Everybody dreams of a Seinfeld reunion, and this week we get one -- sort of. Seinfeld writer/co-creator Larry David stars in his own Seinfeld-like show, Curb Your Enthusiasm (Sunday, 8 p.m., HBO), and he brings on Jerry Seinfeld, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Michael Richards and Jason Alexander as special guest stars. They play a version of themselves, just as David does, in a plot about a possible Seinfeld reunion.
David cooks up the scheme as a way to win back his ex-wife (Cheryl Hines), whom he plans to cast as George Costanza's ex-wife in the reunion special. In the course of the episode, he approaches each star with his proposal, stumbling into George-like mishaps along the way. (One of the many in-jokes for Seinfeld aficionados is David's similarity to neurotic, narcissistic George.) The episode wallows in failure, immaturity, hysteria and obsessive attention to meaningless annoyances, just as you'd hope.
I wish I could say the reunion was a masterpiece. It's more of an amusing curio -- kind of like a middling episode of Seinfeld with one extra lead character. I'll take it, though, and would happily keep watching if Seinfeld, Louis-Dreyfus et al. decide to make these reunions a weekly habit.
Friday, 7 pm (Fox)
Here's another new sitcom that presumes to entertain us with a constantly bickering family. A former football star (Michael Strahan) returns home to a wheelchair-bound brother (Daryl Mitchell) who hates him and a father (Carl Weathers) slipping into dementia. It's supposed to be the "funny" kind of dementia, including outbursts like: "I'm going to shave my wigglee-doo!" Throw in fat-girl jokes and paraplegic jokes and you've got quite a package.
Turning off the TV and bickering with your own family would be far more entertaining.
Accidentally on Purpose
Monday, 7:30 pm (CBS)
This new sitcom steals its premise from Knocked Up: A hot blond media professional (Jenna Elfman) is impregnated by a slovenly young slacker (Jon Foster) on their first date, then decides to have the baby. It's Elfman's latest TV vehicle, and once again she drives it into a ditch. Her desperate Lucille Ball imitation includes funny walks and goofy faces. Sensing that she needs help, the script tries to get our attention with porn jokes, underage-sex jokes, nipple jokes, bulimia jokes, drug jokes and booze jokes -- a queasy complement to Elfman's cutesiness.
Then there are the punchlines that were old even in Lucy's day.
Setup: "I've made a horrible mistake!" Elfman cries.
Zinger: "Technically, you've made a series of horrible mistakes!" her friend responds.
So have the executives who keep trusting Jenna Elfman to carry a TV show.
Wednesday, 7 pm (ABC)
Kelsey Grammer returns with his Frasier act, this time starring as fallen businessman Hank. Hank is another uptight patrician type, declaiming his punchlines with Shakespearean diction. He and his unhappy family move back to his small Virginia hometown -- a comedown from their former high-society lifestyle. The humor is supposed to be the fish-out-of-water sort: Hank the upper-crust snob adrift in a Southern backwater. But the scenario doesn't really make sense. How could Hank be a fish out of water in his own hometown? And how did this small-town Southerner acquire such aristocratic manners, anyway?
If the jokes made us laugh, we wouldn't care. If.
Thursday, 7 pm (ABC)
Every new TV season needs a solemn sci-fi head-scratcher, on the order of Heroes, Lost or Jericho. In this year's version, people around the world black out for two minutes at the same time. They all have a vision of themselves at the same point in the future, about six months down the road. Our hero, an alcoholic FBI man (Mark Benford), must figure out what's going on, though I don't see how he can concentrate with that relentlessly ominous music playing on the soundtrack.
Flash Forward has an interesting premise, but so far it's not a whole lot of fun to watch. The characters are all tense and bummed-out -- not exactly great company for 60 minutes.
I just had a vision of the 2010-11 TV season, and this series was no longer on ABC's schedule.