- Buy the DVD
All photos © HBO
Reviewed by Ross Ruediger
y their eighth season, most shows – if they even last that long – exhibit major signs of wear, and it’s usually past time to close up shop. By some miracle of TV magic, “Curb Your Enthusiasm” bucks that trend on this go round by delivering one of its most sharply observant and gut-bustingly hilarious seasons to date, and at least one episode in this block vaults instantly to “classic” status. I’m a freak for this show, yet one who’ll admit when it’s stumbling, which in recent years has been known to happen from time to time. Season Eight I swear by; it’s that good.
“I’m yelling for society – for everybody! Not just me!”
Each year of “Curb” revolves around some sort of event which the season culminates in for the finale. Season Four featured Larry starring in “The Producers” on Broadway. Last season was built around the “Seinfeld” reunion. For the show’s eighth season, David plays looser, and there is no big event, although these episodes do revolve somewhat around Larry on the dating scene (he has four or five different girlfriends over the ten episodes), as well as an extended trip to New York in the second half of the block. Neither of these ideas, however, dominates the proceedings, and the season finale, “Larry vs. Michael J. Fox,” is considerably more standalone than “Curb” finales of years gone by. Having said that, there are several jokes that dot the Season Eight landscape that do eventually come back around and into play in the finale, so this material is still best viewed in order, from beginning to end.
“I’m trying to elevate small talk to medium talk.”
The season picks up in the same moment where Season Seven left off, with Larry and Cheryl nearing reconciliation, and Larry subsequently discovering that Cheryl does not respect wood. The title of the episode is “The Divorce,” and it features the only appearance of Cheryl Hines in the season. It’s a little sad to see her go, simply because she’s been a such a big part of the show over the years, yet much of the season’s success is due to her character’s exit, since it frees Larry up to obsess over other issues, and there’s no significant other around to keep him in line. The episode’s funniest scene involves a girl scout having her first period, and Larry helping her to insert a tampon. (Thankfully, he coaches her through a closed bathroom door, otherwise the scene would be – well, I don’t know what it would be, and it’s difficult to imagine it having been done any other way.)
“You're always attracted to someone who doesn't want you, right? Well, here you have somebody who not only doesn't want you…doesn't even acknowledge your right to exist, wants your destruction! That's a turn-on.”
Episode Three, “Palestinian Chicken,” is the aforementioned instant classic. This is one of those “Curb” episodes where every single element that’s brought into play is inspired, and all of those elements come together in the final moments to form a comedy crescendo. Jeff dubs Larry a “social assassin.” The wife of one of Larry’s golfing buddies uses the term “LOL” in conversation rather than laughing out loud. Jeff and Susie’s daughter Sammi (Ashly Holloway) blackmails Larry (to which he replies, “You really are your mother’s daughter”). Marty Funkhouser (Bob Einstein) gets back in touch with his Judaism. Larry gets the hots for a woman who frequents a Palestinian restaurant which makes a chicken Larry and Jeff have taken a liking to. This concoction is right up there with such “Curb” perfection as “Trick or Treat,” “Ben’s Birthday Party,” and “The Christ Nail,” and it must be experienced to be believed.
“Mr. Parkinson would be appalled if he knew what Mr. Fox was doing.”
Halfway through the season, circumstances convolute to the point where Larry is forced to flee Los Angeles for New York, where Jeff and Susie had already planned to go, and so he goes with them. Over the course of the five Big Apple episodes, Larry gets into a battle of social wills with Ricky Gervais, bets Rosie O’Donnell that he can win the affections of a bisexual woman who’s interested in both of them, has a run-in with a mysterious one-armed man, befriends former MLB first baseman Bill Buckner, and all but declares war on Michael J. Fox, who may or may not be using his Parkinson’s as an excuse to get away with antisocial behavior. And I’m just scratching the surface here, as there’s much, much more crammed into this season, including chat and cuts, pig parking, coach seating vs. first class, and an ice cream truck that comes back from Larry’s childhood to haunt him on a date and on the softball field.
“This is chaos. Society can’t function like this.”
Now all raving and drooling aside, there’s one episode entitled “The Smiley Face” that clearly doesn’t work as well as everything else here. It isn’t entirely dreadful, and there are a couple choice bits in it, but it’s the sort of thing the word “meh” was coined to describe. The amazing thing about an episode like that one, though, is that it so clearly helps to illustrate how great everything else on here is by comparison. There’s been no word on when or even if we’ll be getting a Season Nine of “Curb.” The template as of late seems to be every two years, so if that follows, 2013 would be the soonest we’ll get a new batch. If David and his cohorts can come up with something even close to as good as what they unveiled here, that’ll be a season of TV well worth waiting for.
Special Features: On first glance, with only two bonus features, this looks to be as lean on extras as is often the case for “Curb” sets. However, one of those extras is a nearly 90-minute(!) roundtable discussion with Larry, Jeff, Susie and Cheryl, recorded live in front of an audience, and moderated by the Brian Williams. With Jeff Garlin pretty much taking control of the entire situation, for the hardcore fan, this is a great deal of fun. The other extra is a funny, 10-minute “tour” of New York with J.B. Smoove in character as Leon.