I have always been a fan of improvisational comedy as well as a fan of the show “Seinfeld”. Well, HBO’s comedy series “Curb Your Enthusiasm” combines the two in such a warped fashion that you can't help but watch what bizarre event is about to unfold. Much like any television show, the first season is the bait while the second is the hook. If you are not hooked by the first season, the second will reel you in. “Curb Your Enthusiasm” is no different. I took the bait, and then got hooked; now I’m in for the long haul.
Larry David, the co-creator of “Seinfeld” and writer/director of Sour Grapes is a crazy individual. After his successful ‘show about nothing’ he’s created a ‘show about nothing’, but this time centered it on the entertainment industry’s capital, Los Angeles. It is a fictionalized version of reality. The show originally started out as a mockumentary about Larry David going on the road before doing an HBO special and ultimately canceling the special because after all the work he really just wasn’t into it, though the excuse he gave was his imaginary step-father’s ailment.
The first season was gritty and sort of tried to match the original mockumentary feel while still trying to be it’s own entity. Here in the second season, the style is has changed to the way it would stay up until the recently ended fourth season. Think of it like those first few years of “The Simpsons” where the animation was shaky before they locked on to the final look of the show. Like “Seinfeld” though, trivial little details in everyday life are brought up and argued endlessly over within the context of whatever warped storyline Larry David comes up with.
Larry comes up with the stories and episode ideas, tells the rest of the cast the gist of it and they all just let loose in front of the camera. Everything is made up but the plot is predetermined. It’s a lot like professional wrestling if you think about it.
Season two offered a lot of laughs, a lot of cameos, and a lot of random chaos sewn throughout. (and no you're not missing anything, Season Two starts with Episode 11):
Episode 11 - The Car Salesman: Living out of a hotel (they were fed up with "the wire" at their old home), Larry and Cheryl make a successful bid on a seaside chateau owned by Jason Alexander's new agent, Jay Schneider. Moving in, however, they learn their new dream home has a disturbing "house sound" of unknown origin. Meanwhile, Larry shocks his wife and friends by deciding to take a job as a car salesman, but is foiled by when "high maintenance" friend Richard Lewis shows up at the dealership. And in (yet) another case of art imitating life, Larry and Jason Alexander contemplate making a new TV series about an actor who can't find work because he's typecast as a "jackass" character from a hit series.
Episode 12 - Thor: Jeff leaves his wife Susie, and his concerns about his dirty laundry being aired in court filter down to Larry, who becomes obsessed with showing Cheryl how un-kinky he is. Instead, after one of their neighbors takes his casual greeting the wrong way, Cheryl mistakenly concludes that Larry has an ass fetish. Meanwhile, Larry seeks revenge on pro wrestler Thor Olson, who he's convinced slashed his tire following an argument on the road, and recruits Jeff to redress the wrong in return for Larry's delivering Jeff's clothes to the hotel. Larry decides to meet with Jason Alexander about their new show, but the two end up getting into an argument about where to hold their meetings.
Episode 13 - Trick or Treat: Larry and Cheryl attend the premiere of a movie written by his handicapped friend Cliff Cobb, during which Larry manages to offend a Jewish neighbor, alienate Cliff (as well as the memory of his salad-inventing grandfather), and send out misguided romantic overtures to Cliff's wife Shelly. Later, the Davids experience the "trick" side of Halloween when Larry refuses to give candy to two uncostumed teenagers. Having failed to secure a bracelet for his wife on her birthday, Larry makes amends with the perfect gift on a romantic morning -- until Jeff arrives to pick him up for a round of golf.
Episode 14 - The Shrimp Incident: Larry suspects that HBO exec Allan Wasserman has lifted some shrimp out of his Chinese food following a take-out mix-up. Later, when he and Julia Louis-Dreyfus are pitching their new show to HBO, Larry just can't leave the subject of the shrimp alone. The situation isn't helped when Larry's labeled a misogynist after uttering the "c" word at a poker game. As if that's not enough, Wasserman learns from certain "eyewitnesses" that Larry beats his wife.
Episode 15 - The Thong: Larry decides he can't continue seeing his shrink after seeing him wearing a thong bathing suit on the beach. Fellow patient Richard Lewis agrees, and the two plot ways to end their doctor/patient relationship. Meanwhile, Rob Reiner convinces Larry to participate in a celebrity auction to benefit Groat's Syndrome, but Larry ends up turning off the winning "lunch with Larry" bidder.
Episode 16 - The Acupuncturist: An acupuncturist agrees to waive his $5,000 fee if he can't cure Larry's back. Coincidentally, a down-on-his-luck writer asks Larry for a $5,000 loan, claiming he'll soon pay the loan off since his wealthy father is close to death. Later, at a not-so-surprise birthday party for the writer's wife, Larry manages to convince the father to cut his son out of his will, but the old man dies before the change is made. That doesn't mean Larry will get his $5,000 back, although he is forced to pay off his acupuncturist, even though his back isn't cured.
Episode 17 - The Doll: Having successfully pitched his Julia Louis-Dreyfus project to ABC, Larry agrees to attend a pair of mini-series screenings at the network starting that night. The young daughter of ABC prexy Lane Michaelson is there, and promptly gets Larry to cut the hair off her beloved rare doll, throwing a fit when she learns that the hair won't grow back. To save face, Jeff and Larry steal the head off Jeff's daughter's doll, incurring the wrath of Jeff's estranged wife Susie. As the ordeal plays out, Larry must also contend with an unlockable bathroom and the call of nature.
Episode 18 - Shaq: Larry is villainized for accidentally tripping Shaquille O'Neal at a Lakers game, but the incident ironically ends up bringing him good luck.
Episode 19 - The Baptism: Larry can't believe that the Jewish man who is marrying Cheryl's sister is converting to Christianity. Richard Lewis accuses Larry of stealing the outgoing message of his answering machine, and Larry accuses several passengers of stealing his airline tickets.
Episode 20 - The Massage: Cheryl's psychic busts Larry for a naughty massage, and a restaurant owner busts Larry for stealing forks.
*All synopses taken from HBO.com
Like I said - random chaos. I had to quote HBO.com for those summaries because to explain them myself is really freaking hard. On paper the show is a mess - complete and total anarchy. But the show's genius is in the execution. No matter how bizarre these scenarios are, no matter how ludicrous, it works on screen. The comedic timing between the actors is spot on, even with new guest cast members making cameos. You can’t help but laugh when you see Shaquille O’Neal arguing over somebody cheating on a board game in that Larry David/Seinfeld-esc way.
As a season, “Curb Your Enthusiasm: The Complete Second Season” is the third best season out of the current four, only because the show gets better with every season. In my book, HBO puts all the other shows on every other network to shame. On HBO the laughs are harder and the drama is more compelling. “Curb Your Enthusiasm” is without a doubt the funniest show on TV today. The only real shame is that its seasons are half as long as the networks shows get.
Unlike the first season’s DVD release, “The Complete Second Season” has absolutely no extras. Not one. Not a single commentary, not a single featurette, not one special feature. This is just a crying shame. I can’t get enough of this show and I’m totally eager to know some behind the scenes stuff and any possible stories cast or crew may have in regards to making it. Since it’s improv, where are the outtakes or alternate takes? Nowhere.
Shame on HBO for jipping people into buying this set. Let’s hope they come to their senses with “The Complete Third Season”!