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‘Seinfeld’ stars reunite  ... yada yada yada

The fab four from hit sitcom will reunite on "Curb Your Enthusiasm," the HBO show starring "Seinfeld" co-creator Larry David.
/ Source: Entertainment Weekly

Nothing to see here, folks. Absolutely nothing. On a warm April morning, Jerry Seinfeld, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jason Alexander, and Michael Richards — the famous foursome who transformed a bunch of neurotic and misguided Manhattanites (Jerry! Elaine! George! Kramer!) into the stuff of sitcom legend — have gathered in an office on the CBS Radford lot in Studio City, Calif., with the master of their domain, “Seinfeld” co-creator/exec producer Larry David.

The five of them are filming a characteristically loud, minutiae-muddled scene (''You go out with a friend, you tip in concert!'' ''Why are we in concert? There's no concert!'' ''A tip is a solo!'') that's part of the much-buzzed-about “Seinfeld” reunion story line taking place on David's HBO sitcom, “Curb Your Enthusiasm” (returning Sept. 20 at 9 p.m.).

As the cameras reset and Richards awaits his comical entrance (sorry, it doesn't involve a Krameresque skid-in), the “Seinfeld” alums do not marvel at the significance or weirdness of this whole experience. They do not discuss the challenges of conjuring up that old magic. They don't ask about one another's weekends. Instead, they do this:

''Did you see the bathroom here?'' David asks. ''There's a urinal with a door! I've never seen it before! It's a private urinal... You walk in. You think it's a stall, but it's not a stall. It's a urinal! With a locked door!''

''It's a one-occupant-at-a-time thing,'' ponders Alexander. ''Frankly, why do you need any interior doors?''

''Put a lock on the main door,'' suggests Louis-Dreyfus.

''It's a surprise,'' continues David. ''You open the door. You see a lone urinal!''

''The lone urinal?'' chimes in Seinfeld. ''That would be the Larry David Western.''

While the group busts out in laughter, a crew member interrupts: ''Let's roll, please!''

The “Seinfeld” gang — once again arguing over petty little things and dissecting trivialities? Looks like Festivus is coming early this year.

The ‘anti-reunion reunion’Over the last six seasons, we've come to expect the outrageous from “Curb,” Larry David's exploration of a man named Larry David (coincidentally also rich, bald, and the co-creator of “Seinfeld”) whose glass isn't half empty, it's all empty ... and has a dab of schmutz on it that ruins his whole day.

But David's self-conscious series about curmudgeonry and comeuppance — it's “Seinfeld” on steroids and downers — is about to take a turn for the surreal by reuniting the cast of his old, pathologically revered NBC sitcom, who had always resisted the urge to re-merge. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.) These guys aren't technically calling it a reunion show, because in season 7 of “Curb,” you'll mostly see the actors playing a version of themselves preparing to stage a reunion show, rather than the actors playing the old characters — eh, screw it. We've been dreaming about this for 11 years, and we'll call it a reunion if we want to.

Leave it to Larry to contort public desire for a “Seinfeld” reunion into a meta plot that chronicles his not-necessarily-noble struggle to pull off a “Seinfeld” reunion.

''It's the anti-reunion reunion,'' says Louis-Dreyfus, ''and I'd like to copyright that.''

Sums up David: ''This is such a perfect way for us to get together again, because it never would have happened otherwise. Never, ever, ever.''

However it happened, this nod to the Neurotic Nineties might be the TV event of the fall, right, Jerry? ''That'd be nice,'' muses the comedian. ''Depends on how they do on ‘World's Fattest Loser,’ I guess. It's all carbs, you know.''

I gave people no hope whatsoever,'' declares Larry David. He's not talking about “Seinfeld's” series finale (which ended with the foursome in jail for not helping the victim of a mugging), but rather his response to the inevitable reunion question he's heard from agents, execs, and fans for a decade. ''If we had done a real show, it wouldn't have been as much fun,'' he says. ''It would've been too intense, really, because that particular episode would have to be so good.''

But four or five years ago, he found himself half-jokingly brainstorming a “Curb” season that would time-warp back to 1994; he'd be exec-producing “Seinfeld” and would meet his future (and now estranged) wife, Cheryl (Cheryl Hines), at an audition. While he dismissed the idea as too ambitious, David remained intrigued by the idea of reuniting the cast in some unexpected way. Last year, while looking for an arc for season 7, he decided this was the time: ''It was so rich that I had to explore it.''

In spring 2008, encouraged by “Seinfeld” exec producers-turned-“Curb” EPs Alec Berg, Jeff Schaffer, and David Mandel, David approached Seinfeld about a reunion plot. The comedian, who now lives full-time in New York with his wife Jessica and three children, was on board with turning a reunion into something ''sillier and a little more offbeat.'' He also wasn't terribly worried about mucking around with the legacy of his beloved nine-season show, which went off the air in 1998.

''The idea of working with Larry was just too overwhelmingly appealing to me, and [‘Curb’] is such a great show,'' he says. ''There was a little part of me that said, 'Do we really want to tamper?'... But to hell with it. How much damage can you really do?''

Next, David rang up the other actors. ''I became a funnier and richer human being because of [Larry's] genius,'' says Alexander, who, like Louis-Dreyfus, guest-starred as himself in ‘Curb's’ second season. ''So I just said, 'I'm in Larry's hands.'''

Louis-Dreyfus signed on immediately. Besides, she joked, ''It seemed faraway and sort of unlikely that it would somehow come together.''

Then there was Richards, who'd been keeping a low profile following his racial-slur-filled confrontation with several audience members during a 2006 stand-up set at L.A.'s Laugh Factory. The actor, who quickly apologized for his actions, says he's spent the last two and a half years doing ''a lot of deep work'' on himself. ''It's like I had open-heart surgery,'' he says in soft-spoken tones, adding, ''I'm kind of grateful that I blew it because it let me step into another place with myself and the world around me.'' He'd been steering clear of Hollywood, but Richards was up for rejoining his old castmates one last time. ''I just knew we'd get the job done,'' he says. ''If we're all in place, it's going to happen.''

Reunion covers five episodesAlthough David guards plots like precious metals, he's willing to spill a few things about the “Seinfeld” arc. ''Larry attempts to get Cheryl back,'' he hints, ''and the ‘Seinfeld’ reunion figures prominently in that.''

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The story line, which starts in episode 3 (airing Oct. 4), is sprinkled over five of the season's 10 episodes as Larry recruits the cast, then plans and tapes the big “Seinfeld” reunion. (Viewers will get to see a few scenes from the reunion episode.)

The “Seinfeld” actors — who appear all together in only three episodes — spend most of their time playing ''altered'' versions of themselves. (''[Onscreen Jason] is not nearly as nice as the real-life Jason,'' David warns.)

And as the reunion plans get going, things turn trippy (Larry pitches Jerry story ideas that happened to him in previous “Curb” episodes), as well as ugly: The cast rag on Larry for “Seinfeld's” polarizing finale. (For the record, the real Larry says, ''I realize that many people had problems with [the finale], but I thought it was good. I thought I made one mistake: I wouldn't have them being so cavalier when they saw the initial mugging. I would have them be more cowardly than cavalier.'')

On March 2, all the actors converged on their old Stage 19 on the CBS Radford lot. The episodes had to be shot out of order for scheduling reasons, so the first thing that the cast filmed was the table read for the reunion show within the show, which required them to immediately slip into their old characters.

''Just before we shot that scene, I said to Jerry and Julia, 'I don't know if I can be George. I haven't tried him on in a while,''' recalls Alexander. ''And it was freaky how it just came right back out.''

Richards, meanwhile, dove in feet first. ''I'd always kept Kramer's shoes,'' he notes. ''And that's very important to the character. Once I got those shoes on, and I'm standing behind the door of Jerry's apartment, I was ready. That's it.''

Being surrounded by the original sets also helped them get back in the mood: The “Curb” producers tracked down Jerry's apartment and Monk's coffee shop in a nearby warehouse. (Not in great shape, the sets received a spruce-up and update, as well as amenities like a new fridge — the old one was missing, as was Jerry's apartment door, which Seinfeld had taken as a souvenir.)

To a gang who just said no to hugging and learning, this bizarro experiment proved surprisingly meaningful.

