SONIA BRAND-FISHER: Maybe Larry David should have stayed in LA. Week 7 of “Curb Your Enthusiasm”‘s Season 8 fell dangerously short in comparison to previous episodes of the season. Between the hackneyed plot of Rosie O’Donnell and Larry trying to win the heart of a bisexual woman, Jane, and the thoroughly L.A.-looking people and interior shots trying to pass as authentically New York, I found myself wanting more. The return of Leon certainly warranted a groan from the living room I was watching this episode in, and I get the feeling that it echoed across living rooms everywhere. Stories stopped and started all over this episode, and none of them seemed up to par with the typical Larry David antics that we have come to enjoy and cringe at.
One of the aspects of “Curb”‘s humor that I love is the total social schadenfreude of watching Larry walk into situations that become ticking bombs from the moment he says “Let me ask you something…” This episode, however, seemed to boil those moments down to their most base humor, making them seem not organic, but rotten. There was none of the complexity that cultivates that Larry David humor into its neo-Seinfeldian comic commentary. There was just Leon, out of place and irritating, selling Larry Viagra so that he could win over the bi-sexual for “his team.” There was just a strange sub-plot about a “shit-bow” given by a Japanese man to Larry who didn’t secure the soup container for Larry’s take-out. There was that man who wants to be Larry’s friend whom Larry doesn’t care for. It all just seemed so forced.
I’m wondering if the absence (or scarcity) of Larry’s support system made him seem more vulnerable during this episode back on his home turf of New York. Jeff and Susie are in New York with him, but Jeff was in the outfield of this episode (literally) and Susie wasn’t there at all. Rosie O’Donnell’s reprise on this show is always welcome in my book, but this time her banter with Larry seemed strange, almost like they were acting. For a show that so emphatically makes a point to straddle realism and surrealism, this episode seemed like a cartoon parody of what makes this show great. The forced metaphor of Larry and Rosie on opposite teams of their amateur softball league was worthy of an eye-roll or two. The dueling machismos of Larry and Rosie got progressively boring, unfunny, and strained.
I liked Jane’s apartment a lot. But that’s about it, for me.
To be honest, I’m not asking for “Seinfeld”‘s New York here. I don’t want to see Jeff and Larry interact like George and Jerry. I don’t want Susie to be Elaine. Nor Richard Lewis to be Kramer. This is an entirely different show, with an entirely different schtick. I love the schtick, but it’s a schtick that really seems like it would lend itself well to a New York environment. It’s a neurotic, fidgety, confrontational humor that is so anti-L.A. that it’s a brilliant contrast to that location. Maybe it’s a schtick even a little too New York for New York. Who knows? All I’m saying is that last week it worked, and I’m not giving up hope.
HOWARD MEGDAL: Ultimately, I came down on the complete opposite side from Sonia on this one. As I expressed to her via email, she’s probably right. But I absolutely loved this episode.
I am not a huge Leon fan, but if he didn’t already exist within the roster of Curb, they’d have needed to add him for this episode. Someone needed to persuade Larry to take PEDs, and it wasn’t going to be Jeff or Richard Lewis. I laughed particularly hard when Larry wished for a daughter to pass Leon’s wisdom to, though a simultaneous urge to go lock my daughter’s bedroom door also washed over me.
I enjoyed Rosie’s battle with Larry, though I was also confused by how they ended up on rival softball teams. But seeing Larry break records no one thought would fall- one-upping tickets to the Tony’s!- only to be denied entry into the Hall of Fame was a perfect satire, right down to Larry’s Rafael Palmeiro finger-wagging.
As for the restaurant owner and the LA-based lunch companion, I took that combination as Larry’s way of pointing out that in New York, no one pretends to like you. The conversation with Japanese tourists about the bow itself gave me some of my biggest laughs.
That makes me feel gauche, now, after reading Sonia’s takedown of the episode. When I see her next, I will offer a Bow of Shame, and it will be a full 90 degrees.