Spoilers for last night’s Curb Your Enthusiasm season finale coming up after the jump:
Hands down one of the strangest, most satisfying things on TV this season has been seeing Seinfeld re-created, set for set, on HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm—not as some weird R-rated pay-cable updating but simply as a faithful translation. It was a sight that crystallized something that’s probably in the back of every Seinfeld fan’s mind, even if they’re not aware of it: those people are all still out there, and they could make another Seinfeld any time they wanted to.
It might have been tempting to show things going wrong with the Seinfeld reunion on camera: the script being off, the magic un-recapturable. Instead, Larry David did something much more ordinary and impressive, which was a faithful, funny re-creation of how the rhythms of the show and the characters would play if it simply picked up 11 years later. (Even the 21st-century Blackberry, iPhone and Madoff jokes didn’t seem distractingly topical; they were the equivalents of the kind of jokes Seinfeld was doing in the ’90s.) At one point, as Larry settled down to watch the reunion that he’d walked out of, I thought that we might just see an entire Seinfeld episode within the episode, and the show played so naturally that it probably would have worked.
This excellent Curb finale will naturally lead to discussion of whether David has redeemed himself by finally giving Seinfeld fans the wrap-up they deserved. (See Alan Sepinwall’s blog for a discussion of the same.) I don’t think so—at least not through the meta-Seinfeld scenes themselves. He did something better, which was to create the best season of Curb in several years, with Seinfeld as the impetus.
(Of course, I’ve never felt the all-consuming hate and disappointment some Seinfeld fans felt for that finale. Having said that, it was a disappointing series-ender.)
What this episode, and the Seinfeld part of the season did, was to bring together Seinfeldian and Curbian humor, but in a way that always came back to the acerbic, crabbed hilarity that makes Curb distinctive. It was fun to see Jerry Seinfeld back in his kitchen again, but it was really great to see him interacting with Larry “off-screen,” riffing with him and playfully arguing with him. “Icon! No-con!”) And acknowledging how magically the two of them worked together—”like twins in a womb,” as Jerry says—is probably as close as David will allow himself to become sentimental about Seinfeld on air.
Ultimately, though the “Seinfeld” episode came back to what makes Curb Curb: Larry David, his crabbed worldview and his inability to get past his petty fixations even when he’s aware of them. (It is typical that he couldn’t let go of needing to be vindicated over the table ring even in the midst of getting Cheryl back.) And his unwillingness to admit fault led to the funniest scene of the episode, David walking onto the Seinfeld set and doing a Jason-Alexander-as-George impression, right down to the index-fingers-pointing-out-upwards gesture.
As well-executed as the Seinfeld scenes were, it makes sense that David only ever gave us a partial script and a glimpse of the show here; he recognizes that the perfect Seinfeld finale can only exist this way—largely in our own minds. Instead, Larry David did the best thing a creator can do for his fans: not to end something perfectly, but to make something else, something new, and make it good.