This Curb Your Enthusiasm Review contains spoilers.
Curb Your Enthusiasm Season 9 Episode 1
I don’t know if there was a betting line in Vegas as to what would be the first thing that annoyed Larry David in the long-awaited Curb Your Enthusiasm season 9 premiere but there definitely should have been. The creative gamblers among us certainly could have guessed right on “those annoying dispenser mechanisms on soap and shampoo bottles that won’t work until you twist them exactly the right way.”
God bless Larry David and Curb Your Enthusiasm for getting the obvious out of the way early: Larry is still Larry. For as much as television can be a static medium, most shows like to at least pretend that their characters are capable of change. Even a show about patently awful people like It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia has let its characters evolve here and there – mostly in new, awful ways but even sometimes sympathetically. Curb Your Enthusiasm is not that show and Larry David is not that character (or even person, maybe?).
A lot changed on television in the time between Curb Your Enthusiasm season 8 back in 2011 and the debut of season 9 last night. The little streaming service that could went full Empire, Marvel came to broadcast TV, and most importantly: comedies became dramas. That’s overstating it a bit of course but the half-hour slot on television suddenly became a vehicle for strange, wonderful, experimental fare. Shows like Louie and Atlanta are comedies in name but also auteur-led weekly short films. Rick and Morty is a science fiction exploration of why everything in the known universe simultaneously does and does not matter. BoJack Horseman is a show about a talking horse with existential dread.
The bar for half-hour comedies has been raised, seemingly exponentially within the past six years. Can Curb Your Enthusiasm survive in this brave new world?
Of course it can. It’s funny.
“Foisted!” finds Larry and Leon returned from Europe and back to their daily routines in Los Angeles. Which for Larry means showering seemingly constantly while Leon “lamps around” Larry’s poolhouse. Larry has finished a script for a musical* called Fatwah, based on the fatwah the Ayatollah placed on Salman Rushdie, and is shopping it around Hollywood. This, of course, means the return of Larry’s manager, Jeff Greene (Jeff Garlin) and more importantly Jeff’s wife Susie. “Foisted!” gets a lot of mileage purely out of the novelty of assembling these lovably weird characters together again.
*It’s nice to see that Larry has apparently maintained his love of Broadway from season 4 when he starred in The Producers.
One forgets how jarring and ultimately charming Curb’s transparently improvisational style can be. When Larry comes to Jeff’s office and they joke about Fatwah and the haircut Jeff is currently receiving, it’s essentially just David and Garlin catching up in front of the camera. Curb’s gonna Curb.
Actually all of “Foisted!” is a prime example of Curb at its most Curb. The show doesn’t even care to pretend that events of previous seasons even really matter. As far as continuity goes: Larry and Cheryl remain divorced. That’s about it. And that doesn’t even really effect their amount of screentime together. Larry attends Cheryl’s benefit dinner long enough to complain about its “PAM” acronym, hear that Ted Danson and Mary Steenburghen have split*, and has Richard Lewis’ wrath for not respecting the life and death of his parakeet.
*Nobody panic! Ted and Mary are still together.
Despite the long break, most things have remained the same for Larry. Of the big characters from seasons’ past, only Funkhouser is missing. And more importantly the show is remains a series of vignettes about one near-billionaire’s shocking inability to communicate or empathize with other human beings, whether that be getting punched in the shower by your friend’s wife because you “foisted” an incompetent, yet tragically unfireable assistant on her or having the Ayatollah declare a fatwah on you.
David has previously answered the question of why bring back Curb Your Enthusiasm now with “Why not?” but still it’s amusing to think that sometimes he just requires some years off to build up a new list of petty grievances against the world. Based on the events of “Foisted!” these grievances now include but are not limited to:
- Not knowing who to hold the door open for. There is an equation that factors in type and distance. One must ask themselves “is this the type of person who wants the door open for them” and are they too far away to keep the door propped open without feeling awkard?
- Expensive haircuts
- People who can’t deal with constipation
- Having to speak to someone after their parakeet dies
- And of course: fatwahs.
The world remains a tough nut to crack for Larry David. That remains the same and he remains the same. Still, he does seem to be getting a little bit better at explaining exactly what his “philosophies” are, as they were.
“There is a lack of everything,” Larry tells Richard, cheerily referring to the lack of depth or feeling fundamental to his very being.
Later, Larry casually breaks into Jeff’s barber, Betty’s home (“the door was ajar!”) to ask why he was charged double for his haircut, he enters into the middle of a lover’s quarrel. He and Leon have convinced Betty that she should be the groom and not her beautiful bride-to-be, Numa in their upcoming wedding. But Numa really, really wants to be the groom.
“What kind of psychopath interferes with the nuances of a lesbian wedding?” Numa reasonably demands to know of the man who essentially just broke into her home.
“Hey, I saw wrong and tried to right it!” he says.
“Foisted!” isn’t a truly great Curb Your Enthusiasm episode as it lacks the Rube Goldberg-ian plot machinations of the show at its best. For instance, why does Numa only decide later to track Larry down after an actual fatwah has been declared on him? And how does Richard’s bird factor into all of this? Still, it’s moments like Larry’s declaration of purpose that keep this a wonderful and worthwhile show. This is a character study about a man with no character…or way too much. Hell, maybe Curb Your Enthusiasm has plenty in common with those modern Rick and Morty-style dramedies after all.