Curb Your Enthusiasm Season Seven Review

In case we haven’t made it clear yet, we’re pretty big fans of Curb Your Enthusiasm here at NPI, and we were rather excited for Season Seven. Now that Season Seven has concluded, though, it’s worthwhile to go back and compare our expectations to what we actually got.

Back when F.P., Josh and I went over our expectations for this season, I mentioned that I thought Larry’s relationship with the Blacks would be the main storyline of this season, with a potential Larry/Loretta/Cheryl love triangle developing; the Seinfeld reunion, I said, would be more of a secondary plotline. Well, I was right that the Seinfeld reunion was not the primary story: the show was only central to three episodes, and incidental to two others. But I was way off on the Blacks. Loretta and her family were sent packing in the second episode of the season, “Vehicular Fellatio.”

I can’t say I was upset by this development. I thought there was a lot of potential in the Larry/Loretta pairing, but, as Josh and F.P. each pointed out, there was also the tendency to do trite or obvious jokes with them. Season Six and the first two episodes of this season gave Larry plenty of opportunity to flesh out his dynamic with the Black family. And while the first two episodes were very strong—particularly the second episode (“Do you know what it’s like to have cancer?” “No, but I know what it’s like to be with someone who has cancer.”)—I never really missed Loretta or Auntie Rae during the rest of the season.

What made the decision to ditch the Blacks even more palatable was the decision to keep Leon. Leon’s announcement that he did not plan on leaving with the rest of the Blacks was one of the best lines of the season:

Larry: “So I guess this means you’ll be…”

Leon: “—going upstairs and eating this fucking Chinese food in my fucking room.”

Leon is probably the best character added to the show since Marty Funkhouser, so keeping him around was a smart move. But Leon must have spent a lot of time eating that Chinese food. For some reason, he only appeared in two episodes after the show made a point of keeping him. Hell, Jeff’s daughter had almost as much screen time. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the two episodes in which Leon did appear (“Denise Handicapped” and “The Table Read”) were the best of the season.

“The Table Read” was a particularly brilliant episode, as it gave Leon the opportunity to interact with the Seinfeld cast, and Michael Richards the opportunity to address his controversy. The show handled this rather delicate scenario rather well, showing that Richards was contrite, but willing to poke fun at himself. It also led to one of the funniest scenes of the season, with Leon pretending to be Danny Duberstein.

Besides Leon’s scene with Richards, though, the penultimate episode of the season was strong from top to bottom. It was the rare instance of pretty much every joke working, from Larry getting into a texting relationship with a nine-year-old (“NO I DON’T WATCH WIZARDS OF WAVERLY PLACE! I’M AN ADULT!!!!!!!!!”), Marty Funkhouser’s lurking around the set, to Larry David stand-by jokes about tipping and germophobia. It also gave us the first look at what the fake Seinfeld reunion show looked like.

One of the recurring jokes throughout this season was other characters repeatedly saying that a reunion show could “make up for the finale,” despite Larry’s adamant insistence that the Seinfeld finale was a good one. I’ve always been on the fence with regard to the Seinfeld finale: On the one hand, there were almost certainly funnier ways for the show to end. On the other hand, I feel like there would have been no ending for a show as plotless—even by comedy standards—as Seinfeld that would have satisfied everyone. Most sitcoms have a romantic plot that the finale can conclude (Friends, Cheers, The Wonder Years) or some other natural endpoint, such as a radio show ending (Frasier), kids moving out/away (Fresh Prince, Boy Meets World), or criminal charges being dropped (Arrested Development). Seinfeld, though, was a show about nothing, so having a finale in which “something” happens would betray that ethos. At the same time, though, a finale in which nothing happens would seem anticlimactic.

The Curb quasi-reunion demonstrated the kind of bind a finale/conclusion puts Larry and Jerry in. The plot of the reunion show is George’s attempt to win back his ex-wife, but this is clearly just an excuse for the Larry of the show to write about his own life (as he did by putting elements of his “life” on Curb into the fictional reunion, including the plots of “The Doll” and “The Car Pool Lane” in the Seinfeld script) and cast Cheryl in the show as part of his plot to win back his ex-wife.

I’m quite confident in saying that, were this a real reunion show, I would be pretty underwhelmed. For one, the plot we get to see reveals a Seinfeld universe that is more or less the same and yet jarringly different. Jerry lives in the same apartment and they’re all still friends, but Elaine has a kid? And Jerry was the sperm donor? And George was briefly a millionaire? Even more out of character, the fake reunion included jokes about Bernie Madoff and iPhone apps; one thing that made Seinfeld great was its resistance to doing anything for the sake of appearing “edgy” or “relevant” or “contemporary”—the show just was those things, without taking jokes from the headlines. And as for the romantic plot of the finale, well, Larry probably put it the best in the finale: “We don’t do endings like that. It’s all bullshit. What couples get together at the end?”

