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'Curb Your Enthusiasm': Trust your gut


"Curb Your Enthusiasm" has always been an absurd, oftentimes off-kilter comedy, but it's usually somewhat grounded in reality, constrained by the same sort of physics and rational thought as our own existence.

Not so this week, which found "Curb" leaving behind absurdity for surrealism. Over the course of 30-odd minutes, Larry David encountered more than his typical social infractions, instead venturing into a world overflowing with flashbacks, splashbacks, murder, an arrest for napkin theft, a bald police lineup, a urine-stained Jesus painting, a suicide attempt, and finally life-saving belly flab.

As Larry himself might say, it was pretty, pretty, pretty odd.

While I could see Larry hanging an episode (both figuratively and literally) off of his assistant Maureen's belly fat or both Larry and Jerry Seinfeld's reluctance to slide across the booth for Richard Lewis, the opening minutes of this week's installment gave no indications as to just how weird and twisted this misadventure would get.

One hint should have been the seriously out-of-nowhere flashback to 1962, where Maureen's mentally ill mother (who happened to also be the nanny to Julia Louis-Dreyfus' children ... don't ask) recounted how her husband, the spitting image of Larry himself, was brutally murdered in front of her after he honked at a driver. Did I mention it was on their wedding day? Putting aside that it was an odd change of pace to see Larry playing someone else, even if it was a vintage version of himself, it seemed so out of place with the naturalistic visual style of the series, which seems almost like a documentary at times.

The firehose-powerful urine stream was also a little too far out there for my liking as well. It was somewhat amusing, if bizarre, when Jerry referred to the gushing sound of Larry urinating by asking if Seabiscuit were in the bathroom with him, but the strangeness went even further when Larry accidentally splashed urine onto a painting of Jesus, leading Maureen and her mother to look upon the incident as a miracle. (They clearly didn't suspect that Jesus' tear was in fact urine. Nor did Larry think to perhaps, you know, use some toilet paper to blot it dry.) And it came back for a third off-putting time when Larry found himself locked out of his building on the studio lot and had to relieve himself on the side of the building, an act stumbled on by Maureen and her mother. Huh?

But that wasn't quite as weird as it got. What was the audience to make of Maureen's mother's efforts to run over Richard Lewis when she thought he was going to kill Larry, as a stranger had her first husband? Or that she would then try to throw herself off of Larry's office building? Or that Larry was actually arrested for taking too many napkins from an Italian restaurant? Just what dimension did we stumble into here?

The overall effect definitely reminded me of the hugely divisive series finale of "Seinfeld," which David claims to love. It took characters we knew, existing in a heightened version of reality, and pushed them into territory that lacked any connection to logic or actuality. 

I normally watch "Curb" with my jaw on the ground, but it's typically because of Larry's inability to keep his mouth shut when dealing with social convention or his ability to get into hot water time and time again. Had this been an episode about Larry dealing with the unwanted sight of an assistant's bare midriff or debating the necessity of an "official callback" after a dropped call or proper restaurant booth etiquette, I would have been on board. But when an episode takes such a turn, my jaw hits the floor for a very different reason. And it will definitely take more than two napkins to clean it up.

What did you think of this week's episode? Did it go too far and cross into some truly bizarre territory? Did it remind you of the "Seinfeld" finale in a good or a bad way? Head to the comments section and debate.

-- Jace Lacob (follow my musings on television, food and more television on Twitter at @televisionary)

Larry David talks about putting 'Seinfeld' back together for 'Curb Your Enthusiasm'
Larry David on the 'Seinfeld' reunion and shaking hands
Complete 'Curb' coverage on Showtracker

Photo: Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld engage in a friendly debate. Credit: Doug Hyun / HBO.

Comments () | Archives (32)

I was extremely offended by the last episode when Larry David urinated on Jesus Christ's picture -- which, worse yet, was hanging above the toilet. It was very offensive.

He does not offend all faiths equally. Urinating on Jesus's face crossed the line. It was not funny at all.

Larry David and HBO should be ashamed of such show.

I thought it was a pretty fantastic episode. Loved the ending which is what I always look forward too. The flashback didn't bother me. The woman had mental problems, so I like how Larry played with that part. It probably didn't even happen, so or could have, but either way you have to admit it's great writing how the baseball bat came in handy for that scene!!
Pretty, pretty good episode.

My question is how Lewis escaped unscathed.

He throws absolute absurdities into many shows. This one just had more than usual. Clearly he likes to work backwards from a premise and sometimes gets way too cute figuring out how to get there.

I don't even question it anymore.

I'm from the UK and I thought this episode was hilarious, it's surprising for me to see that US audiences are so hostile to a little surrealism in their sitcoms, I had previously read musings about this subject on Graham Linehan's blog, and I was a little dubious because I know IT crowd is enjoyed by many Americans but I guess it's true. Perhaps Americans will only accept the madness when it comes packaged in a British accent.
I personally liked the final episode of Seinfeld too.

This season just gets better and better. Last nights episode was one of the best yet. Sure the storyline was unrealistic, but most of the Seinfeld storylines after season 6 were pretty unrealistic e.g. George's fiance licking poisonous envelopes and dying.

I think in comedy it's important to cross the line sometimes and Larry David is the master of that.

It was also great to watch Larry and Jerry going back and forth - they are to comedy what Lennon and McCartney were to music.

The episode was a little over the top. I had the same feeling with the flashback and Larry playing another character. I did find this episode to be hilarious. Jerry and Larry going back and forth brings me back to the old Seinfeld days of Jerry and George.

Curb is my favorite show but I have to admit, it has reached a little far at times this season. I look past this because the humor is still top notch. The end of las night's episode was laugh out loud funny. I do think it may be time for CYE to end, as it has run its course to a degree but it will always be on of my all time favorites.

