. As season seven opens, Larry’s wife, Cheryl, has left him, and now he is forced by social convention to care for his girlfriend — the matriarch of the Black family clan (Vivica A. Fox) — who may have cancer. The show plays out like an amped-up rant about life’s small irritations and unwritten “rules,” as was the form made famous by “Seinfeld,” but now with “Curb’s” nasty edge. Among the topics: the etiquette of whether one should help oneself to food from a friend’s refrigerator (“liquid’s OK,” as one character tells an irate Larry), and having to be nice to not-so-nice people who have cancer.
Based on the season’s first three episodes, which were provided to reviewers, it remains unclear whether “Curb” will carve new territory in its lampooning of the Hollywood rich, or if Larry’s habit of getting himself in trouble through a series of faux pas will ratchet up with ever-escalating humiliations for the character.
But seeing David on screen with his “Seinfeld” colleagues is more than satisfying, and sidesplitting. The cast appears in the season’s third episode, after it becomes apparent that Larry’s ulterior motives for spearheading the reunion are (surprise!) less than honorable. He disingenuously meets with each actor to hawk his proposal: “Why would we do something like this?” a skeptical Seinfeld asks, reminding Larry that usually, “You would look [at reunion shows] and you’d make that face, that very judgmental face of yours ... you’d criticize and downgrade them for it, that’s your style.” Jason Alexander doesn’t buy Larry’s idea that George, his “Seinfeld” character, could have been married for a time, because he says George is “unlovable — a jerky, schmucky little character.” But Alexander does like the idea that a reunion show might make up for “Seinfeld’s” finale, lampooned in real life by critics for its harsh condemnation of the characters, who wind up in jail for their selfish behavior. This irks Larry, who — like the real-life David — says there is “nothing to make up for.”
Here’s hoping that this season answers one other lingering question about the older sitcom: Why was the obviously Jewish Seinfeld never openly described as Jewish on the show?
Beginning Sept. 20, “Curb Your Enthusiasm” will air Sundays on HBO.