Over the past four days, American cable broadcasters have burned up their promotional budgets pushing the new fall wares to TV scribes. Exactly 44 individual press sessions were for brand-new shows; eight went to returning series.
There are two reasons why a cable broadcaster will reintroduce an existing program to critics: The show has undergone a serious makeover - like Crash - or the show's return is a joyous TV occasion, as with Curb Your Enthusiasm.
From all reports, Larry David was completely content to walk away from Curb Your Enthusiasm.
The lovable curmudgeon and Seinfeld co-creator closed his HBO comedy's sixth season in 2007, seemingly forever. Certainly David didn't need the money and he had wrapped the series on a high note: His character - himself, basically - had divorced his wife (Cheryl Hines) and married a spirited African-American woman (Vivica Fox).
But a Seinfeld reunion? Now, that could be funny. The seventh season of the largely improvised Curb, which returns Sept. 20, will focus on TV Larry's decision to revisit the seminal nineties sitcom.
"For years it's been the question people ask me every single day - 'When's the Seinfeld reunion?' " said David on Thursday. "I knew none of us would ever consider it, but then I finally realized the idea had some potential. If nothing else we could show people why doing a reunion show would be very difficult."
The 10-episode season will feature all four Seinfeld cast members - Jerry Seinfeld, Jason Alexander, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Michael Richards - brought together for a comeback TV special. The episodes will follow the group through preparations and rehearsals for the special; the season finale will feature clips from the finished broadcast version.
"Viewers won't see the entire show," said David, "but you'll get an idea of what a reunion special could look like, and where the Seinfeld characters are 11 years later."
Old friends aside, the seventh campaign of Curb will again focus on David's skewering life's inexplicable foibles (in one clip, he's in near tears while wrestling with the impenetrable plastic packaging of an electronic device) and put him into desperately uncomfortable circumstances (in self-defence, he kills a goose on the golf course and then puts the blame on someone else). "Those situations pretty much represent the basic framework of the show," said David. "Those things will always be part of it."
As before, the show will feature regular guest turns from celebrities, including Rosie O'Donnell, with whom Larry gets into a physical altercation over a restaurant check. "Let me tell you, she is very formidable, physically," said David.
On Curb, David remains the eternal misanthrope, but more than one critic noted the real Larry seems to have lightened up; in 2007, he even appeared on the sitcom Hannah Montana, because his teen daughters were fans of the show. Could the wretched one actually be content these days?
"It's funny," he said with a rare beaming smile, "because this Larry [gesturing to himself]is melding with Curb Larry. And I love Curb Larry Always hated the other Larry. So, yes, I am a little happier."
CRASH: PART TWO
Launched last fall by the Starz channel, Crash began with a standout pilot, then steadily declined. Even with the pedigree of Paul Haggis's 2004 Oscar-winning feature film behind it - and the fact Haggis was involved in the series - Crash became last season's tough-luck show.
First, no one watched. Airing on the hard to find Starz channel meant low U.S. ratings, and they kept getting lower each week of the show's 13-episode run. Almost no one saw Crash in Canada, where it aired on the pay-outlet Superchannel.
Like the movie, Crash, the series, focused on an ensemble cast of ethnically diverse characters living and eventually colliding in the Los Angeles melting pot. By the midway point, Crash felt like an urban soap opera.
"Frankly, I think we had too many storylines," admitted Starz vice-president of creative development Bill Hamm. "We were up to seven full storylines, which is too many for viewers to keep track of. This year we've brought it down to four storylines, which has meant richer storytelling."
The other common carp against Crash: no stars. The only famous face on the original Crash was Dennis Hopper, who played the drug-addled, gun-toting music producer Ben Cendars; everyone else on the show was an unknown.
For the sequel season (launching Sept. 16), Crash's producers have made Cendars the show's central figure. Straight out of rehab, he's a portrait of rage this season as he tries to track down the person who killed his daughter. "My character was pretty aimless last year, but now he has a cause," said Hopper. "This is his way of dealing with the grief. He can't let it go."
Pumping up Crash's star quotient this season is Keith Carradine as a faded sixties rock icon and Valerie Perrine as his aging beauty-queen wife. Also dropped into the mix is Eric Roberts in the role of Seth Blanchard, an eccentric billionaire with a much younger Asian wife (Linda Park), a successful children's book author possessed of dark secrets.
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