The reunion, that is not a reunion, of a show about nothing doesn't sound like much of a ratings winner. But if the first feedback on a TV event that has a strong case for being the nostalgic moment of the decade is anything to go by, Americans are getting very excited indeed about the return of an old favourite, in the guise of a new one.
The two sitcoms in question are, of course, Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm. The former shut up shop eleven years ago after reigning supreme in the ratings for nearly a decade. The latter, for those not in the know, is the already long-running comedy vehicle for Larry David, who co-created Seinfeld with the man himself, Jerry Seinfeld. It was David's idea to weave the Seinfeld troupe into the story-line of Curb's latest season.
The joke – one of many – is that real-life David has always excoriated the idea of an actual Seinfeld reunion show. (And who could even calculate the cost of such a thing?) But in a roundabout way he has made it happen anyway, with a script for this season that has him trying to re-launch Seinfeld as a means of re-ingratiating himself with his onscreen wife, Cheryl, who has dumped him, by giving her a big role.
Ratings numbers are not in yet. But the first word from the critics after the episode aired on Sunday night look good. It was probably always going to be hard to resist: not only are the dysfunctional four – Jerry Seinfeld, Jason Alexander, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and Michael Richards – on the small screen again – but they even took the old set out of storage and rebuilt the whole thing.
"For me, the Seinfeld-reunion storyline dreamed up by Larry David – the man; the TV character – for Curb Your Enthusiasm is one of the funniest, smartest ideas of the new season," noted Ken Tucker on the website of Entertainment Weekly yesterday.
Will Leitch of New York Magazine agreed. "Seeing the old set, the old gang, and Larry destroying everything from the get-go – it's definitely enough to keep our appetites whetted. No one has anything to be embarrassed about. It looks like they're going to do this right. And terribly, terribly wrong, of course."
The old Seinfeld hands seem to be having fun also. And it probably suits them as much as does the budget-conscious programme makers that this is a reunion in disguise rather than the real thing.
"It just feels quintessentially right in the way that Seinfeld was kind of a show that was at odds with the standard sitcom," commented Ms Louis-Dreyfus, who played Elaine in the original Seinfeld. "This is at odds with your standard reunion – in all the right ways.
"Doing it with Larry and on his show just seemed like the only possible way it would be fun," Seinfeld told Entertainment Weekly. "We would never do the type of thing that these shows usually do. That wouldn't be our style. But something like this – that was sillier and a little more offbeat – felt like it might be right for us."
For Seinfeld maniacs, the mere sight of the old sets may be enough to send them nostalgically ecstatic. All of Jerry's old apartment came out of storage, too, although a flat-screen TV has been added, as well as an ice-dispensing fridge, to bring things up to date a little.
Was it weird for the cast to find themselves back on his couch? Apparently so. "It was so bizarre, I can't even describe it," said Jason Alexander. "It negated the idea that time had passed at all."