‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ EP Shrugs Off Finale Backlash: ‘If You Don’t Like It, We Don’t Care’

Star Susie Essman tells TheWrap she was “thrilled” with the meta conclusion to the HBO comedy series

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J.B. Smoove, Larry David, Jeff Garlin, Ted Danson, Susie Essman, Cheryl Hines and Jerry Seinfeld in "Curb Your Enthusiasm." (John Johnson/HBO)

As “Curb Your Enthusiasm” went hyper meta with its anticipated series finale, the masterminds behind the series “don’t care” if fans are happy with how the show wrapped up.

The finale episode, titled “No Lessons Learned,” followed Larry being put on trial for breaking Georgia voting laws by giving Auntie Rae a water while waiting in line to vote in the Season 12 premiere. The eventful episode was packed with special guest stars, flashbacks to highlights from the show’s 24-year legacy and a Jerry Seinfeld cameo that helped the show recreate the infamous “Seinfeld” finale for a new audience.

Much like the NBC series did in 1998, “Curb” sent Larry to prison in its final moments. It even mirrored the final moment of “Seinfeld” with the camera panning out as a lone Larry (in “Seinfeld” it was Jerry) sat in his jail cell reflecting on his past behavior.

But “Curb” did not end there. Jerry Seinfeld came to Larry’s aid and told him a juror mistake led to a mistrial, leaving Larry a free man after all. The episode even addressed its meta twist, with both Larry and Jerry agreeing this is how they should’ve ended “Seinfeld” in the first place — after decades of fans complaining about the NBC comedy leaving its main character in prison. “Seinfeld” was cocreated by David and Seinfeld.

“We’re giving you the ‘Seinfeld’ finale on steroids. We’re owning that Larry’s learned nothing, so if you don’t like it, too bad, we don’t care,” executive producer Jeff Schaffer told TheWrap after the episode aired Sunday. “There was never hesitation not to do it, because it felt right.”

Though the “Seinfeld” homage in the “Curb” finale served to land the punchline of a joke that was “26 years in the making,” Schaffer also said it was important to make sure the finale felt like a quintessential episode of the HBO comedy series by giving its ensemble cast the chance to shine one last time.

TheWrap spoke with Schaffer and series star Susie Essman about saying goodbye to the show after 12 seasons, plus what could come next:

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Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld in “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” (HBO)

TheWrap: Jeff, when did you and Larry first get the idea to echo “Seinfeld” in the finale?

Jeff Schaffer: We were sitting in our office and we didn’t know where the season was necessarily going. We knew we were starting with the water incident. And when someone gets arrested, there’s going to be some sort of court something, so that was floating around as a possible outcome.

But this actually came from a little story. There was a story where Larry doesn’t want to get involved with a kid’s lesson. As we were talking about it, Larry’s doing it in character and Larry says like, “I’m 75 years old. I’ve never learned a lesson in my life.” And we sort of realized, let’s just tell everyone Larry’s never learned a lesson and hit them over the head with that.

Let’s just do the “Seinfeld” finale again as this meta joke. Once we knew that we were going to do this thing, then we went back and started seeding in things about the “Seinfeld” finale and it made the whole season take shape.

Susie, what was your reaction to how the finale played out?

Susie Essman: I had read all the outlines and I knew what the storyline was, and I was there when we shot it, but you never know how it’s all going to be put together. Episode 1210 was a very complicated episode, because there were so many inserts and so many different guest stars coming in and out of the courtroom scene.

I couldn’t wait to see how it all played out when they cut it all together. And I was thrilled. I thought it was just so brilliantly put together and I just loved it. I didn’t feel any kind of sadness that it was over. I just felt pure joy watching it.

Was there any hesitation to go with the meta choice for the finale?

Schaffer: No, I mean it was like, we’re giving you the “Seinfeld” finale on steroids. We’re owning that Larry’s learned nothing, so if you don’t like it, too bad, we don’t care. There was never hesitation not to do it, because it felt right.

There’s just a lot of work on making sure that it’s not just that, that it’s also a funny episode of “Curb.” It was very important for us that the final episode was a good episode of “Curb.” So that was the part that was the most difficult, weaving these stories together and having some of them blow up in court.

