Monday, November 23rd, 2009

"Curb Your Enthusiasm": Jerry Seinfeld Reconsidered

Okay, fine, you're both funnyDid you watch "The Simpsons" last night? I did, and about halfway through I had a weird and difficult-to-categorize feeling that I was only later able to identify as shock that the episode did not entirely suck. I'm not making any claims for its greatness, mind you, but it was one of the few times in the last, say, ten years where I saw a new "Simpsons" episode and thought, Well, wow, that wasn't terrible.

Which brings me to "Curb Your Enthusiasm."

I was slow to warm to "Curb Your Enthusiam." It probably took me until the second season, with its "Survivor" joke, before I finally got on board. I know plenty of people who can't stand it, because the humor can be off-putting or downright annoying, depending, but whatever, it worked for me. For that reason I thought the last season's finale-with Larry a full member of the Black family-was almost the perfect way to end the series, because it was so unexpected and not in keeping with the rest of the show. It was the perfect absurd capstone.

So I was already predisposed to dislike this season. It seemed a little too meta, in that, like "Seinfeld," it was a show past its prime going back for another bite of the apple. (I also have a theory that every episode of "Curb" is a direct analogy to an episode of "Seinfeld," but lord knows it will take someone with much more fortitude and interest than I to get tangled up in those weeds.) And, at least for the first half, I was considerably less amused than I had been previously. The show was trying too hard, Larry was too obnoxious, the scenarios were too outlandish, etc.

But the last couple episodes, with the "Seinfeld" reunion, were indeed some of the funniest television I've seen this year. And they managed to do something I would have thought impossible: They made me rethink my distaste for Jerry Seinfeld and his eponymous show. What to me was one of the more interesting aspects of "Curb" was the way that it seemed to be Larry David's claim to the legacy of "Seinfeld," i.e., "Everyone thinks the show was all Jerry, but really, look how much of it was me." It's like Keith Richards' first solo record (Talk Is Cheap, 1988), where you're all, "Oh, right, THAT GUY. I knew he was good, but I had no idea how much of the sound came straight from him.") What has been absolutely amazing about the end run of this "Curb" season is the way that Jerry Seinfeld, appearing on Larry David's show, has been able to present himself as, yes, just as much the voice of "Seinfeld" as David. The meta is off the charts.

Watching the episode-within-an-episode last night, hearing all the familiar "Seinfeld" cadences, really made me wonder: Why do I hate "Seinfeld" so much? I mean, I liked it when it was on. It was certainly fresh for its time. Is it the endless repetition, the fact that you are more than likely to flip past it at least three times a night? It it some kind of reverse nostalgia against the nineties? Whatever the reason, last night's "Curb" finale made me reconsider.

But let's end it here, shall we? I mean, how are you gonna have a better series capper than that?

27 Comments / Post A Comment

Moff (#28)

(I also have a theory that every episode of "Curb" is a direct analogy to an episode of "Seinfeld," but lord knows it will take someone with much for fortitude and interest than I to get tangled up in those weeds.)

I think it will actually take someone with much more weed to get tangled up in that interest.

iplaudius (#1,066)

You and your filthy inversions.

mordzook (#2,330)


Dickdogfood (#650)

Seinfeld has never made me laugh. Seinfeld has never offended me, either. I have no opinions about it at all, other than an irritation with the unvoiced expectation that I should have opinions about it.

It's maybe the first greatest-show-ever made in my lifetime that I just can't get with–and the first one that made me automatically suspicious of any show with a certain kind of rep. I've never seen an episode of The Sopranos, The Wire, Arrested Development, Battlestar Galactica, Deadwood, Freaks and Geeks…I could go on. (It's not like I don't watch television! I have the TV on all the time, I just don't watch for narrative, I suppose.) Perhaps this will change (I've just started with Mad Man a few days ago and must confess I've been blown away) and maybe it won't.

Comparing Seinfeld to AD or The Wire is perhaps the most sacrilegious thing I've heard all week.

David Cho (#3)

FYI – the Holocaust/Survivor ep is season 4.

Alex Balk (#4)

"Curb" expert D. Cho informs me that the "Survivor" episode was from the fourth season, btw.

