Curb Your Enthusiasm: The Complete Fifth Season Review
"Fuck you, you car wash cunt!" It might just be the greatest as well as the most obscene insult ever to be heard on television. Strangely, though, it is also amongst the most uplifting moments to be seen on the box, in which Larry David, just once hoping to do the right thing, covers for his Tourette's-stricken chef - who's just silenced a restaurant with a, "Shit face cocksucker motherfucking asshole son of a bitch!" - shouts out, "Scumsucking motherfucking whore!" As the restaurant rings out to the sound of Cock! Pigfucker! Douchebag! Rimjob! and Grandma!, Larry David looks like a man who's done good. And who knows it.
Believe everything that you've ever read about Curb Your Enthusiasm for it is, with ease, the greatest comedy of recent years. The particular scene as described above comes from the show's third season but is indicative of the show as a whole. Sometimes filthy, obsessed with the details in sexuality and in human interaction and with a curiosity that verges on the embarrassing, it offers such an outstanding comedic turn for its star that it ought to gently edge Seinfeld off the spot marked out for a show about nothing. And, of course, David was, as is frequently pointed out in Curb Your Enthusiasm, one of the creative talents behind that show but where that show was concerned with the struggle for success, Larry David and his friends have, to all intents and purposes, made it. Rich on the royalties from Seinfeld, Larry David is a retired multi-millionaire, is married to the beautiful Cheryl and can count Ted Danson, Michael York and, more obviously, Jason Alexander and Julia Louis-Dreyfus as friends. He lives in a beautiful home, receives invitations to parties at the Playboy mansion, is cast in a small part in a Martin Scorcese film, play Max Bialystock in a Broadway adaptation of The Producers, drives a sensible Toyota Prius and fritters away his time on a succession of business ventures. But in spite of all of that, Larry David really doesn't do very much. He goes for coffee, meets his wife for lunch and enjoys business meetings with his manager, Jeff Green (Jeff Garlin) and plays rounds of golf on a well-tended green.
Larry David is, as one might expect, perfectly happy but suffers from a fatal character flaw that causes him to potentially ruin all of this by a misjudged comment, an absence of shame, an obliviousness to the embarrassment of others or, something he can't quite help, an unfortunate series of genuine mistakes. How else to explain the misprinting of an obituary of his wife's aunt that now reads, "...beloved cunt", his confusion over how someone who died elsewhere in New York that day could be included in the tragedy at the World Trade Centre on September 11, his desperate attempt to avoid telling his wife about a 'happy ending' he received from a masseuse and the convoluted story of how a throwaway comment about his wife's friend Wanda has him forever portrayed as a man with an ass fetish.
This fifth season follows the template set by the previous four although its form is closer to Seasons 2-4 in that it has an overriding story arc, this time concerned with his friend Richard Lewis needing a kidney transplant. As ever in Curb Your Enthusiasm, Richard Lewis' illness is never resolved as easily as just getting on the transplant list, waiting and eventually receiving a new kidney at least not while Larry David is involved. On the contrary, Larry David conspires to bring his friend to the very edge of life, if not to tip him over into death, despite being a perfect match. Such pressure weighs heavily on Larry David who hovers by the bedside of Lewis' comatose cousin, Louis Lewis, falls out with Jeff, who's also a match, over a game of Eenie-Meanie-Minie-Mo about who ought to donate and in a last-minute conversion to Christianity, realises that it's his Christian duty to do so. Along the way, Larry hires a private detective to find out if he's been adopted, invites a registered sex offender to a Seder, accuses a Korean bookie of eating dog meat and of feeding it to a wedding party, buys a racist dog, falls out with the Los Angelean lesbian community and tries to help a sick kid fulfill his dream of seeing a naked woman before he dies.
However, the highlight of the entire season is when Larry, who is Jewish, poses as an Orthodox Jew to persuade the head of the National Transplant Board, who's also an Orthodox Jew, to bump Richard Lewis up the waiting list. Deliberately driving his Prius into Ben Heineman's car, which sets off his own airbags, and leaving a note on the windscreen, the story descends rapidly into Larry's utter confusion at the ways of Orthodox Judaism. Unable to speak a word of Hebrew, he fakes it with a stream of mumbled nonsense - "uh...ish nah bachla umm..." - and actually goes so far as to deny his marriage to the Christian Cheryl, to invite Heineman and his pious daughter to a mountain chalet for skiing and to have a bury a plate that's been used for non-kosher food, the story ends with Larry and Heineman's daughter on an abandoned ski lift as night falls. As Larry sits munching on a pair of edible panties that were in his pocket, Heineman's daughter protests at the situation, "I can't be here alone with you after sundown...you're gonna have to jump!" "What, are you fucking nuts?" is Larry's not unreasonable response. Add in a subplot about Richard Lewis' private nurse having an unusually large vagina and the theft of a baseball and a mobile phone from his bedroom and you have an episode that's on a par with such earlier classics as Beloved Aunt, The Group, Thor, The Baptism and, yes, The Grand Opening from Season 3.
With more laughs per episode than any other show on television and such a way with the comedy of embarrassment that you'll watch most of it hidden behind your hands, Curb Your Enthusiasm has the dubious appeal of making you ill with laughter whilst you attempt to curl away from the television, shamed by the actions of Larry David. But all in a good way, making it not only the best comedy on television but perhaps the best show currently in production. Lost on a satellite/freeview channel, this ought to be seen on a late-evening slot on one of the national broadcasters where its genius could be truly appreciated but, for now, better that it be on DVD where the unbroken run of ten episodes makes for an unbelievably good couple of nights' viewing.
Curb Your Enthusiasm has never been a particularly good-looking show and Season 5 is no different. Appearing as though it was shot on handheld cameras onto broadcast quality videotape, Curb Your Enthusiasm looks no better than merely ordinary but it may well be that this serves to give the show an anonymous look, all the better not to get in the way of the comedy. The transfer onto DVD is equally functional, not looking bad but by no means anything worthy of note. It is clean and there's precious little noise in the image but that's more a reflection of its recent production than anything concerned with the transfer. Again, the stereo soundtrack simply does the job but it's a decent soundtrack with the all-important dialogue standing out above the ambient sound effects.
There are two behind-the-scenes features on this DVD release, The History of Curb...So Far and The History of Curb...Even Further (29m33s, 24m12s), which, when combined, make for a good hour's worth of history, favourite moments and production notes. With all of the main cast being interviewed interspersed with highlights from award ceremonies and behind-the-scenes shots, these aren't bad but somewhat subdued when compared to the outrageous moments that are selected as being the best in the show.
Rolling Stone are quoted on the back of this release with a, "The best sitcom on TV!" and whilst such hyperbole can often be ignored, they are not, in this case, at all wrong. Curb Your Enthusiasm is the funniest show on television at this moment and with Season 5 being as good as those that have gone before, it clearly shows no sign of letting up. With some incredible moments - both of comedy and of eye-popping shock - this fifth season of Curb Your Enthusiasm is a joy from beginning to end and on this form, long may it continue to be so.
Last updated: 13/06/2018 14:39:16