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'SEINFELD' SPECIAL BRINGS BACK THE GOOD TIMES

Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer of "Seinfeld" aren't exactly the kind of warm and cuddly sitcom characters who would be part of a feel-good Thanksgiving episode with a message.

Not that there is anything wrong with that.

It still is special to see the actors who played these selfish characters in an NBC special, "The 'Seinfeld' Story" (10 p.m Thursday, WGRZ-TV), that arrives two days after the DVD of the first three seasons series hit the stores.

Larry David, the "Seinfeld" writer and co-creator who has become an HBO star playing himself in "Curb Your Enthusiasm," also shares memories of how difficult it was to get the show off the ground.

"Seinfeld" fanatics may know many of the details, but the special still serves up a delectable smorgasbord of gossip, memories, trivia and laughs that is bound to entice viewers to run out and get the DVDs in search of a larger helping.

It opens as the early "Seinfeld" episodes opened -- with Jerry Seinfeld doing a short stand-up monologue in front of a small audience. In this case, it's about the absurdity of television shows and restaurant dishes being labeled specials.

"If a special is so special, why aren't they on the menu?" he asks before he eventually asks for audience questions. When someone asks how "Seinfeld" got started, Jerry is prepared. He takes out a video camera to show a short film that explains how a show about nothing became something very special.

It is a clever framing device, with the special ending where it began. After the 40-minute movie "ends," an audience member asked Seinfeld if there ever will be a reunion show.

"You just saw it," replies Jerry, who wasn't about to be part of a typical reunion show.

During the reunion, we hear that audience research on the show was disastrous, NBC executives didn't "get" the classic episode spent entirely waiting for a table at a Chinese restaurant, the network forced Jerry and David to put a woman in the cast, and that the anxiety-ridden David had a habit of quitting the show annually because of the stress of coming up with 22 clever ideas a season.

Fans also might be surprised to learn that future TV stars Patricia Heaton ("Everybody Loves Raymond") and Megan Mullally ("Will & Grace") were among the actresses who auditioned for the part that Julia Louis-Dreyfus won.

Yada, yada, yada. There is more, much more in interviews with Seinfeld, David, Louis-Dreyfus, Michael Richards (Kramer) and Jason Alexander (George Costanza).

But best of all, the hour leaves you wanting even more than this Thanksgiving treat provides. Using a classic line from the show, I suspect that means Friday sales for the DVD will be real and spectacular.

Rating: 3 1/2 stars out of 4

The "Seinfeld" actors aren't the only members of the NBC family dealing with memories.

Tom Brokaw, whose last night as the anchor of the "Nightly News" is Wednesday, reflects on the historic events that he has covered in his storied 38-year NBC career in a two-hour special (9 p.m. Friday, WGRZ-TV), "Tom Brokaw: Eyewitness News to History." It also serves as a crash course on 20th and 21st Century history.

This is must-see, history TV for parents and their children, as Brokaw and people involved in the events he covered take us on a tour of national and world history. It includes coverage of the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy, the Vietnam War, the wild 1968 Democratic Convention, Watergate, President Johnson's surprising announcement he wouldn't seek re-election, President Nixon's bizarre resignation speech, President Reagan's Cold War triumph, the Challenger disaster, the fall of the Berlin Wall.

And that's just in the first hour, before Brokaw's statesman-like reflections on the two Gulf wars, the Oklahoma City bombing, President Clinton's impeachment proceedings, the events of 9/1 1, the 2000 election and the World War II heroes he calls the Greatest Generation.

Wearing a shirt with an open collar, the relaxed and gray-haired Brokaw sits at a couple of different locations as he shares some inside stories. There was the day he and ABC anchor Peter Jennings were knocking over furniture to get out of a White House briefing when they were told of the Challenger disaster.

There was the time that former NBC anchor David Brinkley asked him if he thought President Nixon appeared suicidal during his resignation speech. And there was the time NBC rigged a bicycle with a camera so he could show what life was like inside Beijing, China in 1989.

The Brokaw special isn't likely to get as large an audience as the Seinfeld special. But as far as importance is concerned, there is no contest.

Rating: 4 stars

e-mail: apergament@buffnews.com