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WE LIKE ELAINE AND CHRISTINE

Comedian Julia Louis-Dreyfus has maneuvered her way througha string of successes showing as little sweat as possible.

You could argue, of all the high-powered performers to come off the comedy phenomenon that was Seinfeld, Julia Louis-Dreyfus has landed in the best spot of all.

Sure, executive producer Larry David has his well-regarded HBO series Curb Your Enthusiasm, and star Jerry Seinfeld packs concert halls when he's not helping salvage pal Jay Leno's new talk show or pitching reality show ideas to NBC.

But Jason Alexander's last TV gig was in NBC's awful summer miniseries Meteor. And the less said about Michael "n-word" Richards, the better.

Contrast all that with Louis-Dreyfus' current resume: Her comedy, The New Adventures of Old Christine, starts its fifth season at 8 p.m. Wednesday, making her the only Seinfeld alum to score another successful network TV sitcom.

Tonight she'll stride into the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles vying for a best actress Emmy in comedy, up against Christina Applegate, Toni Collette, Mary-Louise Parker, Sarah Silverman and Tina Fey.

Her old gang from Seinfeldmanaged a no-pressure reunion, getting together for five episodes of David's Curb aimed at putting the perfect button on a landmark series. And next year, she's due to get her own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame alongside Russell Crowe, Emma Thompson and Ringo Starr.

Don't bother suggesting, however, that her run of good fortune might include an Emmy win tonight; turns out, assuming a loss is an integral part of Louis-Dreyfus' preparation for the evening.

"I just go into this thing knowing I'm not going to win and so you can sort of relax and enjoy the party, frankly," said Louis-Dreyfus, 48, who is so sure that Fey is taking the crown this year, she hasn't even bothered preparing an acceptance speech.

The real trick in Hollywood is to make success look effortless. And Louis-Dreyfus has maneuvered her way into a string of successes showing as little sweat as possible.

Let Leno wow journalists with tales of jogging 4 miles each day and his legendary workaholic's hours - Louis-Dreyfus has raised two kids and stayed in a marriage with writer-producer Brad Hall while building a new network TV comedy career. In showbiz, that's the equivalent of running a four-minute mile.

"The only thing I did know about starting another series was that . . . when you're considering playing a character for a long period of time, its has to be something that's familiar to you," she said, referring to her character, Christine Campbell, a divorced mom struggling to move on after her husband starts dating another, younger woman, also named Christine.

"You are performing and moving at breakneck speed when you're doing this kind of a series," she added. "You don't have weeks and weeks to work on a character and rehearse. There has to be an instinctual connection to the part that you're playing. So I knew the only other thing I know in life, other than performing, is I do know something about being a mother."

Indeed, Louis-Dreyfus' Christine doesn't seem all that different from Seinfeld's Elaine Benes, who often felt like an amped-up version of the amiable comedian we first met as a Not Ready For Prime Time Player on Saturday Night Live in 1982. For Louis-Dreyfus, the one tie that binds is a willingness, or even enthusiasm, for putting her characters in gigantically embarrassing circumstances.

"I really enjoy doing a lot of physical comedy, and anything that is . . . any humiliating experience for the character," she said, laughing. "Profound and wicked humiliation seems to be a great place to live, comedically."

Humiliation is also where Curb creator David likes to live, and the new season finds a deliciously snarky story line to bring together the Seinfeld cast: In hopes of winning back his onscreen ex-wife, the onscreen David engineers a Seinfeld reunion so he can hire the former Mrs. David as a co-star.

Starting with the Oct. 4 episode, Louis-Dreyfus joins Alexander, Richards and Seinfeld for a reunion David nearly derails with his talent for offending network executives. Louis-Dreyfus' on-screen persona has her own issues with the producer; he implies that she lied about missing a meeting to attend a kiddie birthday party. That created a curious bit of mind-bending reality-meets-fiction when they were on the set.

"It was like traveling in time, because we brought a couple of the original Seinfeld sets back - the apartment set and the coffee shop set. They took them out of storage, and we had the same groups of people who had worked on the show," she said.

David's show features scenes improvised around a central premise, though some parts, especially the scenes for the fake reunion show, are scripted.

"It's a different way of performing because, although we were doing snippets of scenes (depicting the fictional TV reunion), outside of those scenes we were improvising scenes . . . so it was like a show within a show within a show," Louis-Dreyfus added. "I'm not even sure what I'm talking about."

A fictional reunion was really the only way this cast would have come back together, according to David. "We didn't really do a reunion . . . we did a faux reunion," he told reporters recently. "I'm thrilled (with the Curb episodes). But then I was happy with how the Seinfeld finale turned out, so maybe you've got the wrong guy."

For Louis-Dreyfus, the Curb episodes were a good way to savor a success she didn't really have time to process when it was happening.

"You know how in life, you look back and think 'That was so great, I wasn't really as present as I should be,' " she said. "Life moves so quickly, it's hard to just value those moments. So this was an opportunity to go back and sort of revel in the good fortune that (the Seinfeld experience) was."

Now Louis-Dreyfus has a whole new set of good times to be present for, although she still isn't taking any bets on winning big tonight.

"I've been nominated many, many times, which is fantastic, but I haven't won many," she said, laughing. "I tell you, just look at the little split-screen shots where they show all the other nominees. Some of the best acting you're going to see that night is on the faces of whoever loses."

Eric Deggans can be reached at deggans@sptimes.com.

What to watch

New seasons for two shows

HBO's Curb Your Enthusiasm begins its seventh season at 9 tonight on HBO. The New Adventures of Old Christine returns for its fifth season at 8 p.m. Wednesday on WTSP-Ch. 10.

Emmy coverage on 2B: See Eric's predictions for who will win, plus the inside scoop on stylist to the stars Phillip Bloch.

Instant analysis: Follow Eric on Twitter, @Deggans, as he gives his take on the hits, misses and disses of the night.

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