Sunday, December 5, 2010

Countdown: The 10 Greatest TV Seasons of All Time - #8

8. Curb Your Enthusiasm - Season 2 - Larry David's influence was felt so heavily during the run of Seinfeld that it often seemed as if he were the fifth cast member.  He co-created the great sitcom, wrote many of the best episodes, voiced the beloved "character" of George Steinbrenner, and provided the basis for the character of George Costanza.  Thus, when the world was deprived of Seinfeld in 1998, it made perfect sense that Larry David would be the one to star in (and write) a show that continued the legacy of "nothing" -- even though he never really acted in anything before.  Striving for a more realistic and brutal sense of humor, David took Curb Your Enthusiasm to HBO, which allowed him to push the boundaries that he could never touch on his previous show.  Curb is amazingly still on the air now 11 years after the initial hour-long mockumentary functioned as a back-door pilot, and it has solidified its status as one of the funniest shows of all time.  There are seasons of Curb that have more of an overall story arc, but season 2 stands out as the best because it contains ten episodes of pure comedic brilliance.

Key Episodes:

Trick or Treat - Like Seinfeld, Curb episodes are dense.  They pack more plot threads into a half-hour than some shows cover in an hour.  In "Trick or Treat," Larry antagonizes his wife Cheryl's new friend because of a dispute over who invented the Cobb salad, he offends a Jewish man on the street by whistling Wagner, his house is toilet-papered because he refuses to give candy to over-age trick-or-treaters, and he tries to plan a golfing trip on Cheryl's birthday.  Curb's stories always end up with someone being angry at Larry or Larry being horribly embarrassed, and usually both.  Plenty of people get hilariously mad at him in this episode, but "Trick or Treat" is great because it gives Larry a rare happy ending.  Having gotten back in Cheryl's good graces by waking her up with a rented orchestra, he takes the band over to the house of the Wagner-hater (who happens to be the father of one of the toilet-paperers) for another impromptu performance.  Only Curb could make us cheer when someone gleefully conducts a Wagner piece to torment a Jewish man.

The Doll -This is possibly the most cringe-worthy episode of the world's most cringe-worthy show.  Larry tries to do something nice.  At a dinner party, a girl asks him to give her doll a haircut and he obliges.  One misunderstanding follows another and by the end of the half-hour, he is attempting to flee a group of angry people who think he is a pedophile by climbing out of a women's room window. Larry David is not really a likable person, but the reason that he garners our sympathies is that everyone in his life overreacts or assumes the worst about him, and we can't help but feel bad for him.  He doesn't believe in a lot of social conventions that are, in truth, pretty silly, so he acts out our fantasies of what would happen if someone ignored or didn't understand these conventions.  Well, it turns out that it would be a nightmare.  A hysterically funny nightmare.

The Baptism - Larry David plays himself on Curb, of course, but one of the pleasures of the show is watching other celebrities playing versions of themselves.  The fictional Larry David spends time with the likes of Ted Danson, Wanda Sykes, and the great Richard Lewis, all of whom are excellent.  "The Baptism" begins with a classic exchange between Larry and the morose, neurotic Richard Lewis, who play beautifully off each other, and then Larry and Cheryl embark on a disastrous trip up the coast to the titular baptism that culminates in a religious feud.  Naturally, everything that goes wrong is at least partially Larry's fault.  This is another episode that is can be tough to watch at times thanks to the bad fortune that befalls him, but the David's comic timing is so good that the you will be laughing so hard you will hardly notice that you are also wincing.

The List So Far:

10. Twin Peaks - Season 1
9. Northern Exposure - Season 4
8. Curb Your Enthusiasm - Season 2

1 comment:

  1. I think Gervais and David crystallize the beauty of the show (starting at 6:20)-