Curb Your Enthusiasm: The Complete First Season
December 1, 2001
Larry David belongs to the same tradition of acerbic curmudgeons as fantist Harlan Ellison and comic book writer Harvey Pekar. All three are not afraid to present unflinching observations on the less than flattering aspects of themselves and others. David was one of the creators of the sitcom Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm takes a look at his life after the hit show with his long suffering wife, Cheryl (Hines), and gregarious manager, Jeff (Garlin). HBO has collected the episodes from the first season in a slick package with a few substantial extras.
Like with Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm is a show about nothing. Its conceit is that Larry’s life on the show is what we imagine it is really like because of how it looks and sounds. Curb is shot with hand-held cameras and feels spontaneous in nature, which gives it an air of authenticity. The show also deals with many day-to-day things that anybody can relate to and has experienced at some point in their own lives. For example, in one episode, Larry loses his bowling shoes and in another he must call up a former employee’s potential new employer and give him a recommendation. It is these small events that lead to more absurd encounters later on in the episode because of who Larry is and how he deals with these situations. So, for example, when he calls up the employer to give a recommendation, the guy insults him and they end up in a shouting match and Larry doesn’t give the recommendation.
What also makes the show work so well is the little things in life that irk Larry to the point where he loses it. They are things that we can all relate to, like the sign-in policy at his doctor’s office or movie theatre etiquette. However, unlike most of us, Larry doesn’t politely let things lie, if something upsets him he lets people know it. This results in a hilarious catharsis for Larry and for the audience.
Unlike a lot of mainstream sitcoms, Larry is not afraid to come across as a jerk at times. He often does or says the wrong thing and then tries to cover his ass but ultimately it comes, by episode’s end, to bite him on the posterior, which is another source of the show’s humour. Curb also skewers the common sitcom staple of the average schmoe comedian married to a beautiful woman. Where in most shows there is no rational explanation as to why the two people are married, one really gets the feeling that Larry and Cheryl are equals and really do love each other.
The first DVD features an audio commentary for the first episode with Larry David, Jeff Garlin, Cheryl Hines and the episode’s director, Robert Weide. This is a very funny and entertaining track as the participants talk about how the show has evolved since the first season. They also recount several funny anecdotes about certain moments in the episode. Larry doesn’t talk as much as they others but when he does it makes one wonder how far removed he is in fact from his on-screen persona.
On the second DVD is the hour-long special that inspired the show. “Larry David: Curb Your Enthusiasm” is a mockumentary that has Larry going to the offices of HBO to pitch a feature documentary on his comeback stand-up comedy special. This special is the prototype for the show. It introduces the hand-held camera, cinema verite style and also features many of the same actors who would form the core cast of the show. Interestingly, Cheryl and Jeff have more of an antagonistic relationship in the special then they do on the show. What’s interesting is that Larry could have played it safe and done a straight-ahead stand-up comedy show like many before him. Instead, he puts a postmodern, self-reflexive spin on everything by using the mockumentary format.
Finally, a 30-minute interview with Larry David, conducted by Bob Costas, rounds out the extra material. This is a very informative and funny interview that covers all sorts of aspects of the show. Larry talks about the challenge of doing the one-hour special because he not only had to worry about the acting side of things but he also had to write and perform a stand-up routine. He also talks about how the show is put together. There are no scripts for any of the episodes, just a detailed outline but with no dialogue. Larry tells the actors what a given scene is about and then they improvise several takes.
For fans of edgy comedy and for people who are tired of the bland formulaic stuff that the networks are cranking out on a regular basis, Curb Your Enthusiasm is a refreshing alternative. After watching this show, it becomes evident that the episodes of Seinfeld that pushed the envelope of the sitcom format were probably as a result Larry David. This is a solid box set of the first season with only a few extras but they are very substantial in nature.