So I’m going to begin this little blogular write-up with two confessions, neither of them embarrassing:
1) This is the first “Curb Your Enthusiasm” season that I’ve watched live from start to finish. “Curb” is a show I’ve always enjoyed, but one I’ve usually set aside at different points in previous seasons. This is the first season that’s remained appointment viewing from start to finish, so don’t be surprised when it makes my Top 10 for the year.
2) It’s surprising that this should be the season I made it through because, as my friends and loved ones know, I never enjoyed “Seinfeld” and this whole season has been built around a “Seinfeld” reunion. And yeah, I said it. I’m the Jew from Back East who didn’t like “Seinfeld.” Sorry. Even season-completing difficulties not withstanding, I’ve always preferred “Curb Your Enthusiasm” to “Seinfeld.” Someday I’ll write a blog post fully explaining that dislike, but it probably won’t be tonight.
Anyway, “Curb Your Enthusiasm” wrapped up its seventh and, to my mind, best season on Sunday (Nov. 22) night with an episode fittingly titled “Seinfeld.” It wasn’t as excruciatingly, uncomfortably funny as the climax of last week’s “The Table Read” or as spectacularly crafted as “The Bare Midriff,” but it tied the season together in a way that felt pretty perfect.
[More on the “Curb” finale after the break… With spoilers…]
With Larry David, the party line has always been that he would never, under any circumstance, do a “Seinfeld” reunion. So the struggle of this season has been finding a justification for Fictional Larry David to do what Real Larry David next would. The answer? After starting the season in an deteriorating relationship with Loretta (Vivica A. Fox) Larry decided to do a “Seinfeld” reunion as a way to get back together with Cheryl Hines’ Cheryl. The reconciliation required more than just signing a contract with NBC or writing a script. He had to fight to get Cheryl into the project as an actress and then, in the season finale, he had to fight off the suspicion that Cheryl was falling for Jason Alexander. He finally quit the project and apparently sacrificed enough of his ego to allow the reunion to go on without his involvement.
After all of that, Larry got what he wanted! Cheryl showed up at his door, having been replaced in the reunion by Virginia (Elisabeth Shue, whose insufficient fame to play “Elisabeth Shue” has been a source of some confusion and consternation). And Cheryl made it clear to Larry that she was ready to get back together and then, just as they were about to kiss and send the season off into its well-deserved send-off, Larry noticed that Cheryl had left a wet cup of iced coffee on his new table, leaving a ring. And he interrupted his perfect romantic moment for a tirade on the sanctity of wood, ending the season.
It was a great moment, because on the TV, in the “Seinfeld” reunion, the characters were getting the happy and retrospective finale that David and Jerry Seinfeld denied fans 11 years ago. So David got to play with the idea that viewers demand satisfying closure even from a show that abhorred that sort of convention at its very core. In the narrative “Seinfeld” world, George was allowed the happy ending desired by viewers, the contentment and return to an imagined former marriage. Meanwhile, in the “real” “Curb Your Enthusiasm” world, George’s alter ego had the chance for a similar ride-off-into-the-sunset moment and he reacted exactly the way the character of George would have reacted through nine seasons of “Seinfeld.” It was satisfyingly unsatisfying on every level.
And all because of a ring on a coffee table, introducing what’s sure to be a hipster catchphrase for at least a few days: Do you respect wood?
Because Larry David? He respects wood, even if Julia Louis-Dreyfus accused him of leaving a ring on her family’s antique coffee table, incurring $500 in damages.
“I respect pine,” Larry later protested. “I respect walnut. I respect oak. It doesn’t matter.”
Jeff’s wife Susie? She respects wood, even though she also had a beverage ring on one of her tables, discovered by Larry David, Wood Detective.
As Susie put it to an accusatory Larry, “I respect wood so much that if I had a piece of wood in my hand right now, I’d beat the s*** out of you with it, OK?”
Jerry Seinfeld? A marginal respecter of wood, but a discriminator against low-grade wood.
Said Jerry, incredulous that Larry could be more worried about the wood table than Jason Alexander’s two dogs, on the verge of being put to sleep, “You go to a funeral, you’re more upset about the coffin than the deceased?”
How did Jason Alexander’s dogs come to be nearly put to sleep? Well, it steps from the season’s ongoing tipping crisis. Yes, tipping has always caused problems for fictional Larry, but this season has been a nearly nonstop avalanche of tipping catastrophes, including the Jason-Larry secret tip-off, the country club tipping redundancy and the newsstand supplemental tip for the host at The Farm.
In the finale, Larry came under fire for not tipping on-set coffee guy Mocha Joe for also delivering a set of jumper cables to a destination he was going anyway.
The question: Do you tip for a favor?
“A tip is money for a favor,” Jerry argued.
“No, a favor implies no tip,” Larry said.
So Larry volunteered to do a favor for Mocha Joe, which involved attempting to pick up Mocha Joe’s coffee order in West Hollywood. I put the emphasis on “attempting” in the previous sentence, because the store was closed and Larry was unable to complete the favor.
The next question: Must a favor be completed or is the attempt enough?
Larry: “Whatever happened to “e” for effort?”
Mocha Joe: “‘F’ for favor!”
Jerry: “‘C’ for coffee!”
In the end, saving Jason’s dogs — which escaped after Jerry tried to catch Jason and Cheryl in a compromising position and went and nearly mauled Mocha Joe — required the sort of “favor” that cost Larry several hundred dollars in “tips” or “payoffs.”
It was a dense episode, one that gave viewers the payoff of a chunk of a new “Seinfeld” episode, complete with a Jerry stand-up opening and the whole gang, together again and performing for a studio audience, an appreciative studio audience. So naturally, that stuff wasn’t really funny to me.
What was funny was Larry attempting to break between the walls of his two popular thinly veiled autobiographical shows. There was something deliriously mind-bending about watching fictional Larry David railing to his fictional ex-wife about how she wasn’t falling for the fictional Jason Alexander, she was falling the fictional George Costanza, who was based on both the fictional Larry David and the real Larry David. Things got better when Larry attempted to rewrite the reunion script to break up Cheryl and Jason, causing Jason to storm off and Larry to announced that he’d try to play George himself.
“Do you understand what this is? It’s iconic television here,” Jerry explained. “The set’s an icon. He’s an icon. She’s an icon. He was an icon. [Points at himself] Icon! [Points at Larry] No-con! There’s no John, Paul, George and Larry. It’s not what they want.”
So then we had fictional Larry playing fictional George, doing his impression of what Jason Alexander did in interpreting the behavior of real Larry, once upon a time.
It’s even more logically twisted than “The Prisoner” (the fictionalized AMC version, not the real British version). And I loved every second of it. Well, I didn’t enjoy every second of it, because I didn’t enjoy the real “Seinfeld” scenes. But I enjoyed the behind-the-scenes “Seinfeld” scenes, because those were really “Curb Your Enthusiasm” scenes.
See what I mean?
So what’d you think of this season of “Curb Your Enthusiasm”? And of the finale? Are you now satisfied even without a real “Seinfeld” reunion? And do you tip for a favor?