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A ‘Seinfeld’ Reunion That’s Not

Seinfeld fans craving a reunion of the hit comedy 11 years after it signed off NBC will finally get one. It's just not the one they might have expected.

Instead, the cast reassembles in a five-episode stint starting Sunday (9 ET/PT) on co-creator Larry David's HBO comedy, "Curb Your Enthusiasm."

David's TV alter ego, who split with actress wife Cheryl (Cheryl Hines) as last season ended, is against the idea but convinces the cast after seeing the reunion as an opportunity to win her back by promising her a role in the special.

In Sunday's episode, Jerry Seinfeld calls the idea "desperate" and "pathetic."

"Our reaction when he first broaches the idea to us is the real one," Seinfeld says in an interview. "We go along with it because that's the story of the show. In reality, nobody would go along with it." And NBC never asked.

Unlike the tightly scripted "Seinfeld," ''Curb" is mostly improvised. "I didn't realize we'd be able to integrate the Seinfeld cast into his show so smoothly," Seinfeld says. "There was no acting at all - zero. I was totally relaxed because I didn't have to remember any lines, and you say whatever you would normally say."

Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Elaine Benes) calls it "an incredibly happy experience. It was very nostalgic and slightly wistful, all being back together. To be able to do this pretend-real version of yourself and improvise, we'd never done that as a group."

And David, who says he always laughed at friends who urged a real reunion - "they're lame, they don't work" - says the solution "was a perfect way to do something like that but not to do it. Under the guise of doing the "Curb" show, it was very relaxed and loose and easy. I was just struck by how easy it was for them to fall back into doing it. It was just a pleasure to watch them work again."

Especially since the actors mostly appear out of character. "They're playing themselves, but of course I've bastardized who they are," he says. "Jason (Alexander) is not nearly as nice as he is in real life."

Along the way, there are jokes at the expense of "Seinfeld'''s often-panned finale, which sent the characters to jail, and the role of Alexander's George Costanza as a stand-in for David.

The story arc, which involves writing, rehearsing and filming, resumes Oct. 25 and makes up four of the season's final five episodes. It fits around other "Curb" story lines -Ted Danson, Rosie O'Donnell and Christian Slater guest-star in upcoming, unrelated episodes - and only glimpses of the final "reunion" are seen.

HBO programming chief Michael Lombardo says he's thrilled with the new episodes and adds that last season's split between "Larry" and Cheryl (mirroring David's real-life divorce) "gave him a narrative to work toward, as opposed to a season of Larry experiencing life."

David earlier considered doing an entire season as a flashback to 1995, "about me meeting Cheryl when she comes in to audition for the show and dating her. At that time I was still producing and writing Seinfeld." But he says that premise was "too logistically difficult to justify."

But Seinfeld says "surreal is the only word" to describe his own flashback of working on his show's original sets, hauled out of storage. And Louis-Dreyfus says the characters are pretty much their usual selves, though some life changes are revealed. "There's a lot of stress, anxiety and yelling, as there used to be. We're playing the same game."

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