Television Revision: Curb Your Enthusiasm – Season 1

Curb Your Enthusiasm S1

By Andrew Williams
September 11, 2013 

Television Revision is a weekly feature in which our tuned in TV critic trawls through the best the box has to offer, giving you a primer on some of history’s finest shows (and warning you away from the specific episodes – or even seasons! – that might have ruined their reputation).

Now, this is a story all about how… Larry David (Larry David) is constantly getting into awkward social situations, mostly due to his own cantankerousness. Copping the brunt of his misdeeds are his wife Cheryl (Cheryl Hines) and his agent Jeff (Jeff Garlin).

Curb Your Enthusiasm S1

Happy days? Even for the most voracious of television consumers, some shows are just outside your sphere of awareness. Curb Your Enthusiasm was a show I knew was critically adored yet had only sporadically watched, and mostly seemed to me from the outside to be television for misanthropes (not that there’s anything wrong with that). While Season One hasn’t really dissuaded me from this theory, it’s at least convinced me that this is reasonably amusing television for misanthropes.

David stars as what casting directors will forever refer to as a ‘Larry David’ type, and he’s playing himself as the classic schlemiel, a phenomenally unlucky character from Yiddish folklore who refuses to get out of his own way. Every episode (and I mean every episode) will result in Larry being humiliated multiple times. The trick, however, is to make these failures and embarrassments interesting and amusing for the audience. We know Larry’s downfall is going to happen; how it happens is the key, and Curb Your Enthusiasm Season One just isn’t inventive enough often enough to warrant repeating essentially the same storyline ten times.

That said, this is occasionally a very funny show, and a comedic genius like David is never going to serve up ten episodes of garbage. Several moments are laugh-out-loud hilarious, the (heavily improvised) acting is charmingly naturalistic, and there’s the occasional ingenious plotline. I understand that this is also the only time the show didn’t have a season-long arc, so maybe that addition (and accompanying stakes) will come to spark the show’s improvement.

The final frontier: Curb Your Enthusiasm might be manna from heaven for schadenfreude enthusiasts, but I found it repetitive and deeply inconsistent.

Curb Your Enthusiasm S1

Top three episodes: 2) Ted and Mary. The delightful Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen appear as fictionalised versions of themselves in the first really effective episode. 8) Beloved Aunt. A hilarious typo (the best kind) results in possibly the outright funniest episode of the entire season, with a poignantly downbeat final shot. 7) AAMCO. There’s a very funny inside joke about Friends in this very funny episode.

Worst episode: My least favourite part about the improvisational approach taken by Curb is when it results in several scenes of characters indiscriminately yelling at and talking over each other. Does it happen in real life? Yes. Is it entertaining television? Rarely. Is episode four aggravatingly full of it? You betcha.

Season MVP: The character of the long-suffering wife might be older than even Yiddish folklore, but Cheryl Hines’ charm, twinkling eyes, and sense of humour give this version of that old trope the injection of personality it needs. She’s incredibly watchable and has easy, familiar chemistry with David. She’s pretty much perfect in the role.

2.5/5

Curb Your Enthusiasm is available on Quickflix.

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