Monday, 30 November 2009

TV REVIEW: Curb Your Enthusiasm Season 7

Seinfeld: " Explain to me again why isn't this lame? "

Larry David: " We'll find a way to do it that won't be lame"

To be honest, when I heard that the story arc of season 7 was going to be a Seinfeld Reunion, I had the same reaction as the fictional Jerry Seinfeld. I feared that Curb, a show that has never to this point been less then mostly awesome, might become a joke within a joke within a joke, with the audience increasingly left out. But I was wrong, and fantastically so. Pretty much every second of the Seinfeld reunion-related screen-time was hilarious or at least the final three episodes of it anyway. Its perhaps not the strongest year the show has ever had, at this point season's 4 and 5 are looking like the pinnacle, but it has re-energized Curb into becoming more then an amusing distraction again.

The season itself, while not being perfect in terms of its structure, with a particularly weak and almost irrelevant set of episodes around the middle, was always funny and there wasn't a laughless episode to be found, even with the disposable ones. Perhaps because at this point, Larry David the character has become almost as strong as any of his Seinfeld characters. For all his faults he's never not engaging or unfunny, and while at times his actions may stretch the realms of even sitcom credibility, he's such a unique creation that at times it doesn't matter if the show is being a bit iffy. Larry david doesn't even have to be a brilliant actor to pull this off, with just the force of his personality making him an engaging screen presence. And in a bizarre way, he's become one of televsion's most iconic and singular characters of the decade. This could be what makes Curb such a long lasting show too, because on average by the time shows reach their seventh season an involuntary winding down process has begun. But there's still a vitalness here that there probably shouldn't be, with David still doing enough interesting and original stuff to justify this show's contuining existence.

The year actually begins quite strongly, with a hilarious two-parter wrapping up last season's holdover storyline of Larry being intwined with Vivica A Fox and her extended family, this of course being great because its given us lots of Leon (J.B Smoove), who makes everything about 100 times better with his presence. Even despite him being a raging stereotype, he's such a hilarious one that it really doesn't matter. Anyway Vivica has cancer, and Larry, who is still in love with his ex wife Cheryl (Cheryl Hines) is doing all he can to get her to dump him, from racing home to dump her before she gets her final diagnosis, from taking her to a therapist to show what a huge dick he is, its great stuff. I was almost disappointed when the Seinfeld arc had to begin because I enjoyed these first two so much, but that anguish was pleasingly short lived.

The Seinfeld stuff at first was hit and miss. The stuff with Larry and Jason Alexander and the resentment between them is golden. This is in part because of how well Alexander plays it, just as a good Seinfeld episode pretty much coincided with it focusing on George, because George was Larry and Mr Larry David seems to write best for himself. The two share a hilarious animosity that is really the biggest comic success of the arc. Hearing Alexander relentlessly rag on George's character, which is of course a surrogate Larry, much to Larry's anger is an awesome running gag. And while Jerry Seinfeld is given nothing much to do except react to Larry, the two share a rapport that carries through to the screen, and its pleasing to see Larry have a friendship without the undertone of hostility. As was the problem on Seinfeld at times, the show has no idea what to do with Julia Louis Dreyfus and as a consequence she does kind of get lost in the shuffle of things, I would say the same for Michael Richards if it wasn't for his awesome plot with Leon in 'The Table Read' probably the best episode of the season, in which Larry David wisely acknowledged Richards infamous viral video racist tirade of a couple of years ago. And plus, Leon's impression of the deeply Jewish Danny Duberstein was pretty much the funniest thing on this show in years. As far as the other regulars go, Jeff Garlin got to do his fat straight man thing, Susie Essman as Jeff's fierce wife says 'Fuck You' better then anyone else in history and Cheryl Hines rarely gets a chance to be funny, but when she does she is clearly very good at it. My main complaint about this show over the years would probably be the underuse of Cheryl, who plays too minor a role in things.

The main weakness of the year is probably its sporadicity of the mid-section, probably episodes 4 to 7, go too long without being involved in the overall arc, and aren't quite strong enough on their own to jusitfy it. Don't get me wrong, they all have funny moments, 'Denise handicapped' (a moniker for how Larry labels his disabled girlfriend in his mobile phone) in particular was quite hilarious despite quite a few contrivances. Which at times can be a problem with Curb, with things at times seeming too comically convienient and perhaps an over-reliance on coincidence to land at the end of the episode. But that could be levelled at Seinfeld too, so I guess that's just how Larry David does it. Its this mid-section that stops this perhaps being the best year of Curb, which it could have been if it had been a slight more consistent. But given how much better this show is then the scores of obvious, factory line sitcoms there are out there, it seems almost silly to harp on in this way, given that this is the show that finally confronted the issue of ridiculously hard to open packaging head on, as well as the show that finally got to give us Larry David impersonating Jason Alexander impersonating him.

Season seven, if it should be the final year of Curb, which is certainly a possibility, is also a fitting end I would think, given how dependent Larry David is on meta-writing, and with this he has kind of come full circle in regards to self-referentialism and from here you wonder where he has left to go with it. Aside from this, this was a mostly great season of television from one of the funniest writers the medium has ever had.

Best Episode: The Table Read

Rating: 7/10

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