Trying to Contain Our Enthusiasm for Curb Your Enthusiasm

Larry and Jeff

Tonight is the premiere of Curb Your Enthusiasm’s Seventh Season, so John S, Josh and F.P. Santangelo got together to discuss their thoughts and expectations for the new season in the second part of our two-part prelude to Season Seven.

John S: I think the best place to start is probably on our thoughts on last season, particularly how it ended. Season Six ended up #1 in our collective rankings, but I had it lower than both of you. I really liked it: I felt that both the break-up with Cheryl and the addition of the Blacks added something to the show. At the same time, though, I felt like the storyline with the Blacks encouraged Larry to go a little too far into the absurd, like with Leon basically stealing multiple Joe Pepitone jerseys, and Larry getting “aroused” by Auntie Rae. Plus, as I believe F.P. pointed out during the season, there was something unrealistic about everyone in this new Black family talking like Larry and sharing his type of grievances, i.e. over bad toilet paper and “pausing” toast. So I guess my first question to you is: Did you guys have similar complaints that were redeemed, or was the sixth season perfect?

Josh: The sixth season certainly wasn’t perfect and there was a good distance between that and Season Three in my rankings even though I did rank it number two.  I didn’t think that the “The TiVo Guy” (the divorce episode) was that humorous. I’m looking forward to seeing how/if Larry creates humor around the divorce, encounters with Cheryl, and the social dynamics that it creates in Season Seven. While there certainly was some “absurd” humor in Season Six, I don’t think that there was more absurdity in this season than in any other season (a racist dog, a prostitute for the HOV line, the Survivors meeting that we love, are just a few examples of absurdity in past seasons). In fact, I think that while much of the humor of Curb comes from Larry’s objections to the mundane/conventional, much of it also comes from plot developments that put the characters in seemingly absurd situations. I’m receptive to the idea that the Blacks were unrealistically in tune with Larry David’s mindset, but I do think this is generally a feature of every season, for better or worse. Jeff often served this role in the other seasons, whereas in each episode there would be foils too (Ben Stiller, David Schwimmer, Cheryl, Wanda, etc.). This dichotomy, however simple and unrealistic it is, is what creates a lot of the humor in the show.

John S: I think there’s a difference between Larry doing something absurd, which we’ve come to expect and is part of the show, and having a whole family willing to tolerate and complement his behavior. Similarly, Jeff has been developed and characterized as someone who tolerates and goes along with Larry’s behavior. It’s “realistic,” at least within the reality of the show, for Larry and Jeff to do things like replace a golf club in a coffin, but not so much for other people to do it. You mention “foils” like Stiller, Schwimmer, Cheryl and Wanda (how could you leave out Susie?), but they actually serve the opposite role: They get fed up/annoyed/angry with Larry; very rarely has the show made Larry seem like anything but an outcast.

Season Six, though, was slightly different, in that the Blacks (at times) encouraged his behavior and sympathized with it (Leon telling Larry to “get in that ass” and Leon “robbing” Cheryl’s therapist at Larry’s request, for two examples). At times, these developments struck me as too silly or unrealistic. Even so, though, I generally liked the Blacks, but I wonder how they will be used in the new season.

I’m also somewhat surprised that you didn’t like “The TiVo Guy,” an episode I really liked (I love Larry’s first question about Cheryl’s new boyfriend—“Does he carry mints and tissues and a pen on him at all times like I do?”—as if those three things are the true foundations of love). These also make me optimistic about how the show is going to handle the divorce in Season Seven, although we (or at least I) do know a little about how that turns out…

Josh: I agree with you that the Blacks are a little too much in agreement with Larry, but I still do maintain that Season Six is no more absurd than any other season. The examples I gave previously are all examples of absurd situations and behavior by other people (the dog, Colby from Survivor)–not necessarily Larry himself doing something absurd, although there is plenty of that too. And, the reason I brought up the foils is because, at times, I think they suffer from the same lack of realism that you critique the Blacks of suffering from. They tend to be antagonistic to Larry even when it’s not merited (especially Wanda, between the ass fetish and the racist dog). I actually don’t think this is a bad thing, but I think if you critique the Blacks you should have to critique some of the behavior of the foils as well.