I’m not quite sure if this was intentional—the Larry of Curb seemed satisfied with the reunion show—but the message of the finale-within-the finale seemed to be, “See? You wouldn’t really have liked any finale I could have given you.” That doesn’t mean it didn’t lead to some very good Curb moments, though. Adding Jerry into the mix allowed us to see the clear rapport between he and Larry fuction somewhere besides the commentaries on Seinfeld DVDs. The tension between Larry and the rest of cast also led to some great moments, such as Larry calling Jason Alexander’s book (Acting Without Acting) a pamphlet. And even if the episode they were filming wasn’t one I wanted to see, getting a look at what it was like to film and create one of the greatest shows of all time added some excitement to the last two episodes.

The final two episodes also brought the central story of this season—Larry’s attempt to win back Cheryl—to a natural conclusion. For a while, it almost seemed like Larry David’s take on a pedestrian romantic comedy, as Cheryl overhears Larry confess his love for her through her car’s tinted windows (the very windows Larry himself had chided earlier in the episode) and comes to Larry’s house for the finale. But, of course, Larry can’t leave well enough alone, and he interrupts their make-up scene to ask Cheryl to call Julia Louis-Dreyfus and admit that she was the one who left the ring stain on her coffee table. It’s open to interpretation whether or not this is just a return to form for Larry and Cheryl, or if this will be enough to prove to Cheryl that Larry has not changed at all.

Overall, Season Seven started very strong, with the conclusion of the Black storyline and the introduction of the Seinfeld reunion, and ended very strong, with the casts of both shows coming together. Unfortunately, there was kind of a lag in between. The middle of the season featured only one standout episode (“Denise Handicapped”), with two average ones (“Officer Krupke” and “The Black Swan”) and two sub-par episodes (“The Hot Towel” and “The Bare Midriff”); for a show as consistently great as Curb Your Enthusiasm, this was a rather disappointing stretch. I’m going to resist making broad judgments like “Worst Season Ever” or “This Show’s on Its Last Legs,” because Curb is a show that often watches better the second time, and because the last two episodes were so satisfying overall. We probably won’t see Curb on again until 2011 at the earliest, but if and when an eighth season comes around, you can expect another epic NPI preview.

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6 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Dan on November 26, 2009 at 7:02 AM

    Briefly,

    I rather liked “The Bare Midriff,” (especially the end), I thought that “Officer Krupke” was very good, I agree that “The Table Read” was the best episode of the season, I enjoyed the finale, but was underwhelmed by the lack of a Curbesque over the top ending.

    I thought seeing the reunion being made was better than an actual reunion (especially getting to see Larry playing George), and the Larry/Jerry interactions are great and make you wish one was actually on the other’s show.

    Reply

  2. Posted by doc on November 26, 2009 at 1:24 PM

    I disagree with you John – in my mind, it was the best season. The build up to and the actual Seinfeld reunion was great, the implication that Larry was a pedophile, Bam Bam Funkhouser, I am Larry David and I like to wear women’s underwear, anything with Leon Black (J.B. Smoove) aka Danny Duberstein, Vehicular Fellatio, Officer Krupke, and so on. The only episodes that left me unmoved were the first one and The Black Swan.

    Reply

  3. Posted by John S on November 29, 2009 at 7:56 PM

    Based on the reactions of others, it seems like I may have been too harsh on this season. I still maintain that “The Bare Midriff” and “The Hot Towel” were two of the worst episodes of the series (although that has a lot to do with Curb’s high standard, as they were still funny episodes), but I may have underrated “Officer Krupke” (although I the whole “I’m Larry David and I happen to enjoy wearing women’s underwear” thing felt like it should have been funnier than it was; the payoff was too formulaic and expected, I think) and “The Black Swan.” I also think my high expectations were let down by the absence of Jason/Julia/Michael from all but 3 episodes, and Leon from all but 4. It’s really just that I’ve come to expect so much from the show, and this season didn’t have the payoff for me that some others did.

    Reply

  4. Posted by James Schneider on November 29, 2009 at 11:26 PM

    Ok, it seems like everyone is down on the black swan, which I really liked, although I didn’t thin it was better than vehicular fellatio or the table read (i have no evidence for this claim). I don’t remember the bare midriff or the hot towel, like at all, so i guess it wasn’t very memorable(see what I did there). But okay, it wasn’t good because of two (negative adjective) episodes surrounded by like 6 great ones? That just seems unreasonable.

    Reply

  5. […] we here at NPI are big fans of Curb Your Enthusiasm, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that Larry David makes the list of funniest people of the decade. […]

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  6. […] most recent season of Curb Your Enthusiasm was a little uneven, but that didn’t prevent it from having some of the best episodes in the history of the series. […]

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