Vivica A. Fox, J.B. Smoove
The Complete Sixth Season
- Buy the DVD
All photos © HBO
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
f there was ever any reason to start worrying about the quality of “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” it was shortly after the third episode of season six. After nearly two years off the air, the new season was already shaping up to be a disappointment. It just didn’t feel the same – Larry David was meaner than usual, and instead of being a social killjoy, he was an all-around dick. Thankfully, David and Co. didn’t let the new Larry stick around for very long, and though many would agree that the season five finale was the perfect end to a near-perfect show (it was even called “The End”), it’s hard to deny that watching new episodes of “Curb” didn’t put a smile on my face.
Though the first few episodes of season six present Larry at his absolute worst (i.e. berating “sample abusers” at ice cream stores, stealing flowers from a street-side memorial, etc.), the unusually over-the-top acidity of the character was eventually diluted in favor the Larry we all know and love. Sure, he’s still a major pain in the ass through the remainder of the season – whether it’s disputing the “law of dry cleaners” or implementing a foolproof excuse for missing parties – but like the ones before it, most of the trouble Larry finds himself in isn’t because he’s such a narcissist, but rather because the people around him are complete idiots. Case in point: when Larry overhears someone use the “N” word at the hospital, he tries to tell his friend about the incident, and when a black doctor else overhears him, it sets off a Seinfeldian domino effect.
The concept of Larry being dragged into these types of situations has kept the show running strong for six years, but with the looming possibility of that pattern growing old, it was nice to see David point the series in a different direction with new characters and a major plot development that mirrored the star’s own life. The addition of the Blacks (an African-American family that Cheryl invites to live with them after their home is destroyed by a hurricane) is a blessing in disguise.
At first, the setup doesn’t seem like it’s going to work, but when Cheryl leaves Larry midway through the series (a darkly comic segment that finds him choosing the TiVo repairman over his own wife), it’s The Blacks who become Larry’s support system and, in a strange twist, his family. Vivica A. Fox (as single mother Loretta) and J.B. Smoove (as her fast-talking brother Leon) are the clear standouts of the group, and while the former doesn’t get a whole lot of screen time during most of the season, it’s her appearance in the final episode that makes it all worthwhile.
In the end, the sixth season of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” wasn’t nearly as disappointing as it could have been. With a season finale that could easily serve as the show's last episode, it’ll be interesting to see if HBO can persuade Larry David to return for yet another year. My bet is against that ever happening, but when you’re still churning out quality material (as witnessed in “The Rat Dog”), it’s hard not to imagine the premium channel throwing every last dollar David’s way. It may sound like a bad idea now, but when has Larry David ever made a good one?
Special Features: HBO makes up for some of its more lackluster DVDs with a two-disc set that includes some of the better bonus material to be included on any of their previous releases. The 22-minute “A Conversation with Larry David & Susie Essman” features the writer/actor in his most candid interview yet, while “On the Set” is a decent behind-the-scenes featurette about the new season. Also included (and something I dropped a hint about in my review for season five) is a five-minute gag reel made up of outtakes from the past few seasons.