Bruce Fretts tells Julia Louis-Dreyfus what NOT to do by analyzing the ''Seinfeld'' gang's recent flops
Jerry Seinfeld, Jason Alexander, ...
Credit: Seinfeld: George Lange/NBC

Will a ”Seinfeld” curse hurt Elaine’s new show?

Is there a ”Seinfeld” curse? After the spectacular implosions of Jason Alexander’s ”Bob Patterson” and Michael Richards’ self-titled NBC sitcom, such a theory has circulated — which leads us to Julia Louis-Dreyfus, whose comeback vehicle ”Watching Ellie” is set to debut on NBC Feb. 26. By looking at the track record of Jerry’s other pals, the erstwhile Elaine can pick up a few clues on what (not) to do.

JASON ALEXANDER The premise of ”Patterson” was thinner than George Costanza’s hair: Alexander played a motivational speaker who couldn’t motivate himself to improve his own miserable life. When lame-o guests like John Tesh and Bo Derek started showing up in the show’s first few episodes, you knew the writers had already run out of ideas. Lesson: Make sure the series’ set-up can generate enough good jokes. ”Ellie” casts Louis-Dreyfus as a lounge singer, which could inspire laughs — though not necessarily intentional ones, as anyone who heard her warbling in ABC’s ”Gepetto” can attest.

MICHAEL RICHARDS Everybody loved Cosmo Kramer’s occasional pratfalls. Nobody loved a full half-hour of private eye Vic Nardozza’s pratfalls. Lesson: There isn’t a ”Seinfeld” curse — there’s a sidekick curse. Certain actors, like Alexander and Richards, just aren’t cut out to star in shows. As the only female regular on ”Seinfeld,” Louis-Dreyfus was arguably more of a lead than Alexander or Richards, so she might be able to carry her own series.

LARRY DAVID Stepping in front of the camera to play himself in the semi-improvised HBO half-hour ”Curb Your Enthusiasm,” the ”Seinfeld” cocreator has won over critics — and the AFI, which named ”Curb” best comedy series. Lesson: Even with an inexperienced star and sketchy scripts, a show can succeed as long as a creative genius like David runs it. Sadly, Louis-Dreyfus’ historically unfunny hubby, Brad Hall (the guy behind ”The Single Guy”), is running her show.

PATRICK WARBURTON Despite strong critical buzz, ”The Tick,” which cast the former Puddy as a buggy blue superhero, got swatted by Fox after airing only a handful of episodes against NBC’s Thursday lineup and CBS’ ”Survivor: Africa.” Lesson: Time slot is everything. ”Ellie” would seem well-positioned on Tuesday at 8:30 p.m. before ”Frasier,” except that it has no lead-in; the current 8 o’clock show, Hank Azaria’s DOA ”Imagine That,” has no imaginable future.

JERRY STILLER Frank Costanza has found ”Serenity Now!” as Kevin James’ rage-aholic father-in-law on CBS’ high-quality hit ”The King of Queens.” Lesson: Don’t stray too far from the character you’re best known for, and surround yourself with other hilarious people. Any resemblance between Ellie and Elaine remains to be seen, but the supporting cast of ”Watching” (including ”Daily Show” wiseacre Steve Carrell and ”Fargo” baddie Peter Stormare) bears watching.

How do you think ”Watching Ellie” will do?

Bob Patterson
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