I mean, having Susie in a blonde wig, in a wheelchair, to grudgingly go along with Larry, only to have that blow up in his face… those are “Curb” stories that are happening and coming to a denouement in the trial itself. It was really important that it wasn’t just a trial with our guys sitting there.

Essman: People assume, because it’s an improvised show, that it is just kind of thrown together. These outlines that Larry and Jeff come up with are so intricately woven together. They’re just a puzzle, and puzzle pieces that are constantly honed, and honed, and honed. That takes a tremendous amount of work, before we even start shooting, that these guys do.

Everyone in the cast got to have their big moments in the finale, including Susie’s big wheelchair meltdown. How did you approach that scene?

Essman: We did that in reshoots. I had another big moment that was cut out because it just wasn’t working for the story. Everything has to push the story forward.

I think that Larry and Jeff consciously wanted to give each of us something in the final season and the final episode, as as a gift and a love letter to us, which I really appreciated… It’s a natural idea for Larry to ask Susie to collaborate with him and for it all to blow up in their faces. It’s typical of their relationship.

Schaffer: We had to get Larry and Susie, teaming up grudgingly one last time.

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Susie Essman on “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” (John Johnson/HBO)

Jerry Seinfeld hinted at the “Seinfeld” homage in the press a few months ago, leading to all the speculation and confusion about a possible reboot being in the works. That whole thing felt like a “Curb” storyline in itself. What was it like for you guys to see that rumor spread and not being able to comment on it?

Essman: I was asked repeatedly about it. Larry was and Jeff was, and you just have to deflect. I mean, I wasn’t going to give away the storyline, and I assumed that’s what he was talking about. For all I knew, there really was a “Seinfeld” reboot, but I knew there wasn’t… You just have to lie, basically.

Schaffer: That’s the thing. Nobody wants to spoil the ending. So we just looked you guys straight in the eyes and lied. I think Jerry was so excited about participating and about this ending. After we shot the jail scene, he said to me, “This is a joke that’s 26 years in the making.” Like, how often do you get to do that? Talk about long-form comedy.

It was so great for Jerry to come back and to see Jerry and Larry together. This episode, because of that stuff, was able to not only be a really great “Curb” episode, but it was able to be bigger than this show.

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Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld in “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” (HBO)

After the big “Seinfeld” homage, the show goes back to this ensemble and gives us that final airplane scene, which you’ve said was the last thing you filmed for the entire series. What was the last day on set like?

Essman: The last time on set is a typical day on the set, we’re all there. We’re all working. I wasn’t thinking the whole time, “this is the last day.” They say think about what you have to do… I think it wasn’t until it was really over that we all felt it. And we did a lot of takes of that if I recall, Jeff.

Schaffer: That day started with the opening scene of the episode on the plane, and everyone was in a really fun, rollicking scene. Then we get to this, it’s the end of the day and we know we’re going to be doing the final scene, and it was very important for us to have the whole cast there… We knew this was going to be the end, and everyone knew it was going to be the end, but you still have to shoot… the interesting thing is, as conceived, everyone’s going at it with each other and the camera panned over to Larry. The idea was to end on Larry.

We got into the edit room, and we were watching it and Larry said, “This isn’t right. It should end with everybody.” And he was so correct… We wanted to go out seeing all of our guys doing what they do best, which is arguing with each other. It was the perfect end, going out in mid-argument, making you feel like they’re going to be doing this for the rest of their lives.

We talked to J.B. Smoove and Tracey Ullman throughout the season, who said they had their own ideas for spin-off series centered on their characters — J.B. wants a Leon prequel and Tracey pitched a buddy comedy with Susie. Could there be spin-offs of “Curb” without Larry?

Schaffer: I will say, I love these characters because I love these actors. There’s a joy to going to set every day having a plan, knowing you’re going to throw half of that plan out the window because the people that you get to work with on set are going to come up with something better. It’s a dream.

Essman: Who knows? It’s a long life.

This conversation was edited for length and clarity.

All episodes of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” are now streaming on Max.

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