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Archive for August 15th, 2017

CURB 1

by Robert Hornak

It’s a show not everyone can warm up to. Think Seinfeld, but on HBO, unfettered from both the slide-rule structure of that prime time network sitcom and any constraints of language and situation. It centers on a serial complainer, Larry David, co-creator of Seinfeld, playing a hyped-up version of himself, continually falling into social disgrace, improvising paragraphs of shrill self-defense against equally shrill antagonists. With that as a baseline for the entertainment provided, it’s a wonder anyone at all watches it. Yet it’s powerhoused through eight 10-episode seasons, and after a five-year hiatus is back this October with another batch of ten. It seems David has struck a nerve of relatable sympathy with a wide enough portion of the audience, and for them there’s no depth of silliness or broadness of circumstance that isn’t superseded by a kind of understanding for how the poor guy feels when beset upon by the legions of displeased friends and acquaintances he inadvertently offends. Larry can’t do anything correctly as long as he’s doing what he thinks is right, a man congenitally unable to be dishonest about how he thinks people should behave toward him and unable to comprehend why others don’t live according to common sense when it clearly overrides rank social custom. The measure of his discomfort and pique is the pitch of his gravely protestations as he confronts a bottomless wealth of social rules attempted but broken.

Curb Your Enthusiasm, so named by David to counter any unduly high expectations in the wake of Seinfeld‘s phenomenal run, was originally an hour-long HBO special in 1999, which seemed to come into the world fully formed from the bald-and-bespectacled head of Zeus, then given the green light for a season sprint on that channel. The format, hand-held camera catching improv-based scenes off a rough episode outline supplied by David, was the perfect foil to Seinfeld‘s rigid sheen. Where Seinfeld is a neat balance of sharp, succinctly-written wordplay decorating an expansive exploration of social/relationship pitfalls, ultimately appealing to the selfish in all of us, Curb is more unabashed in its utter fascination with the ways we force each other to act, even at the expense of decorum, and much more appealing to the righteous indignation of anyone who’s ever been overly chastised for honest mistakes or straightforward disregard for dumb rules.

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