“Curb Your Enthusiasm,” produced by HBO, is about as original and scandalous as an American television series can get. I would say that Larry David (the creator and lead actor of the series, also co-creator of “Seinfeld”) has invented with this show a hybrid: half reality show, half sharp social critique.
Curb Your Enthusiasm officially ending with season 12
One of its strengths is the sense of a reality show created through intentionally subpar acting standards, deviating from Hollywood clichés. This is because the dialogue is largely improvised, and the lines are not smooth, avoiding the typical flow of a current film or series, with all sorts of strange pauses.
The second strength of the series is Larry David himself and his stubbornness to play in any situation differently than expected. His role as a charisma-less, totally inadequate, with a raspy voice, “uncool,” “geeky,” unattractive guy who challenges every notion of “political correctness” and “social graces” is not only unbearable on screen but transcends to irritate you with the genuinely unpleasant sounds he makes and his utterly crazy facial expressions. However, you watch him like a “freak show”; he is so exotic and brave in his insistence on being irreverent in every expectation that you follow his eccentricities with a new pleasure from episode to episode.
“Curb Your Enthusiasm” follows the Seinfeld format, with the same kind of jokes and funny situations but more abrasive and unpolished. The script is based on a fictional version of Larry David, a Jewish producer and writer with very rusty social skills, a man over 60 with the behavior of a rebellious teenager, who refuses and, at the same time, wants to be a socially accepted version, causing incidents and animosities wherever he goes. Fortunately for us, his peculiar curiosities and impulses are stronger than the desire for “normal” behavior. Larry is a neurotic, frail, physically unattractive guy without any sense of style, who wears white socks and sneakers every day and causes a reaction of astonishment in both the audience and the actors who are his partners at every step.
Each episode is based on a story written by Larry David, but the dialogue is often improvised during filming, and actors get the idea of each scene just before shooting to be spontaneous. Although it is fiction, it creates the sensation that you are watching a reality show, not just played differently but also filmed in a shaky and seemingly unprepared studio style. The show is a reality show because, at times, it is a film within a film, but mainly because many actors play themselves.
The third reason to give the series a try is that you see them (apparently in their real lives, in a social network built among old friends from Hollywood or new acquaintances) playing, most of the time, themselves—actors from Seinfeld (Jerry Seinfeld, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jason Alexander, etc.), Ted Danson (Cheers, Bored To Death), Richard Lewis (Leaving Las Vegas), Martin Scorsese, Mel Brooks, Ben Stiller, Anne Bancroft (in her last role in a film before her disappearance), Elizabeth Shue (Leaving Las Vegas), Meg Ryan, Dustin Hoffman, Sacha Baron Cohen, Steve Coogan, David Schwimmer, etc.
The characters do not develop over the eight series, and the action does not evolve too much either. Practically, each episode has its distinct story, where the narrative threads meet at the end of the episode. A series can revolve around a subject like opening a restaurant, working on a new series created by Larry David, casting him on Broadway in “The Producers” musical, Larry being adopted or not, donating his kidney or not to a good friend, breaking up or not with his wife, organizing or not a reunion of Seinfeld actors, etc.
After the first three series, some jokes start to repeat, and the unpolished aspect begins to visibly fade. But what can truly distance you from the series is the incredible kitsch in the clothes, houses, makeup of the characters, aggressive hysterical outbursts, and vulgar voices of many of the actors. Beyond any irony, I believe that “Curb Your Enthusiasm” portrays American society quite well.
Starting in 2000, 11 series were filmed, each with 10 episodes of about 30 minutes each, but with breaks in certain years. The new season, which will also conclude this series, will begin airing on HBO and HBO Max on February 4.
“Curb Your Enthusiasm” could be fairly represented by a joke from the seventh series: “Why do we call a blow job a job? Is it that hard? It’s a lot of work!”
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