WHAT TO WATCH ON TV
Stream On: ‘Seinfeld’ writers branch out: ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ and ‘Dilbert’

By on September 23, 2021

Larry David, co-creator of ‘Seinfeld,’ is fixing to get into a fight with someone, on ‘Curb Your Enthuaism.’ (HBO)

What does one do after Seinfeld? Co-creator Larry David made his own version of the show, in which he plays a fictionalized version of himself, but set in Los Angeles, where he remained after Seinfeld, while Jerry Seinfeld moved back to New York City. Jerry and Larry’s second-in-command on the show, Larry Charles, went on to co-create Dilbert with cartoonist Scott Adams, an animated series based on Adams’ comic strip of the same name.

CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM

[Official site] [trailer]
[Amazon.com; Prime Video; streaming] 2000- [TVMA]

It’s been widely reported that the character of George Costanza on Seinfeld was based on co-creator Larry David, who had been a stand-up comedian and Saturday Night Live writer. David wrote 62 Seinfeld episodes, also appearing in cameos as Frank Costanza’s lawyer and a newsstand operator, while providing the voice of “George Steinbrenner” on the show.

In one episode, when Elaine is mistakenly served a kosher meal on an airplane, David’s voice is heard: “Hey! That’s my kosher meal!”

After he left the show, and returned to write “The Finale,” David created his own version of the show. In Seinfeld Jerry Seinfeld played a fictional version of himself, a comedian in Manhattan. In Curb Your Enthusiasm David plays a fictional version of himself, now a writer and producer in Los Angeles. It’s the same, but different: There’s no laugh track; no jokes, since much of the dialogue is improvised, but the situations are hysterically funny; and, being on HBO, there’s no censorship.

David has said that his character in the show, a fictionalized version of himself, like George Costanza, is what he would be like in real life if he lacked social awareness and sensitivity. He fights with everyone and makes impromptu, insensitive and unfunny contextual jokes that earn him the ire of others. On Seinfeld, George’s moderating influence was Jerry; on Curb, Larry’s moderating influence is his wife Cheryl (Cheryl Hines, Suburgatory), who has her hands full. Jeff Garlin plays Larry’s manager Jeff, and comedian Richard Lewis plays a fictional version of himself, which rounds out the “gang.”

Many Seinfeld themes and tropes are touched on—unwritten protocols, such as how long you should wait before breaking up with someone you have slept with, how late you can call someone at home, etc. On Curb, a situation is created when Larry thinks the “cut-off time” for calling is 10:30 p.m., when his callee thinks it’s 10. David’s friends and contributors, like Ted Dansen, Mary Steenburgen, and Kathy Griffin, appear as themselves, and many Seinfeld character actors are used in small parts.

Curb Your Enthusiasm earned 47 Primetime Emmy nominations, winning twice, among many other awards. 92% score currently on Rotten Tomatoes.


DILBERT

[IMDb] [trailer]
[Amazon.com; streaming] 1999-2000 [TVPG]

Dilbert (at left) knows that whatever Wally is getting up to means trouble, on ‘Dilbert.’ (Columbia-TriStar)

Larry Charles, the head writer on Seinfeld who wasn’t Larry David or Jerry Seinfeld, went another way with his subsequent TV project: He teamed up with cartoonist and polymath Scott Adams to create an animated series based on Adams’ wildly successful newspaper comic strip Dilbert, about an archetypal software engineer. Starring Daniel Stern (The Wonder Years), with Chris Elliott (Schitt’s Creek) as Dilbert’s dog, Dogbert, Larry Miller (Seinfeld) as his pointy-haired boss, and Gordon Hunt (Yogi Bear and Scooby-Doo franchises) and Kathy Griffith (Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm) as Dilbert’s co-workers, the premiere episode received a 7.3 rating from the nation’s biggest 44 markets, the highest of the 1998–1999 season for UPN.

UPN, however, had problems of its own: it was the sixth-rated network at the time. Adams went with them as they promised 13 shows up front, but despite great writing from Adams, Charles and others, a fine cast, and many notable guest stars, it only lasted two seasons. Adams, in an interview, said, “It was on UPN, a network that few people watch. And because of some management screw-ups between the first and second seasons the time slot kept changing and we lost our viewers. We were also scheduled to follow the worst TV show ever made: Shasta McNasty. On TV, your viewership is 75% determined by how many people watched the show before yours. That killed us.”

Dilbert won a Primetime Emmy and currently has a rating of 7.3/10 on IMDb.com.


Next time, two unique Netflix western series, from Scott Frank (The Wonder Years), and the Coen brothers.

(Pete Hummers is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to earn fees by linking Amazon.com and affiliate sites. This adds nothing to Amazon’s prices.)

Click here for more Stream On: What to watch on TV columns by Pete Hummers



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