Curb Your Enthusiasm
Season Premiere Sunday, Sept. 20, 9 p.m.

It’s the anti-reunion of the year. Anyone who casts even a cursory glance at Entertainment Weekly‘s cover at the supermarket checkout line knows that the cast of Seinfeld is joining that show’s co-creator Larry David for the seventh season of Curb Your Enthusiasm (9 p.m. Sundays, HBO).

The other big news is that David is still making fresh comedy with what has, thanks in large part to him, become an oft-used comedy convention. I refer not to the show’s self-referential quality but to the persona of David himself.

Ever since Seinfeld, it’s common for main characters on sitcoms to be less than likable. In recent years, witness the self-centered A-holes of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia on FX; the jerkwad ex-jock of HBO’s Eastbound and Down; and my least favorite, David Duchovny’s self-abusive cocksman on Showtime’s Californication.

But don’t pin Duchovny on Larry David. Respectively, it’s the difference between smirky and schmucky, and for my comedy enjoyment, I’ll take schmucky any day.

The “Larry David” character in the acclaimed comedy series about his fictional life post-Seinfeld is a selfish pain in the ass. If he had his way, the commonly understood social compact that governs our interactions would leave nothing implicit; it would be a written document, encased in the Halls of Congress. It would be authored by David alone, who would constantly add amendments covering whether or not tip amounts should be coordinated when diners split a check; whether it’s OK to take liquids out of a host’s refrigerator without asking (but not food!); or whether it’s bad manners to ask for the guest list before you accept a dinner party invitation.

Those are just a few of the arguments David sparks in Season 7’s first few episodes. David’s self-loathing, and his genius at spotting unresolved social issues that can lead to awkwardness, makes him more relatable than some pretenders on TV these days.

But the fictional Larry is hard to live with, so his TV wife Cheryl (Cheryl Hines) left him last season. Larry landed on this feet in the finale by taking up with Loretta Black (a never-sexier Vivica A. Fox), the matriarch of the Blacks (get it?), a homeless family of Southern hurricane victims who moved into the Davids’ L.A. home in Season 6.

As the new season begins, Larry trudges unhappily up the stairs to bring Loretta some soup. She’s in bed, possibly with cancer, but all Larry can think of is that the temperature in the room is 72 degrees. He wants it at 68, and he won’t let it go. He doesn’t like giving up his golf game to wait on her hand and foot, either.

To make things even shakier between them, Cheryl may be back in the picture, which gives Larry another reason to break up with Loretta. But he has to do it before her cancer test results come back, as Larry’s manager Jeff (Jeff Garlin) points out.

“I’d much rather be in her position than mine, any day of the week!” Larry fumes.

Meanwhile, there’s the Seinfeld thing. The NBC execs within this HBO series have been bugging Larry for years about a reunion, and he finally gives in when he comes up with the idea to write a part for Cheryl and win back her heart.

Cue the Seinfeld cast. Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Jason Alexander have been on Curb before, playing “themselves” in combat with Larry over bad manners and misunderstandings. And they go right at it with him this time, too.

In his first appearance, Michael Richards plays himself as spaced-out and oblivious to the chaos around him. Although the answer to the obvious question about Richards’ involvement remains to be seen, you have to expect that David will “go there” and address the ugly racial incident that enveloped Richards and ended with his public banishment.

And Jerry? He’s enthusiastically vying for alpha status, like he probably did with David in real life. It’s clear that David is having a ball blurring fiction and reality, and cross-referencing plots between Seinfeld and Curb. Why not? It’s his universewe just live in it. As anti-reunions go, this one looks to be a lot funnier than, er, most.