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.
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.?
Although 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.? 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.?)