I have very, very mixed feelings about Curb Your Enthusiasm.
On the one hand the show can often be uproariously funny and deviously clever in the way it juggles its plots. Almost every episode is going to be entertaining or provocative in one way or the other. I will laugh more at Curb than most other comedic efforts on TV.
On the other, there’s no way to really get around the show’s drawback: it’s really a celebration of evil and narcissism. The Larry David character in the show is perpetually getting into trouble simply because he’s a horrible human being who can never resist an opportunity for viciousness. Almost every episode is him trying to lie his way out of his problems. Seinfeld had this quality too but Larry’s influence was offset by the more upbeat, fun spirit of Jerry Seinfeld and the other actors. The classic sitcom achieved a certain level of Zen balance between good and evil. But with Curb it’s all Larry unfiltered all the time and in a premium cable environment in which there are no boundaries to just how much evil will be put on display each week.
So watching Curb is always a conflict: yes, I want to laugh and appreciate a clever plot, but no, I’d rather avoid having to be reminded of the the blackhole of human nature. (I get more than enough of that in my work researching and writing about anti-Semites and the Hate-America Left. Those perhaps curious as to why I’ve drifted toward G-rated entertainment choices in recent years need look no further than what dominates the rest of my time.)
But if the new season of Curb Your Enthusiasm continues to be as lousy as the first two episodes so far then I won’t have to worry about this conflict much longer. The first episode of this season of Curb aired on July 10. The plot was too unbelievable and farfetched even for Curb and it had squirm moments that seemed to be inserted just for shock value — just to poke at “bourgeoisie” morality.
[Warning: plot spoilers follow. Not that you should care, though, because if you haven’t seen it already you really shouldn’t bother watching these episodes.]
Larry is in the middle of finalizing his divorce from Cheryl (real cheerful subject matter for the show, of course — the episode is even titled “The Divorce”). And Larry thinks he’s going to get a good deal (not lose the house) because he has a lawyer who he thinks is Jewish. By chance Larry discovers that his lawyer isn’t Jewish, and rather just pretends to be Jewish in order to get clients who embrace the stereotype that the best divorce lawyers are Jews. When Larry discovers the deceit he switches to a lawyer who is definitely Jewish and exhibits more Jewish stereotypes. And the result? The real Jewish divorce lawyer actually concocts a “bad deal” and Larry ends up losing the house to Cheryl. This whole narrative doesn’t make sense at all. It concludes with Larry racing to stop his new Jewish lawyer from offering a lousy deal to Cheryl. Real divorces don’t work this way where all of a sudden you lose the house just because you switched lawyers.
There’s also this massively uncomfortable, un-funny scene in which Larry tries to teach the Girl Scout daughter of a friend how to insert a tampon after she has her first period. (On a related note, be sure and read Bruce Bawer’s fantastic piece today about how Muslim girls on their period in Toronto are segregated from the others and not allowed to pray.) Even more so than the contrived lawyer plot it’s totally unbelievable that Larry David (or any man who’s not a gynecologist) would do what he does in the scene.
Sunday’s episode was also ridiculous. A battered women’s shelter all of a sudden opens up shop just a few doors down in Larry’s rich LA neighborhood (yeah, right). And of course Larry the Jerk does his usual thing of alienating people — but these women he berates turn out to be abused women staying at the shelter. The show begins with him trying to get some ice cream at the grocery market but being blocked by a pair of women, one crying and the other trying to console her. They refuse to move two feet to the right so Larry can get his Ben and Jerry’s. It’s unbelievable that they wouldn’t move. When Curb actually deals with awkward situations in REAL life that we can all accept then sometimes it creates entertaining sequences. But when it has to manufacture controversies and then present them as though they’re things that actually happen then the show’s thin premise collapses.
Further along these lines of implausibility, excuse me Mr. David for having a hard time buying the episode’s second ridiculous implausibility. A woman who made her career as a burlesque dancer would NEVER consider a breast reduction no matter how bad of back problems she was having.
The way I see it Curb has one last chance to salvage the season. Given that the next episode is going to be more explicitly political — it’s apparently about a Palestinian chicken restaurant opening next to a Jewish deli — my hopes are even lower than usual.