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Digesting the lowest rung of pop culture so you don't have to!
With nothing better to do, I checked out the first season of the Larry David (Seinfeld) comedy Curb Your Enthusiasm from my local library. Though I’ve heard good things, I’ve never watched the show before and figured I’d finally give it a try. The show centers around a fictional version of Larry David as he goes about his daily business and gets into various mishaps involving misunderstandings, poor-timing, and arguments over common, everyday items. If you are thinking this sounds like Seinfeld, you would be correct.
As I watched through the first few episodes, I didn’t know if I like the show or not. I like elements of it. The cast is fun to watch, I love how the show is shot, and the improvised style of the series gives it a bit of unpredictability. The situations are funny, but most of the humor, I felt, is very mean. I don’t mean to suggest the show is mean-spirited. It isn’t. However, many of the characters that Larry encounters are just plain mean for very little reasons.
For example, in an early episode Larry looses his shoes, goes to the store, and has the salesperson special order a new pair. Shortly thereafter, Larry finds his original pair and, coincidentally, runs into the salesperson on the street. The salesperson sees Larry’s original pair and goes off on him assuming that Larry was intentionally trying to screw him over (canceling the shoe order would cause a loss in commission). Before Larry could fully explain, the salesperson storms off. Later on, Larry goes to the store to return a shirt he didn’t like, and the salesperson refuses to take the shirt back based on their earlier encounter.
Stuff like this bothers me in shows. I realize the nature of the comedy from Curb… comes from Larry wronging someone, the wronged individual overreacts and, ultimately, Larry suffers for it. I just become annoyed at the cliché of minor transgressions causing major reactions.
I was also beginning to become frustrated with the levels of awkwardness in the show. There are several moments in the early episodes where the situation gets so out of control, that the awkward feeling goes from being funny to uncomfortable. The line between funny and uncomfortable is very thin and can make or break a show. These awkward moments usually ended up in shouting matches between the characters.
However, about midway through the season, things changed. It seemed as if the writers knew what was working and what wasn’t. The show became much more fluid and the awkwardness stayed firmly on the side of funny. The show didn’t get retooled. Every episode had Larry in some unfortunate situation. Only various were made and handled in such a seamless transition, that I didn’t noticed the improved style until an episode or two after it began. This is an impressive feat considering that the season is only ten episodes long. By the season finale (which, incidentally, is the season’s best episode), I knew this show had found its footing and earned the praise which has been showered upon it over the past eleven years.
I recommend Curb Your Enthusiasm. It starts out very rough, but after the first four or five episodes, the actors are comfortable in their roles, the stories become stronger (both in pace and narrative), and everything happens in a much more natural manner. This is a very funny show, and I am looking forward to checking out season two!