Why the return of ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ was a big letdown
When Larry David announced in the summer of 2016 that Curb Your Enthusiasm would return for its first season on HBO since 2011, it was cause for rejoicing for fans of the groundbreaking comedy.
Heading into the season, all indications were positive. The entire core cast of the series (David, Cheryl Hines, Jeff Garlin, Susie Essman, J.B. Smoove) were on board, with most of them somehow not looking particularly different from how they did when we last saw the show. Plus, most of the key guest recurring stars from throughout the run of the show (Richard Lewis, Ted Danson, Bob Einstein) were confirmed as well; along with new faces like Bryan Cranston, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Lauren Graham, Salman Rushdie, and Elizabeth Banks.
“Sorry about your bird, but the good news is, I’m still alive.”
The season got off to a good start, with one particular line from the season premiere – “sorry about your bird, but the good news is, I’m still alive”, leading me to double over in laughter for days afterward.
However, that ended up being the peak of Season 9. In fact, it felt like a sitcom in its final throes and past its prime, like the subpar later years of How I Met Your Mother or The League (the latter show’s co-creator, Jeff Schaffer, co-wrote every Season 9 Curb episode, along with David and sometimes other writers).
Here’s why the new Curb season fell flat:
The machine is broken
The best episodes of early Curb, much like its cousin Seinfeld, had masterful plots that all converged brilliantly at the end, like a well-oiled machine. The new Curb season didn’t manage this; most episodes had at least one subplot that never went anywhere. It also didn’t help that HBO sometimes gave Curb extra time for longer episodes – a thing that’s rarely ever a good idea on TV.
Curb was able to cast a talent of Bryan Cranston’s caliber and gave him nothing funny to do. Instead shoving him into a witless plot in which he played a therapist, but classic Curb already had two different therapist episodes that were done much better. There was also no particular payoff to the decision to fictionally divorce Ted Danson from Mary Steenburgen. Danson, always one of Curb’s best guest stars, was given nothing to do either. Only Lin-Manuel Miranda really made an impression, but I’d have preferred to watch a full-length version of his Hamilton-like Fatwa musical over the actual Curb season.
The best episodes of early Curb, much like its cousin Seinfeld, had masterful plots that all converged brilliantly at the end, like a well-oiled machine. The new Curb season didn’t manage this…
A fizzle of a fatwa
The fatwa arc was promising and had its moments, such as the Rushdie cameo, but its payoff was lackluster, with its central scene, the “council,” being a direct rehash of the infamous, David-written Seinfeld series finale.
Larry is an asshole
Sure, he always was, and that was kind of the idea. But times have changed, and a middle-aged white man, much less one with hundreds of millions of dollars, being an unreasonable jerk to waiters and other service workers doesn’t have the same connotation in 2017 that it did in 2007. I also don’t really see the humor in Larry pretending to have Asperger’s, or contributing to the death of Marty Funkhauser’s teenage nephew. And speaking of which…
Why are Marty and Larry still friends?
Aside from Larry contributing to the death of the nephew, Larry has now disrupted the memorial services of three of Marty’s relatives, his mother, father and nephew.
…times have changed, and a middle-aged white man, much less one with hundreds of millions of dollars, being an unreasonable jerk to waiters and other service workers doesn’t have the same connotation in 2017 that it did in 2007.
It’s worth remembering that Curb‘s last season before this one, in 2011, was pretty mediocre too, only sporting one classic episode, “Palestinian Chicken.” But that’s still one more than this new season had.