''We completely forgot about the 11 years that occurred in between,'' says Seinfeld. ''If I didn't have these kids and a family — empirical evidence of time — I could just float away and go, 'Did we leave?'... I kept running back to the set when I would see Julia or Jason sitting around. [It felt like] 'Let me just sit with you one more time because I know we're never going to do this again. Let me just have this flavor one more time. One more little taste.'''

Although there was some tension over contracts toward the end of “Seinfeld's” run and again during the DVD releases, all of that was forgotten, says Alexander. ''It's been profoundly touching to come back with none of the gunk and see that 10 years down the road it wasn't that we were just putting on smiles to be together,'' he observes. ''The fact that we don't call each other once a week is inconsequential to the feeling and the bond. That was a cool discovery.''

For Richards, revisiting that bond was particularly therapeutic. ''I did feel I was in the company of good friends,'' he affirms. ''It's like, Larry and Jerry are in the front seat, and Julia and Jason are in the backseat, and I'm back there in the corner and I'm like a big dog. The window's open, and my head's hanging out the window and I'm feeling all that good air on my face. And I'm just so happy that we're all together, going someplace.''

Says Seinfeld, ''It was kind of nice to soothe him a bit, and bring him back to the place that he always felt so good in.''

The “Curb” cast members also basked in these charmed reunion moments. Notes exec producer Jeff Garlin, who also plays Larry's slippery manager, Jeff Greene: ''I had lunch every day with the four of them. I could go up to them and tell them what I thought of what they were doing in a scene. It more than made up for the fact that I never got an audition on ‘Seinfeld.’''

Little Larry David, happy at last?
But the happiest kid in the bunch was — wait, we need to double-check our notes here — hall-of-fame pessimist Larry David? ''There was a moment when the “Seinfeld” gang was on one side, Larry was in the middle, and Jeff and I were on the other side, and he just looked around and said, 'This is unbelievable...''' recalls Hines. ''He was with people who adored him, and appreciated his talent. He was beaming.'' She laughs. ''He'll hate me for saying that, of course.''

''Beaming?'' gasps David. ''No. I never want to see that word next to my name.'' Still, he admits that the experience was ''a blast,'' adding, ''We stripped away all the negative that would have come from doing a reunion show. Only the good is left.''

While this strange trip may not be the reunion scenario that fans expected, it appears to be the only one they'll ever get.

''As far as I'm concerned, we did do it, and in a better way than I ever imagined,'' says Seinfeld. ''This exceeded my expectations, so there's no chance I would revisit it now.... You really haven't seen the whole series until you've seen this, because it does add a coda. I think [the show] needed that ending parenthesis.'' David seconds the ''That's all, folks'' sentiment: ''You won't be seeing the ‘Seinfeld’ cast together again on TV.''

The show about nothing may be closing up shop, but David still has plenty of other “Curb” business to attend to: This season, look for appearances by Meg Ryan, Rosie O'Donnell, Elisabeth Shue (who scores a part in the “Seinfeld” reunion), Sherry Stringfield, Christian Slater, and Sharon Lawrence, as well as the return of Ted Danson, Mary Steenburgen, and Richard Lewis.

Other highlights include Jeff bonding with a mental patient (Catherine O'Hara), and outlandish incidents involving a swan and Jesus. Also, when Loretta (Vivica A. Fox) gets sick, Larry faces one of his greatest challenges: ''Can I extricate myself from a terrible relationship even though the woman has cancer?'' asks David.

So after all this, where does David go from here? While he has yet to agree to an eighth season of “Curb” with HBO — ''Once the reviews come out and he's feeling good and relaxed,'' says president of HBO programming Michael Lombardo, ''that's the moment I start my sweet-talking about next season'' — he's open to it. ''There's a good possibility I could do another season,'' says David. ''And if not, I'll find something else to do.'' Such as? ''I would like to meet a woman who likes me at the same time I like her,'' muses David, who got divorced from his wife, Laurie, in 2008 after 15 years of marriage. ''But I realize that's impossible. And against nature.'' But Larry, you've pulled off the Seinfeld reunion miracle — isn't anything possible? ''No. Nobody can pull that off. They like you and you like them? And you're having sex? That's not happening.''