Curb Your Enthusiasm: “The Table Read”

thetableread

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I notice the run time on this episode is a slightly longer 30-some minutes instead of the usual 25-plus. Delightfully, I can’t think of any one of those 60 seconds that’s squandered in the season’s best episode so far.

I got a little annoyed last week with the episode’s a bit-too-heavy emphasis on Larry and too little inclusion of Curb’s other characters. Well, this week we not only get some wonderful moments from Marty Funkhauser, not only the Seinfeld reunion so many have all been waiting for, but, even better than that, a series-defining exchange between Leon and Michael Richards…but I’ll get to that in a moment.

This week the Seinfeld reunion show’s underway while a few of the cast express some surprise at Cheryl’s securing the role of George’s ex-wife. Add to that Larry striking up an unwanted texting friendship with the nine-year-old daughter of one of the producers; Jason Alexander’s abuse of a borrowed pen; and Michael Richards’ recently diagnosed Groat’s disease. And a disturbingly vulgar joke from Funkhauser.

First, the reunion.  If that’s what America wanted, the titular Table Read delivers—10 years out (has it really been that long?), the Seinfeld gang still has it: Jerry, Julia, Jason, Michael, and surprise guests Wayne Knight and Estelle Harris don’t miss a beat playing off each other, and Larry proves that he can still write a lot about nothing (though I guess fans of Curb probably already knew that).

But this episode goes a lot deeper than just reliving the glory days. To be sure, it has a lot of fun with some Seinfeld nostalgia—the table read scenes linger on a little longer than they need to—but ultimately it’s on Curb’s terms. This season’s major story arc, and likely the reason Larry David wanted to write it, is to let us see what it’s been like for the past 10 years to him. He makes light of it, but does anyone outside of those directly involved realize how much work goes into putting a one-off reunion show together? Not just writing the thing, but the negotiations, getting the actors together, trying to keep everyone from getting at Larry’s throat…and what’s in it for Larry?

And yet Larry still hasn’t busted out the soapbox. He got in a few jabs at the Seinfeld fanboys earlier in the season, but I think Larry David deserves a lot of credit for being reserved enough to not attack his fanbase and instead taking the opportunity to have a lot more fun and get a lot more laughs playing Seinfeld off Curb. Like I said, he gives you your Seinfeld, but Seinfeld in the context of Curb. When Funkhauser delivers his very, very un-NBC joke, you get a hint that Larry’s reminding you they’re two different shows—and the point is really driven home by Jerry’s reaction to Larry casually asking his producer about her nine-year-old’s p*ssy.

In a way, it’s surprising an episode like this wasn’t made sooner because it uses Seinfeld to draw out the differences between it and Curb. Yeah, both of them have converging storylines and focus on morally dubious human beings, but Curb takes it one step further: The four central characters in Seinfeld are pretty despicable, but the rest of the world is not too bad, albeit a little (sometimes a lot) eccentric. In Curb, Larry’s character is even worse, but so, too, is everyone else—Larry just gets more screen time.

He also gets the freedom of being on HBO, which, as the episode never fails to remind us, allows him to curse a lot more but also be edgier. Which brings us back to Michael Richards. I’m actually less surprised with how they pulled it off than I am that they did it at all. Not to spoil not only the best scene of the season but also the finest Curb moment since the Season 3 finale’s swear-extravaganza, but you know what I’m talking about. And Michael Richards and JB Smoove come off as not only tear-inducingly funny, but also, really, really good sports.

I’m pretty sure this is the first episode written for Season 7, or at least it’s the one that inspired Larry to do another season. Once you watch it, you’ll understand why.

9/10

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