Dec 4, 2017

TV Retrospective: "Curb Your Enthusiasm" - Season 9

Curb Your Enthusiasm
Curb Your Enthusiasm is the type of iconic comedy that doesn't need to prove itself, especially given creator and star Larry David's incredible track record. In fact, it's a bit odd then why the show decided to come back after a six year hiatus. Of course, it does help that 2016 was a watershed year for David as a personality, especially as he gained endearment to a younger generation by imitating popular politician Bernie Sanders. But in 2017, what does he have to offer to audiences who are likely more bent on politically correct humor and an attempt to fix the injustices in the world? To say the least, the HBO flagship series did what it did best, and maybe it was too much of a good thing to ever have been another runaway success. 
The idea behind the series is simple. Larry David is a disgruntled man who picks at life's foibles. It's the gist of what the show has done for nine seasons now. What's made the show especially strong is its ability to find a perverse middle ground where the jokes are just as prescient as the moment. While some moments find Larry in the wrong, he is sometimes a messiah to bigger conflicts that go unnoticed. The fact that each episode wraps up these elements in a perfect triptych fashion shows how excellent the writing can often be, even as it finds a profane text to stick it in. It's the genius of the show, and what made the initial Fatwa plot throughout the season seem promising.
Larry David, man of theater, spends the season trying to produce a musical about the Fatwa movement. It's a controversial text, and one that isn't without dissent. The promise of a big production that has Larry in trouble with world leaders is bound to work as an absurd joke. It does, especially as Lin Manuel Miranda cameos over the final two episodes in a great turn against his friendly persona. But in between, the episodes explore Larry's familiar observational humor. Why is the world the way it is? He tackles soldiers with PTSD, waiting in line for seconds, and even how long is appropriate to wait for a late guest before starting a meal. It's ribald as usual, but there's something odd about Curb Your Enthusiasm in 2017. To some capacity, the surge in popularity with his Bernie Sanders imitation makes the show seem a bit more self-aware.
This isn't a totally bad thing. The show still manages to strike some funny moments over the 10 episodes. The only issue is that the preachy moments feel preachier. Larry's foibles sometimes stray into asinine nonsense. How endearing this will be coincides with how annoying the real world is at the moment. Larry is still an endearing figure in comedy, but this season sees his stay wane a little bit. He picks on the disabled and throws awful secretaries onto other people. It all works in the guise of humor, but there's something missing. The inspiration is there, but the moments aren't landing as well. Some of it could be that Larry feels self-satisfied with his character at this point and doesn't go for hard laughs. Even then, the show would adore annoying audiences thinking that Larry has gone soft. He hasn't. He just hasn't maintained his ability to stay interesting.
Curb Your Enthusiasm's recent season still manages to be an entertaining ride through the mind of Larry David. It still is enjoyable and has the impenetrable genius of a triptych structure. The only issue is that the plots aren't as interesting this time around, and the Fatwa main plot gets buried under lackluster episodes. Even then, this show continues to be enjoyable when it needs to be and works as a mainstay comedy. Still, there's concern this time around because of how long Larry David waited to release a new season. Why now? What was so special about this season that made him coming out of retirement seem worthwhile? It's tough to say. Maybe he just wanted to work with Lin Manuel Miranda. Then again, who doesn't? The show's legacy is already set in stone, so thankfully this season being less than isn't that big of an issue, anyways.

Overall Rating: 3 out of 5

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