By LYNN ELBER
AP Television Writer
LOS ANGELES — Larry David’s eye-poppingly brash behavior on ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm‘ is now worthy of debate.
That’s how the TV Guide Network sees it, adding a celebrity panel discussion to its encore airing of the HBO comedy that begins 10 p.m. EDT Wednesday with episode No. 1 from October 2008.
David Mandel, one of the executive producers of ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm,’ offered a tongue-in-cheek rationale.
“We’re treating it like sacred text,” he said. “There is a great tradition among the Jewish peoples, of which I count myself, that you have text and you spend the rest of your life debating the text.”
The “wise men” (as Mandel dubs them, women included) brought in for the task include Jon Hamm and Jerry Seinfeld, guided by ‘Curb’ cast member Susie Essman, who proves an adroit moderator.
“We all have social mores we live by, and Larry just throws it into the wind. He doesn’t care about that stuff,” Essman said.
A markedly agreeable David lauded the network’s decision to expand his 30-minute sitcom into an hour’s worth of programming by adding the panels, but the “Seinfeld” co-creator professed surprise at some interpretations of his ‘Curb’ alter ego’s behavior. The discussions were pre-taped for broadcast.
The second-episode panel “started to get into a discussion about how I was after Mary Steenburgen, that I wanted to have an affair with her,” David said. “I love Mary and, yes, in life I would go after her and take her away from (husband) Ted Danson, if I could.”
Go behind the scenes of last year’s ‘Seinfeld’ reunion on ‘Curb’:
“But that wasn’t the intent in the episode,” added David, who was depicted on the show getting miffed after a bowling date with Steenburgen and Danson because he discovers another customer had taken off with his shoes.
“Curb Your Enthusiasm” also stars Cheryl Hines as David’s wife, Cheryl. Jeff Garlin plays his manager, Jeff Greene, who is married to Essman’s Susie Greene.
Alan Berg, another ‘Curb’ executive producer, said they recognized comic value in the idea of a dissection of the show and David’s cantankerous behavior.
“There’s something amusing that we take ourselves so seriously that we think it merits official and scholarly debate,” Berg said.
The inspiration for panels was more mundane: to avoid cutting “Curb” to fit into a half-hour slot with commercials that weren’t part of the original HBO telecast. The show’s nudity and profanity were also edited.
The approach allows us “to give the full story line,” said network Chairman Allen Shapiro. “If we had to take eight minutes out (for commercials), you just won’t see what Larry set out to do.”
Hamm, the star of ‘Mad Men,’ said he’s been a fan of ‘Curb’ from the start. The St. Louis-born actor describes the show as an “observation of the absurdity” of the modern, self-involved lifestyle that’s part of highly competitive Los Angeles.
“The best way to resist it is to realize how humorous it is and to keep laughing at it,” he said, throwing out the example of someone obsessing about passing up a $5,000 bottle of wine for a $3,000 one.
“That’s taking up head space,” Hamm said.
TV Guide Channel and TV Land jointly acquired basic cable rights to air the series, with TV Land expecting to begin showing it by 2013 after the run on TV Guide Network.
In April, HBO announced that it will bring ‘Curb’ back for an eighth season, with 10 new episodes set to debut in 2011.
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