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'Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee' review: Alec Baldwin returns, but it's still all about Jerry Seinfeld

Jerry Seinfeld takes Alec Baldwin along for a

Jerry Seinfeld takes Alec Baldwin along for a ride and makes a few stops in "Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee." Credit: Netflix

THE SERIES "Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee"

WHEN | WHERE Starts streaming Friday, July 6 on Netflix

WHAT IT'S ABOUT For the 10th season, and the first one at Netflix, Jerry Seinfeld will buy coffee for: Alec Baldwin (1974 BMW 3.0 CS two-door coupe); Kate McKinnon (1962 Fiat 600 Multipla); Tracy Morgan (1984 Ferrari 288 GTO); Brian Regan (Cadillac XLR from the mid-2000s); Hasan Minhaj (1992 Ferrari 512TR); Dana Carvey (Meyers Manx Dune Buggy); Dave Chappelle (1973 Citroën Maserati SM); Ellen DeGeneres (Toyota Land Cruiser), Zach Galifianakis (VW Thing); John Mulaney (1969 Alfa Romeo Giulia Super) and Jerry Lewis (1966 Jaguar E-type Roadster).

For Baldwin's second time on "Comedians," he and his fellow LIer talk about life and comedy at the Massapequa Diner on Sunrise Highway.

MY SAY "Comedians" has traded up homes, from a modest bungalow (Crackle) to a palatial estate (Netflix). Otherwise, everything and, to an extent, everyone remains the same. These are A-listers who pick up the phone when Seinfeld calls (as he does at the outset of each episode). As usual, they act casual — oh, it's you, Jerry — and as usual, there's nothing casual about the ensuing encounter over coffee at all. "Comedians" can be a funny series, but it's not necessarily a comfortable one. Even some of the cars look like expensive and finely appointed caskets on wheels: "Does this have air bags?" Galifianakis warily asks as he squeezes himself into the one Seinfeld has chosen for him. "No," he's told. "You blow up your cheeks."

"Comedians" is still really more about the guy behind the wheel than the one in the passenger seat — his own personal exploration into the seductive art of what's funny by way of his own observational style. It's therefore not too surprising that he almost always gets the best lines. On overparenting, he tells Baldwin, "We were the first generation to have a childhood …[and] we thought that was pretty good, so [we decided] let's really perfect it now." When Chappelle donates his Emmy to his performing arts school alma mater, Seinfeld wonders about the statue's eccentric design. "What are the odds of catching a beach ball and getting struck by lightning at the same time?"

Seinfeld, understandably, is an intimidating presence, and so the guests who do best with him are the ones who know him best. The McKinnon encounter is more polite than revealing. The one with Morgan finds one of the world's most voluble comedians suddenly — and inexplicably — reticent.

By contrast, Baldwin and Seinfeld are perfect together. They're two old hams from Massapequa with similar cultural bearings and identical regional ones. As they walk across a deserted parking lot toward the Jones Beach water tower — the "Pencil" — that common bond becomes obvious. "We grew up in the same exact town," says Seinfeld, "a charming postwar paradise which we never fully appreciated when we lived there." They both seem to now.

Among the best episodes are the ones with Mulaney and DeGeneres, although for different reasons. With Mulaney, Seinfeld hardly gets around to the coffee but instead drives him around Brooklyn in search of carpets for his spouse. With DeGeneres, he got a side most fans never see — the cerebral one. After her ABC sitcom was canceled, she said, "I was bitter, sad and angry. How did this change everything just by me being honest and gay? Why was this such a shock?"

But the most notable episode is the one with Lewis. This was probably the last interview Lewis gave before his death in August at 91. Frail but still sharp, Lewis orders a huge order of "very stiff bacon" along with his coffee. Mock-aghast, Seinfeld wonders, "What's left to kill you with?" Lewis smiles, then polishes off the bacon.

BOTTOM LINE Mostly for the die-hard Seinfeld (and "Comedians") fan, these are more often about the guy who picks up the check than about his guests. But at their best, they're — what else? — funny.

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