|Curb Your Enthusiasm: Season Four (2004)
Starring: Larry David, Cheryl Hines, Jeff Garlin, Susie Essman, Richard Lewis
For fans of smart comedy television, there was a dearth of quality material after “Seinfeld” went off the air seven years ago. But Larry David, the man partly responsible for that last great sitcom, has an underrated show, “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” that is, at press time, entering its fifth season on HBO. The show is shot in one-camera format (sans a proper set or studio audience) and follows David, who plays himself, as he lives his day-to-day life. The core cast – Cheryl Hines as his wife, Jeff Garlin as his manager (Jeff) and Susie Essman as Jeff’s wife – is small, but the regular guest stars make each episode unique and memorable.
The fourth season has just been released on DVD and the season-long storyline revolves around Larry’s starring role in the Broadway play, “The Producers.” At the same time, Cheryl and his 10th wedding anniversary is approaching and, as a present, she gives him permission to sleep with another woman one time before their anniversary. Ben Stiller and David Schwimmer appear in several episodes as themselves, each playing opposite Larry’s character in “The Producers.” Mel Brooks, Richard Lewis, Ted Danson and Bob Einstein, (a.k.a. Super Dave Osborne) also make guest appearances throughout the season.
While it is impossible for “Curb” to recapture the freshness of its debut season, the show is still going strong and each episode contains several water-cooler moments. For example, during the season’s third episode (“The Blind Date”), Cheryl’s 14-year-old cousin Stuart (played brilliantly by Anton Yelchin) shows Larry and Cheryl a card trick. The trick is impressive and Larry asks how it’s done:
Stuart: Magicians don’t tell people how they do their tricks.
Larry: Yeah, well, you’re not really a magician.
Stuart: Oh yeah I am.
Larry: Because you do one trick, that makes you a magician?
Stuart: Did I trick you?
Larry: Were you a magician before you knew how to do that trick?
Stuart: Not really.
Larry: Well, who taught you how to do the trick?
Stuart: A magician.
Larry: Okay, so you weren’t a magician. A magician taught you how to do the trick, right?
Larry: Okay, so I’m not a magician. Now you’re a magician, so you teach me how to do it.
Stuart: I can’t just cause you said ‘I am a magician.’ I can’t teach you.
Larry: You didn’t know that trick before the magician taught it to you, right?
Larry: So why did the magician tell you?
Stuart: He can tell that I’m a magician.
Larry: Well, you can tell that I’m a magician.
Stuart: But I’m a magician, just naturally a magician.
Larry: That’s what you’re saying. I’m saying I’m naturally a magician.
Cheryl: But you don’t know any tricks.
Stuart: And you’re just not. See, because I’m a magician, if you were naturally a magician, I’d feel that you were naturally a magician.
Larry: Are you going to tell me this trick?
Cheryl: Magicians don’t reveal their secrets.
Larry: Fine. I gotta go.
Cheryl: You guys are a lot alike.
Stuart: Yeah, except he’s not a magician.
There is something both absurd and hilarious about the idea of a grown man arguing with a teenager about the magician’s code of secrecy – and so goes Larry’s life. While his curmudgeonly attitude and inability to keep his mouth shut make for several cringe-inducing situations, he’s generally logical and on the money in his examination of life’s little mysteries. Over the course of the season, Larry stabs Ben Stiller in the eye, gets his penis bit by a dog, argues with David Schwimmer about the number of cashews that Schwimmer’s dad puts in his mixed nuts, gets kicked out of his country club, accidentally numbs his wife’s vagina (which is subsequently cured by a Native American shaman), and hires a prostitute so he can use the car pool lane to get to the Dodger game on time – and these are just the subplots.
The only problem with this DVD collection is the complete absence of any special features. Then again, the previous seasons of “CYE” released on DVD have had few or no extras, so this absence doesn’t come as a complete shock. Fans of the show are salivating for a behind-the-scenes featurette, deleted footage and an outtakes reel, especially considering the stories we hear about entire takes being ruined because one or more of the actors completely cracked up with laughter. Luckily, the show stands enough on its own to merit the purchase, but the DVDs would be more attractive if HBO were to include some worthwhile extras.