Carl Reiner, the 95-year-old comedian, writer, actor, and director, has a running gag about life as a nonagenarian. “Every morning … I pick up my newspaper, get the obituary section, and see if I’m listed,” he explains. “If I’m not, I have my breakfast.” He stages a version of this routine for the new documentary If You’re Not In the Obit, Eat Breakfast, airing Monday night on HBO, in which Reiner and a handful of other 90-something personalities mull old age, and the possible reasons for their longevity. “Is it luck? Genes? Modern medicine?” he wonders. “Or are we doing something right?”
The result, directed by Danny Gold, is a documentary that’s loose, unfocused, and utterly charming—much like its subjects. Reiner wants to challenge perceptions about what it means to be living in your 90s (really living, rather than simply alive), and so he chats with friends who, like him, are thriving late in life. Tony Bennett, still swinging at 90, is filmed singing over the opening credits. The filmmaker Mel Brooks (90) and the TV producer Norman Lear (94) converse with Reiner about the impulse to keep working, as do the actress Betty White (95) and the actor Dick Van Dyke (91). The freewheeling, genial nature of the proceedings means the movie often feels like a Hollywood reunion, which perhaps explains why Jerry Seinfeld (a relative baby at 63) also pops up occasionally to ponder the potential of old age.