Also, just a quick note to the first post by Sean:

Hey Sean stop watching the show if you are so offended. I get so sick of all you religious types complaining about things and carrying on and trying to ruin the fun for everybody else.

Don't watch the show, nobody is forcing you to. The show is on Cable and HBO none the less what are you expecting, Little House on the Prairie? I guess all the other topics he pokes fun at such as the disabled, mentally ill, etc. if okay but the minute the precious Jesus is involved people lose their heads!

Cancel your subscription to HBO and get back to studying your book of fiction.

Last night's episode of "Curb" was fantastically absurd and bizarre. As the ending approached, it appeared as if it were going to end on a serious note. When the woman's stomach fat ends up saving Larry's life, I lost all sanity and laughed like a lunatic. Richard Lewis murdered, a man yelling such a vulgar obscenity in Seinfeld's face and Larry explaining to Cheryl how her audition is just a formality sealed the show as my favorite episode of "Curb" to date. Very well done and a nice change of pace.

Last episode was really absurd, and it indeed reminds me of the awful Seinfeld finale. Let's hope LD gets back on track with the reunion itself.

this ep had the marks of director/LD collaborator Larry Charles all over it. He of the Bookman Seinfeld ep, the 2 parter where Kramer was wanted for murder in LA and, I do believe, the darkly shot Goiter episode.

GREAT episode.

If you can't handle a picture of a white American guy getting peed on, I'm sorry. I seriously doubt that Jesus looked even remotely like that, so I'm offended that the painting purported to depict him like that.

I thank Larry and Jerry for understanding that we don't want or need another dose of "reality" tv. Who can resist a great plot weave, especially when it unravels leaving Larry clinging onto someone's gut? I say bravo!

I find the judeo-christian-islamic religions absurd and harmful to the progress of mankind. That said, I guess I'm just another one of those fly-over goys, because I'm getting a little tired of smart-alecky jews making jokes at the expense of non-jews--and christians in particular. Larry Davis is gutless. David denigrates christians rather than muslims (or other jews certainly) because he knows christians, being taught like idiots to love thy neighbor, won't fight back. Though I will admit that ugly jews like Larry David do enjoy screwing female goys. P.S. And know, David doesn't denigrate the jewish religion as nastily and frequently as he does christianity.

It was pretty, pretty, pretty OK. Probably would have been better with the cast of Seinfeld playing the parts. LD didn't play "George" as well as JA did, sorry. It was like watching a premiere of a US remake of a British show - not as good, but given time, could grow into something of its own. I bet they had fun making it though and I doubt LD really cares about much more than that at this point in his career. I was expecting a few seconds of the funky bassline slap and pop and laugh track at the end. I hope the rest of the season returns to something more CYE. If not, its still better than most of the crap out there.

Jumped the shark... unfortunately.

the part of the belly flab saving his life i burst out laughing i thought it was insanely funny! yeah some bits were unrealistic but the whole bare midrif thing was funny cause it is a realistic problem and he handled it akwardly as he usually does.

I don't fall under the usual "religious" type, I usually find Larry David very funny, even when he pokes fun at Arabs, Christmas,foreigners and pharmacists..(I fall under all categories) but the urination part is just tasteless, period!
I doubt he will ever do an equally offending episode about a Torah or a shofar or a menorah, Isreal, etc..
Yes, we are (as Americans) sensitive to certain 'moral' or 'ethical' issues more than europeans. But i do think if the media/HBO/David/Lewis& co. were not jews, the reference to Jesus would be more subdued, it would've caused an uproar in the media if Mel Gibson or george Lopez urinated on a replica of the Wailing wall!!

unfortunately I too watched that episode and I was deeply offended by it. So much that I notified many Christian groups. This is not the first time, Larry David has made fun of Jesus on his show. I know at least two other times, he's done this but this time, he went too far! All you have to do is google "Larry David, Jesus" and all the episodes will pop up. I for one, will never watch Curb Your Enthusiasm again. I am a catholic and have respect for all religions. It saddens me to see how tolerant we are for allowing everyone make fun of our religion this way. It's a shame...I SAY BOYCOTT!

Thank you Thank you Thank you to those of you who acknowledged the distastefulness of this episode! I especially like the comments by Mada Aljundi, Nietzschean and Respect for all Religions.
I've been watching Larry David for years and was extremely offended by this episode. He went too far this time which shows serious desperation for ratings...we as Christians are way too tolerant. This was a slap on the face to the loyal fans such as myself. I will never watch anything to do with Larry David. I am extremely offended and it's true, the Jews would never allow this, why should we! How would he like a tv episode of someone pissing on a painting of his parents? Shame on him and HBO. Is this not Blasphemy??? Enough is enough, BOYCOTT, BOYCOTT, BOYCOTT!!!

WOW! I can't believe the backlash about this episode. All of these Christians, Catholics, etc. that are offended is amazing! You laugh at all the other things that are tasteless on the show yet when your precious Religious figure happens to be poked fun of you jump of the deep end!

I have watched Curb since it's inception and I can't count the times he has ripped of the Jewish faith. He equally offends every race, creed and religion and that is why the show is brilliant. These religious nuts that are screaming protests and boycotts are insane!

I for one am amazed at how tolerant we are as a society in 2009 towards organized Religions. Keep your Religious beliefs at home where they belong and grow up! Live by the Constitution and the First Amendment. You may not always agree with what people say or do but they have the right to it.

Cancel your HBO subscription and quit watching the show, we don't need you. Leave it up to the Religious Nuts to try and ruin everybody's fun when they are angered. You are nothing but a bunch of hypocrites! This world's troubles are because of Religions.

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