So, I’m even more excited than I would usually be for a new season of Curb because it’s featuring the reunion of the Seinfeld cast. Apparently, the concept is that the Seinfeld actors will be doing a reunion show on the show. I find this intriguing on many different levels. Presumably they’ll be interacting as people (i.e. as Jason Alexander as opposed to George Costanza) for part of the show and actors for other parts of the show. Just as it was incredibly fun to see Mark-Paul Gosselaar play Zack Morris again on Jimmy Fallon, I imagine it will be incredibly fun (and hilarious) to see the Seinfeld actors reprise the roles of their characters. Moreover, I have to admit I’m stoked for the Jerry Seinfeld/Larry David interactions. I love their interactions on the Seinfeld DVDs and I’m curious and excited to see how their interaction on the show works out. One other thing that intrigues me is how Michael Richards’s…um…incident will be handled. Will it even be mentioned? If he is on the show as the real Michael Richards, you would think it has to be. I don’t think this is something to be nervous about, but sometimes an issue with having too many guest stars on a show is that it makes the writers lazy. The guest star supposedly has so much value that the script isn’t as good as in other episodes. I don’t think this will be an issue with this season of Curb because 1) there really isn’t a script, just a general story arc; and 2) there have been many guest stars and the past, and they have always been there for a purpose that fits into the overall arc. Are you guys as optimistic as me?

F.P. Santangelo: I’m optimistic, but mainly because I’m excited to see how Larry functions as the patriarch of a black family. Season Six was certainly absurd—the ending to the last episode (where Larry experiences being “black”) foreshadows the type of hilarity to ensue—but I think that’s okay. My fear would be that the show falls back on trite racial comedy, but that worry is alleviated by the fact that Larry David is quite unlike any other protagonist. Even if the show covers issues that are well-worn (as they did with the use of the “n-word”), I’m confident that Larry can put his own spin on it.

I’m a bit more apprehensive about the Seinfeld reunion concept. I never had much exposure to Seinfeld and I don’t share the profound love that some people have for the show, so my concern would be that the show reverts to the “show about nothing” feel, even if the cast members are playing themselves instead of their Seinfeld characters. You know, I think to some extent the dynamic will be predictable: There will be fallouts or general animosity between various cast members, at least a few of the cast members will be comically irksome, have endearing eccentricities, and humorous “true” feelings about Seinfeld will be revealed. The question is whether or not the show will reinvent the feel of Seinfeld or simply address it in the existing style of Curb. A lot of this, I think, will hinge on the performance of Jerry Seinfeld and how much he employs his stylized (and kind of lame) observational comedy (there was Family Guy’s take on it: “Good to be here in New England. And what’s the deal with ‘New’ England anyway? It’s over two hundred years old!”) Again, this may be of no concern to fans of both shows, but I would prefer to see Larry David’s creative voice continue to dominate.

John S: It’s interesting that Josh and I seem excited about the Seinfeld reunion and slightly apprehensive about the return of the Blacks, whereas F.P. is more excited for the Blacks and apprehensive about the Seinfeld element of the new season (I know that was a bit reductive, but it’s kind of true). It’ll be interesting to see which aspect of the show becomes the dominant theme of the season.

I think the Blacks/Larry’s attempts to win back Cheryl will actually be the main element of the season; early press about the new season of the show has been adamant that this is not a Seinfeld reunion show. None of the cast members will appear in more than half of the season, and they won’t always appear together; I expect much of the season to resemble Season Two, in which Larry worked with Jason Alexander and Julia Louis-Dreyfus on a non-Seinfeld project. This season of Curb will probably focus more on the careers of the actors and what they think of Seinfeld in hindsight than it will on the actual show itself—although it seems like we’ll get a glimpse of a hypothetical Seinfeld reunion in the same way we got a glimpse of Larry’s Broadway performance in Season Four.

