Three Ways Larry David Used the ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ Finale to Finally Admit That ‘Seinfeld’s Didn’t Work

Larry called Curb’s finale ‘No Lessons Learned,’ yet it did right what ‘Seinfeld’s did wrong
Three Ways Larry David Used the ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ Finale to Finally Admit That ‘Seinfeld’s Didn’t Work

A pretty, pretty, pretty good number of people called it. At the beginning of this season of Curb Your Enthusiasm, when Larry violated an obscure law in another state — just like the Seinfeld gang did in their finale — many viewers assumed Curb was headed for a similarly courtroom-set finale, which is precisely what happened. Yet, while Curb’s finale copied Seinfeld’s nearly beat-for-beat, it also cleverly subverted it and even admitted what was wrong with it.

On the surface, the Curb finale could be taken as a simple retread of Seinfeld’s as it also employs the same device of bringing back character witnesses from the series to prove to the jury what a terrible person Larry is, along with various clips of Larry’s bad behavior. Curb’s final episode is even called “No Lessons Learned,” which could be taken as a “fuck you” to everyone who criticized Seinfeld’s ending. 

Publicly, Larry David has always defended the much-maligned Seinfeld finale that he returned to the series to write. In fact, just two days ago, the New York Times published a piece called “Larry David Has Always Been the ‘Seinfeld’ Finale’s Biggest Defender.” And during the Seinfeld reunion on Curb, Larry (the character) fiercely stands by the finale, maintaining, “That was a good finale!” 

But the Curb finale would seem to indicate he’s not so steadfast about it — or that he at least tried to address the criticism of it the second time around. For starters, a common critique of the Seinfeld finale is that the main foursome played second fiddle to their attorney, Jackie Chiles, as they were barely heard from for big chunks of the episode. Conversely, Larry’s lawyer in the Curb finale doesn’t hog the spotlight. And, with more regular breaks from the courtroom drama, we’re constantly checking in with Larry as he annoys Cheryl, calls out Ted Danson for being an egomaniac, ruins yet another relationship for Richard Lewis and works with Jeff to steal a secret recipe as an anniversary gift for Susie. 

A much more significant critique of the Seinfeld finale is that it betrayed the core mantra of the series: “No hugging, no learning.” Now, clip shows are inherently sentimental — they’re the sitcom equivalent of a friendly hug — but in the Curb finale, these clips are mostly used to deliberately parallel what Seinfeld did in order to set up its enormously clever bait-and-switch. 

Which brings us to the “no learning” portion of that mantra. The Seinfeld gang was never supposed to learn from their mistakes, but the finale is all about teaching them a lesson for their bad behavior. Larry goes through nearly the exact same thing in the Curb finale, including being found guilty and sentenced to a year behind bars; however, the twist ending guarantees that Larry won’t learn a thing. 

Jerry Seinfeld plays a key role here, which is a delightful surprise. After Larry is sentenced and put in his cell, Jerry shows up and tells him he’s free to go. As it turns out, Jerry spotted one of the jurors — who was supposed to be sequestered — out at a restaurant, which causes the entire case to be thrown out, and Larry’s sentence is overturned. There are zero consequences for Larry’s actions, and thus, as the episode’s title promises, there are “No Lessons Learned.”

The last way the Curb finale acknowledges the shortcomings of the Seinfeld finale is by flat out saying it several different times. First, there’s Leon, who, after living with Larry for 17 years, finally decides to check out this Seinfeld show that Larry co-created. Throughout the episode, Leon binges every episode of Seinfeld, but stops short of the finale, telling Larry, “I heard some terrible things about it. I heard you fucked it up.”

Then, at the very end of the episode, when Jerry tells Larry he’s free to go, Jerry points to the jail cell and tells Larry, “You don’t want to end up like this. Nobody wants to see it.” Finally, as the two begin walking out, Larry turns to Jerry and says, “Oh, my God! This is how we should’ve ended the finale.” To which Jerry says, “Oh my God, you’re right! How did we not think of that?” 

I guess Larry learned a lesson after all.


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