93. "Seinfeld," Curb Your Enthusiasm (2009)
Welcome to the “100 Best Sitcom Episodes of All Time,” a countdown for winter 2012. Each episode will get a separate blog post, counting backward toward No. 1. A list of the programs revealed so far is here and an introduction to the project is here.
Many of my favorite sitcom episodes are characterized by their hitting just the right tone before the closing music swells up, and that's certainly the case here, with Larry and Cheryl's reconciliation interrupted by his obsession with "respecting wood" (literal wood, not Big Bang Theory wood). If forgetting to use a coaster can break up friendships and marriages, I wonder if any wars have been started over rings on summit tables.
This is one of the most tightly structured episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm. Though the dialogue still seems improvisational, there are stakes here (Larry's plan to win back Cheryl's affections by casting her in the Seinfeld reunion show), as opposed to the many episodes where misunderstandings simply pile up on one another. Not that there's anything wrong with those episodes...
Then there's the giddy self-reflexiveness of this episode, as described by Amelie Gillette in her A.V. Club review:
I don't mean to be hyperbolic, but I'm pretty sure Larry David made the universe fold in on itself tonight. More specifically, he made the Curb universe and the Seinfeld universe merge and then fold in on itself — and it was nothing short of incredible to watch. Larry David playing "Larry David" playing George Costanza, aka a fictional Larry David? Could there be a stranger feat for an actor to pull off than playing two fictional versions of himself simultaneously?
"Seinfeld," the episode, is on HBO's streaming-video site for subscribers but not on any free sites that I can find. Some of the best moments are on YouTube, though, such as this scene with Larry and Jerry subtly needlng Jason Alexander and pondering the meaning of the phrase "having said that" (which they may have backward — which comes first, the insult or the phony bullshit?):
If it's a classic Curb, it's probably got Susie Essman swearing. The complete version of this scene gives the impression that Larry's agent, Jeff, spends all day sitting and staring into space while waiting for Larry to show up, while wife Susie paces in the kitchen and rehearses her profanity:
And one of the best moments of the episode, after Larry offers to play George: