The world has changed a lot since the last time we saw the “fictionalized” version of Larry David on HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”
Season eight of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” ran in summer of 2011, and season nine premiered Sunday night – six long years later.
The world has changed, and so has television. Really, the only thing that’s stayed the same is the popularity of the Kardashians.
Larry David’s HBO series is one of the greatest comedies ever made for television. Larry’s narcissism and entire personality naturally contain some of the worst, most memorable qualities of every character on “Seinfeld.” He has some Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer in him. Even some Newman. Larry David has no limits, and neither does “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”
In season eight, in one of the best episodes of the show (“Palestinian Chicken”), Larry eats at a chicken restaurant run by a Palestinian woman. He has sex with her, and during the act she shouts anti-Semitic things at him. But Larry’s mindset is that he wants to eat great chicken, he wants to sleep with a beautiful woman, and his people are the ones who invaded their country, anyway. This scenario, like so many episodes of “Curb,” sparks the conversation of whether or not Larry is in the right. In most cases, he is not right. And when he is right, his problem solving skills are insensitive and obnoxious.
The problem with the season nine premiere, “Foisted!,” is that Larry is so clearly in the wrong every step of the way. And unlike the best episodes of “Curb,” everything that happens to Larry doesn’t feel organic. Events, characters, and scenes feel forced in a way that don’t feel true to “Curb,” starting with the opening scene where Larry doesn’t open the door for a woman who turns out to be Jeff’s lesbian barber. By the end of the episode, Larry ruins that woman’s relationship and upcoming wedding with his unsolicited input on who should be the “bride” and who should be the “groom.”
Larry randomly attends an event his ex-wife Cheryl is hosting, that isn’t mentioned at all earlier in the episode. His frenemy Ted Danson is there. His friend Richard Lewis is also there. These appearances feel tacked on, like they’re only there for the sake of reminding us that these people were on this show once and they are on it again. Their appearances fall flat, don’t advance the episode’s central plot, and don’t add any memorable comedic moments.
“Foisted!” is still funny, and far better than other things on TV right now, especially this fall. But there’s a certain distance from the show’s original spirit. I was counting on the return to make me feel nostalgic, but it just feels stale and desperate, especially in its ending. It’s funny that Larry David got himself a death sentence, but for this show, this plot feels too thought-out.
“Curb” didn’t have to put so much thought into its new season to adjust to life in 2017.
“Curb” is about Larry’s experiences, and the changes since the last time we’ve seen him would organically come into his daily life, just by Larry living it. By including plot lines and characters that make the audience aware of cultural change since it was last on the air, the show feels dated even though it’s obviously trying hard not to be.