If it is true that the dominant strain of the show is some kind of Larry/Loretta/Cheryl triangle, I’m not sure how I feel about it. On the one hand, I’ve always liked Cheryl Hines on the show, but I felt like the divorce opened a whole new opportunity for the show. Single Larry might be worth exploring for more than just three episodes at the end of last season.

F.P. Santangelo: Absolutely right. I think there’s a lot of comedic potential in Larry and Cheryl getting back together, especially since it might change the way they interact in a huge way, but that’s definitely not something to be rushed. I mean, I would even be okay with them leaving the issue unresolved in Season Seven. Think about how much better The Office was before Jim and Pam got together, right? Or how much more annoying Friends got when it became about Ross and Rachel making it or not? On a comedy show, dramatic tension has a much longer shelf-life, and I feel that the show should take advantage of that.

John S: I don’t know how much danger there is of Curb Your Enthusiasm turning into Friends, but I think Larry interacting with Lucy Lawless and the doctor he went out with last season were some of the better aspects of Season Six; I’d be up for seeing more of that.

I’m not so sure how I feel about the Larry/Loretta relationship, though. One of the aspects of Season Six I considered “absurd” was the final montage of those two as a couple: It made more sense to me as a fantasy (particularly Loretta defending him to Susie). Now, with the two of them actually together, it makes for an odd dynamic, to say the least…. Although, and this thought just occurred to me, having Larry as the patriarch of the Blacks might set up a funny and delicate way for them to address the whole Michael Richards thing that Josh mentioned.

Josh: I’m not as interested as John in Larry’s interactions with other women as a single guy. Maybe it’s just because I can’t sympathize with a recently divorced 50-something-year-old or just because I don’t find it as humorous. Nonetheless, I do find the dynamic between Cheryl and Larry (the “dramatic tension” as F.P discusses) to be a very intriguing subplot with a lot of potential. I think Larry’s interactions with women (and Cheryl’s with men) could be interesting as far as that goes, but I’m just not as interested in those interactions independently of the dramatic tension.

Regarding F.P.’s concerns about Seinfeld (I’ll ignore his unjustified “lameness” critique for now), I’m receptive to the idea of it being problematic that the show focuses on manufactured antagonisms or supposedly humorous “true” feelings about Seinfeld, etc. I understand F.P.’s trepidation about Seinfeld’s insularity dominating the creative process, but I do think what matters is the nature of those antagonisms or how those “true” feelings come out, if that is indeed an element of Season Seven.  I mean, I’m not for Julia-Louis Dreyfus and Jason Alexander not getting along for the sake of them not getting along. But, if there is a typical Larry David clever and creative grievance that causes tension between the two, I’m fine with that.

In the end, though, there is a ton of intrigue for tonight’s episode, and the upcoming season of Curb, more so than any other season. The divorce, the Blacks, and the Seinfeld cast are the three dominant plotlines that have carried over or are clearly going to be part of this season. Even though I admitted in the rankings that the overall arc of seasons isn’t as appealing to me as the comedic situations created in each individual episode, I can’t help to feel excitement for how the general plot lines and arc will pan out in Season Seven.

3 responses to this post.

  1. a) Leon did not rob Cheryl’s therapist. Larry’s therapist did. Which, I would agree, is absurd.

    b) I think you guys really missed the ball by not titling this: “trying to curb our enthusiasm for curb your enthusiasm” (however, not doing this, I must imagine, was intentional on your part).

    Reply

  2. […] Comedian Award for the third year in a row.  Speaking of comedians Josh and John S like, Larry David is to receive the Writers Guild of America’s 2010 Paddy Chayefsky Laurel Award for […]

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