David Cho (#3)

Too slow old man.

Ribs (#2,690)

burn notice

carpetblogger (#306)

How many Seinfeld episodes are anachronistic due to the invention of the mobile phone? Almost all is my guess.

It's so '90's!

BardCollege (#2,307)

Excellent point

Ah, Alex … so you're a Seinfeld-disdainer, eh?

Well, that's better than than a close-talker or sentence-finisher, I guess.

davidwatts (#72)

Okay, there is a lot going on here.

1) I, similarly, liked Seinfeld the first time around (although admittedly I was in high school) and just fucking can't stand it now. Maybe Seinfeld is like an amazing drama that's totally enthralling at first, but once you know where everything is heading, it's just impossible to sit it through again and again (think about rewatching season 3 of Lost like 4 times. No thanks).

2) I also really enjoyed Jerry on Curbed. The scenes where he and Larry just banter back and forth are some of the most genuine and funny stuff I've seen on TV for a while. What's interesting is how Jerry takes something petty and bitter that Larry says/has experienced and turns it into something a bit more universal and understandable, and how he can do that in about 2 sentences (I know it's a scripted show and this makes me seem like I can't tell fantasy from reality, but it's also pretty lightly scripted and none of them are good enough actors to really like trick you into thinking they have an emotion they don't). So, really, the genius of Seinfeld is the interplay between them. Which is why Curbed can be a bit too picayune at times, and why the Seinfelds without Larry as a writer were too too fucking bland.

Alex Balk (#4)

Very much concur.

sailor (#396)

As do I.

sigerson (#179)

The funniest moment for me this year was an early scene with banter between Jerry and Larry, in which Jerry maintains that divorced couples can never make it work again.

Larry: What about Robert Wagner and Natalie Wood?

Jerry: And… how did that work out?

Larry: That was a freak accident!

Jerry: OK, but then why was James Woods on the boat?

Larry: [pause] I don't know why James Woods was on the boat.


Agree about the Simpsons, have to catch up with Curbed. But very much disagree on point #1 here re: Seinfeld. If anything, this is the one show you could watch even after you knew the story line.

The performances of the main cast and ancillary characters were so remarkable that I can’t imagine growing disenchanted with the show. Yes, the sad signifiers of the 90’s–the Mac Lisa, was it?; Jerry’s cordless phone that had the foot long antenna; Elaine’s clothes–make me cringe. (Were we really alive then?) But as temporal as the fixings were, the fact remains: it is timelessly absurd, a classic in the manner of Ionesco and Beckett, for sure.

Chazerim (#532)

Having said that, ah, never mind.

katiebakes (#32)

I spend a lot of time thinking about how much I want a mini lil Susie Essman to perch sassily on my shoulder and berate me all day. I feel like I'd get a lot more done and I'd also lose weight. I guess I could just take amphetamines but amphetamines don't come in leopard print now do they?

sigerson (#179)


sigerson (#179)

There were many precious gems in this season. A little one from last night was "Mocha Joe". That just sounds funny and they kept working it again and again.

I still have a soft spot for "I'm trying to fuck this Muslim girl, so I joined up for a month!" and "I whited the fuck up that place. he even gave me two hundred thousand dollars to invest."

Maevemealone (#968)

I'd rather turn the tv off than listen to two notes of that damned Seinfeld theme let alone a word of dialogue. Never was a fan.

katiebakes (#32)

Also, since nobody asked, I'd like to submit the episode where he goes to the Incest Survivor's Support Group as one of the bestevs.

I second Katie in this nomination. And agree with Balk's initial call for reassessment and reevaluation of the Seinfeld Problem. I also giggled every time they said "Mocha Joe".

This has been a productive afternoon. Meeting adjourned.

sunnyciegos (#551)

I particularly enjoyed the episode where Larry picks up a hooker so he can ride in the HOV lane. I laffed and laffed.

I also believe this episode deserves to claim the mantle of BEST

Baroness (#273)

"..and then my other uncle came in.. they seemed jocular, almost competitive about it as they took turns with me.."

Bad paraphrase, but my God. Bonus for LN's deadpan delivery.

Post a Comment