When is a rerun not a rerun? Apparently when it’s followed by a panel of celebrities discussing episodes we’ve already seen. That’s the idea behind TV Guide Network’s “Curb: The Discussion,” an unusual supplement to each installment of the basic cabler’s run of HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” Brief roundtables hosted by “Curb” cast member Susie Essman won’t demand appointment viewing, but should lure devoted fans and channel-surfing new recruits by providing a modicum of freshness to content otherwise readily available on DVD, on-demand and online.
Purpose behind the roughly 10-minute “Discussion” segments is twofold: to give the net something new and exclusive to promote and to expand each episode in length so precisely plotted commercial-free content isn’t edited for time and awkwardly squeezed into 30-minute ad-supported slots (witness the heavy cutting of some “Sex and the City” reruns on TBS).
“Curb” creator Larry David and “Discussion” exec producer Scott Carter (“Real Time With Bill Maher”) are credited with assembling the rotating panels — an eclectic mix ranging from names like Jerry Seinfeld and “Curb” guest Mayim Bialik to MSNBC pundit Joe Scarborough and ubiquitous attorney Gloria Allred.
Any attempt to debate and dissect comedy risks diluting what makes it funny, but judging by the two episodes available for preview, season one’s “Beloved Aunt” and season two’s “The Doll,” discussions are broad and frivolous, in keeping with David’s idiosyncratic worldview. The behavior-based humor of “Curb” incites fittingly goofy observations, like comedian D.L. Hughley admitting he accidentally stepped into the shower with his mother-in-law, and Seinfeld chiding parents who brag about “gifted” offspring.
Essman keeps the chatter brisk and pertinent, though it’s hard not to wish the dialogue took place under HBO’s freewheeling standards instead of the more polite restraints of basic cable.
Similarly, the more colorful language in “Curb” episodes gets neutered by bleeps or dubs (Susie now calls Jeff a “fat piece of dung”). The result is bound to hamper certain storylines (like “Beloved Aunt,” which involves a hilariously unfortunate obituary typo in the title phrase).
Still, TV Guide offers up something more than just a straightforward rerun, honoring a series that has always marched to its own creative beat.