In the "Seinfeld" reunion set to air Sunday on "Curb Your Enthusiasm" Jerry Seinfeld acknowledges the chatter that his show's grand finale 11 years ago didn't live up to expectations.
"We already screwed up one finale, we can't do another," he says.
"We didn't screw up a finale, that was a good finale,” snaps Larry David, co-creator of "Seinfeld," writer of its last episode and the towering citadel of cynicism behind "Curb."
Which begs the questions: Will this Sunday’s show mark the end of two great programs about nothing? And will they screw it up?
"Seinfeld," of course, never dealt in maudlin sentiment like group hugs and lessons learned, or squishy concepts like "closure." The characters remained their own selfish selves to the end, landing in prison over their self-absorption.
So let's be a little selfish and hope this second shot at ending "Seinfeld" doesn't also bode the last of "Curb."
David hasn't said whether he’ll return for an eighth season of his HBO series. But it seems like he's setting up a neat way to tie up loose ends on both of his creations – a very un-Seinfeldian approach, to be sure. Ending episodes on a note of angst with the threat of more to come is the Larry David way.
Not that we’ve had much to moan about. David's treated viewers to the best set of shows since Season 4, which revolved around the unlikely scenario of him starring on Broadway in "The Producers." Guests like Mel Brooks, Anne Bancroft, Ben Stiller and David Schwimmer pushed David to up his already considerable game.
A similar dynamic – the show-within-a-show gimmick and top-notch guest stars – has been at work this season, with the "Seinfeld" cast members popping in occasionally. Last week's episode brought them together for a table read of the reunion script and a rehearsal, offering a tantalizing taste of what's to come Sunday.
Fast-forward 11 years: Elaine had a baby, using Jerry as sperm donor. George lost a wife (this time to divorce, not poisoned envelopes) and a fortune to Bernie Madoff. Kramer seems the same, even if Michael Richards isn’t.
Jerry remains mired in the middle of the wackiness, staring down Newman and quibbling with hack comedian Kenny Bania, who famously insisted that being taken out for soup doesn't count as a meal.
Fights over meals and restaurant etiquette, strangely enough, have been a “Curb” leitmotif this season, providing some hilarious moments.
Rosie O'Donnell beat up Larry over who would have the honor of picking up the check. He engaged in one-upmanship with Jason Alexander over coordinating tips on a split check (their great scenes together this season have played like Costanza in stereo). Larry refused a piece of pie sent by Ted Danson, via a waiter, sparking a confrontation. Larry and Jerry sparred over who should slide over in a diner booth to let in Richard Lewis. A maitre d’ who expects a $20 tip even when running into Larry in the street, indirectly got him – and Richards – in big trouble.
By housing the "Seinfeld" reunion on “Curb,” Seinfeld, David, et al, avoid the huge expectations that the weighed on the original finale 11 years ago and would have greeted a network special. A lot has changed since 1998 – TV audiences are more diffuse, and the world, in many respects, is an even less sunny place.
It’s a world made for David, who, we hope, will return to keep giving us more about nothing.
Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is the former City Editor of the New York Daily News, where he started as a reporter in 1992. Follow him on Twitter.