As the seventh season of Curb Your Enthusiasm draws to a close with the much hyped and reasonably satisfying Seinfeld reunion, Larry David has succeeded in redeeming himself for writing a lousy Seinfeld finale and in the process reinvented the reunion show.
The reunion show was once a staple of desperate TV executives looking to rekindle old love affairs between the fickle viewing public and once beloved shows. People would tune in to see the Brady girls all grown up and getting married. We wanted to know if Captain Stubing could still pull off wearing those Love Boat shorts 10 or 20 years later. The reunion shows themselves were across-the-board awful, but nostalgia lured millions to tune in despite knowing that they were being manipulated by a gimmick. The reunion show, like a visit home for the holidays, necessary but sometimes painful, was the only way to see favorite characters again.
Now, with infinite choices available, nothing disappears long enough for nostalgia to set in. If you want to watch old episodes of your favorite shows, they are almost guaranteed to be rerun on some cable channel and easily added to your DVR. If that’s not immediate enough gratification, try one of the countless websites streaming TV shows. You could always rent or buy the DVD box sets. Or maybe you’ll be satisfied with the remake, the reimagination or the reinvention. Hello V and The Prisoner, my old friends!
Then again, if you were one of the people who watched reunion shows purely for the rubbernecking, there are plenty of options for you too. You don’t need a reunion show to find out which child stars have grown up to become junkies or which actors had major reconstructive surgery. Celebreality shows cover that ground just fine, thank you. It has never been easier to keep up with the likes of Willie Aames and Danny Bonaduce. Or just slum it with some paparazzi pictures of the Olsen twins.
So R.I.P to the reunion show. Or so it seemed.
Then along came Larry David. He had a successful new show and a classic old show to play with. Why not do a mash-up? Genius! There was one more factor at play here too. Seinfeld had a crappy finale. Taking the gang out of New York during its swan song was pretty unforgivable, but the real sin was that it was not that funny. Curb Your Enthusiasm’s inclusion of the Seinfeld cast has felt a bit like an extended mea culpa by David for writing that debacle.
Just a side note here about reuniting old casts in new shows. Respect must be paid to the best reunion/finale in the history of TV: Newhart. That show was a mildly funny, but largely harmless sitcom in the ‘80s. Of course, it followed Bob Newhart’s first brilliant effort, the ‘70s sitcom The Bob Newhart Show. In the finale of Newhart, Bob wakes up in bed with his wife from the first sitcom, Suzanne Pleshette, and realizes the entire second series was only a dream. The twist ending managed not only to send Newhart off in style, but also to provide a coda to The Bob Newhart Show that only cemented its legacy further.
That is also what David appears to have done. His use of the Seinfeld cast, particularly in the final two episodes of this season, has improved both shows. That got me to thinking about other shows that could use a little help to make me forget their mediocre or worse finales.
Ted Danson has recently had a bit of a renaissance on HBO, first in Curb Your Enthusiasm and more recently in Bored to Death, where he plays a pot-smoking magazine editor. Let’s have Shelly Long guest on Bored to Death. She and Danson can get high and really hash out why their characters weren’t compatible on Cheers in a meta reunion mash-up.
We could wipe the slate clean from the abysmal X-Files finale by bringing Gillian Anderson on for a multi-episode arc on Californication. David Duchovny’s Hank Moody gets hired to write a screenplay for an X-Files movie that actually provides a satisfying ending. There might be some sex.
With apologies to defenders of The Sopranos cut to black ending, it just didn’t provide closure for most of the show’s fans. Here’s what happed after the cut: Federal agents stormed the restaurant and nabbed everyone. The Feds force Carmela and Meadow to rat out Tony, then put them in the witness protection program. How else can you explain the bizarre haircuts that Edie Falco and Jamie-Lynn Sigler now sport on Nurse Jackie and Ugly Betty respectively? James Gandolfini guests on both those shows when he comes looking for his family. Ba-da-bing.
Hey, any one of those would be better than ever having to sit through another straight-up reunion show. Thank you, Larry David.
We all know how critical it is to keep independent voices alive and strong on the Internet. Please consider a donation to support our work as independent cultural critics and historians. Your donation will help PopMatters stay viable through these changing and challenging times where costs have risen and advertising has dropped precipitously. We need your help to keep PopMatters strong and growing. Thank you.