June 20, 2010

Most TV shows are worn out by their seventh season.  Curb Your Enthusiasm isn’t one of them.  If anything, the show has become stronger.  I would argue that the show’s real turning point came in season four when Larry was hired to play Max Bialystock in The Producers.  Since then, Curb has found a way to keep an over-arching plotline that helps to balance season-long B-plot with the A-plot of Larry David’s continual comedy-of-manners and errors.  Season five had Larry looking for ways to avoid giving his kidney to Richard Lewis, and season six introduced The Blacks and a beautiful layer of racial humor to the show.  Larry also separated from his wife Cheryl (played by not-his-real-wife Cheryl Hines) over one of the best mismanagements of priorities of all-time.

Now season seven has Larry trying to win her back.  And the way he plans to do it:  A Seinfeld reunion.  This new season-long arc isn’t only a downright clever idea, but it keeps Curb functioning at its peak.

Larry doesn’t want to do a Seinfeld reunion, but since Cheryl has decided to get back into acting, he thinks that if he casts her in the reunion show, then they’ll be working together and she’ll fall back in love with him.  It’s classic Larry: create a grand scheme for the most selfish of reasons.

By moving forward with a reunion, Curb reunites the Seinfeld cast for the first time, except this time they’re playing “themselves”.  I don’t really think Julia Louis-Dreyfus would come at Larry for supposedly leaving a beverage ring on an antique wooden table (“I respect wood!” cries Larry) or that Jason Alexander would go to war with Larry over the amount of a tip.  But Curb is about manners and how Larry has his own set of rules which usually run counter to the behavior of everyone else.  Then those rules inconvenience him and he’s forced to become a hypocrite.  This is the Curb formula and it still works after seven seasons.

Jerry Seinfeld is a great addition because he’s the only person in Curb‘s history to empathize with Larry’s thinking.  Jerry almost always understands where Larry is coming from, but the difference is that Jerry has a filter.  Having another character on the show who’s on Larry’s wavelength helps provide balance, which is impressive as it could have easily added another neurotic character to the mix.  And let’s face it: no one is going to out-neuroses Larry David.

And for fans of last season’s breakout star Leon (J.B. Smoove), Larry’s bizarre, de facto wingman: don’t worry.  The character isn’t going anywhere and Smoove continues to steal every scene (and sometimes entire episode) he’s in.

The seventh season isn’t without its faults.  Most notably is the episode “Denise Handicapped”, where Larry starts dating a woman in a wheelchair because a) she’s able to get great parking spaces and b) it makes him look like a good-hearted and open-minded person to date a handicapped person.  Unfortunately, this episode goes past the point of awkward humor and devolves into making Larry look like an outright sociopath.

But the strengths of season seven far outweigh its faults.  “The Bare Midriff” is the best religion-related episode since “The Christ Nail”, sad-sack Richard Lewis is demeaned and damaged in brilliant new ways, and Larry once again shows that he should never, never interact with children.  The show even manages an odd sort of redemption for Michael Richards after his big racist scandal in 2006.

If you’ve already seen the seventh season, it’s got plenty of replay value.  If you haven’t seen it yet, you need to go pick it up now.

The episodes on the 2-Disc Set are presented in 16:9 and English 5.1 sound. Bonus features include: “The Seinfeld Reunion: It Could Only Happen on Curb…“, “Rebuilding the Seinfeld Sets”, “Larry David as George Costanza”, “A Seinfeld Moment on Curb: Interview with Larry David and the Seinfeld Cast”.  These are funny enough, but nothing to write home about.

Rating: A-

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