TV Re­view

Curb Your En­thu­si­asm is a com­edy of bad man­ners.

New Zealand Listener - - CONTENTS - Diana Wich­tel

Who should get to be bride at a les­bian wed­ding? Is a text read­ing, “Sorry about your bird. The good news is I’m still alive”, a suit­able re­sponse to the death of a friend’s pet para­keet? Is a pro­ject called Fatwa! The Mu­si­cal ever a good idea?

These are some of many ill-ad­vised ques­tions packed into the first episode of the new sea­son of Curb Your En­thu­si­asm, back after a six-year hia­tus. The ­spec­tac­u­larly callous and obliv­i­ous ver­sion of him­self Larry David plays in Curb lobs un­wanted ­ob­ser­va­tions like cherry bombs into al­most ev­ery hu­man in­ter­ac­tion. See him send that para­keet text to his pal Richard Lewis. “Isn’t a dead para­keet funny?” says Larry. “You know why I’m ­laugh­ing?” replies Richard. “At the ­sad­ness of your en­tire ex­is­tence.”

See Larry pon­der whether to hold the door open for some­one be­hind him. He lets the door shut. This is not a world where any­one lets any­thing go. “Hey, no ‘after you?’” says the of­fended woman, who turns out to be a les­bian hair­dresser called Betty. “I didn’t re­ally get an ‘after-you’ vibe,” says Larry. “You’re a type. Shorter hair, a tie, a vest … It’s a look.” Most peo­ple would stop dig­ging their way to so­cial Hades and say sorry.

Even six years ago, this wouldn’t have been cut­ting-edge ma­te­rial: old guy con­fused about how to treat women. But this is an age when it can seem as if a gen­der-pol­i­tics al­go­rithm is needed to nav­i­gate who can say what and how we can de­fine our­selves. Larry points out that Betty was still a dis­tance away from the door. “Type plus dis­tance equals no door-hold,” he ex­plains brightly. “You have an equa­tion?” says Betty. She re­tal­i­ates by charg­ing him dou­ble for a hair­cut. He walks un­in­vited into her house to com­plain – “The door was ajar!” – and de­clares that Betty’s pretty part­ner Numa should be the bride at their up­com­ing wed­ding.

Larry is never pre­sented as harm­less. His ­com­pul­sive med­dling breaks up the cou­ple, adding to the im­pres­sive num­ber of peo­ple who, by the end, will seek re­venge. And en­sur­ing some im­mor­tal lines of Curb di­a­logue: “What kind of psychopath in­ter­feres with the nu­ances of a les­bian wed­ding?” and “Stop say­ing ‘ajar’!”

Larry soon has some­thing out­side his air­less, priv­i­leged lit­tle world to worry about. On Jimmy Kim­mel’s show to pub­li­cise his ap­palling mu­si­cal based on the Sal­man Rushdie fatwa, he out­lines the plot with char­ac­ter­is­tic sen­si­tiv­ity – your eyes will wa­ter – and has a fatwa taken out against him. Ev­ery­thing that hap­pens on Planet Larry is pre­pos­ter­ous, yet has a re­morse­less in­ter­nal logic. Rushdie re­port­edly ap­proved.

But the episode is called not Fatwa! but Foisted! It’s the ev­ery­day acts of ve­nal­ity that will catch you out. Larry’s hope­less as­sis­tant, Mara, has a limp, a dread­ful child­hood story and con­sti­pa­tion. Even Larry can’t bring him­self to fire her. Then he hears Mara was foisted onto him by Kim­mel. Foist­ing mis­for­tune onto your friends is a thing, ap­par­ently. Larry glee­fully foists Mara on to Susie, his man­ager’s wife, who ex­ists en­tirely to hurl ex­trav­a­gantly sweary abuse at him.

Hap­pily, ev­ery ab­surd plot line con­verges in a sat­is­fy­ing cat­a­clysm of well-de­served karma. Never mind the fatwa; Susie is after him. Larry never learns. He has the im­pulse con­trol and emo­tional in­tel­li­gence of a three-year-old, which, with any luck, could make this sea­son quite bril­liantly in touch with the zeit­geist in the age of Trump. Curb Your En­thu­si­asm is a com­edy of ­an­ti­so­cial man­ners.

It’s also ul­ti­mately tragic. After the foist­ing, the fatwa and the para­keet text, Richard Lewis has the last laugh, of­fload­ing Larry’s heart­less joke back onto him. He meets up with Larry, who’s fail­ing to avoid at­ten­tion in a vi­o­lently bad wig as he awaits his fate. “You know what the good news is?” Richard tells Larry. “I’m still alive.” Foisted.

Curb Your En­thu­si­asm, Sky SoHo, Thursday, 8.30pm.

This sea­son may be quite bril­liantly in touch with the zeit­geist in the age of Trump.

Larry David, left, and man­ager Jeff: ev­ery­thing on Planet Larry is pre­pos­ter­ous, yet has a re­morse­less in­ter­nal logic.

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