7.4 The Hot Towel
In every series of Curb of late there is the odd episode that misses the mark, not because of the jokes but because of the paper-thin plot. The Hot Towel is the first of this series to succumb to this problem.
It fell down in several places for me because of far too many ideas and subplots being shoehorned into the one episode. Had these jokes been scattered throughout the series, they would have worked just as well, if not better, as they didn’t tie in with one another nor make much sense within Larry’s world. As I’ve picked up on before in this series, Curb seems to be taking its flights of fancy a little too far at times of late and The Hot Towel saw some of the least plausible plotting I’ve seen Larry encounter in a long time.
Take the hot towel of the episode, which referred to Larry’s hand injury suffered while on a plane journey. As funny as his observation about people wearing shorts on airplanes was, the hot towel scalding his hand just seemed like a poor set-up so that Larry could have several encounters with his doctor (played by the brilliant Philip Baker Hall). This, in itself, was a rather ponderous running story throughout the episode in which Larry kept on disturbing the good doctor’s personal peace. This whole aspect of the show felt forced but then, in truth, so did much of the other scenarios in the episode.
Christian Slater’s appearance was proof of that, starring as a caviar-obsessed friend of a former girlfriend of Larry, chastised at Ted Danson’s party by Larry for hogging all the caviar. Quite a funny joke in itself, but Slater took no more part in the episode until the very end when he was brought back to get his comeuppance. Again the set-up and pay-off felt forced and contrived and, as this is typically Curb‘s strong point, his involvement in the show simply jarred for me.
Better was Larry’s date with said former girlfriend played by E.R‘s Sherry Stringfield. We all know the unromantic, slightly awkward Larry David when it comes to women, but this encounter gave an insight into how he might have been with the ladies before Cheryl came along. The show has been missing Cheryl for a while now and presenting Larry with an alternative romantic liaison following his break-up with Loretta presented familiar territory. Larry’s reaction to being offered some homemade dessert was hilarious and led to his now well-worn face of disgust. Good old Larry, honest to a fault.
The episode’s high point, however, was the ‘gift from the heart’ Jeff and Susie gave to Ted and Mary at the party. Their daughter, Sammy, has had many a run-in with Larry in the past so they have history (he accidentally got her drunk on wine once as well as mutilating her favourite doll) and when he stopped her from singing in front of everyone this was Curb gold. It also then led to another fine follow-on joke in the show when, to save face, Larry had to ask a waiter at an opera-singing restaurant to be quiet in front of all the diners. This is the kind of set-up and pay-off the show needed more of. Not contrived, not forced, just funny.
After a strong opening three episodes this was the seventh series’ first dip and here’s hoping things get back on track next week when Larry’s dating escapades continue.
Read our prior Curb review here.