Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Garbage On The Curb

An interesting, if extremely wrongheaded, piece on Larry David by Ron Rosenbaum in the New York Observer.

I'm not going to go over the whole thing. For instance, Rosenbaum spends a lot of time explaining why he didn't like Seinfeld. Except for the part about not finding Kramer's entrances funny, I think he's completely off. He takes the show far too personally, when all it was about was trying to be funny. It wasn't about "smugness" or "self-satisfaction"--if anything, the lengths the show would eventually go to make the characters unsympathetic was quite impressive. But none of it would have mattered if the show didn't have brilliant bits about the minutiae of life (the specialty of Seinfeld and David) and enjoyable, if fanciful, plots.

What I couldn't stand about Seinfeld was Jerry's smarminess, which I don't think was a parody of smarminess, but the real 100-proof thing. His painfully insipid 'observational humor.' That Jerry actually thought he was doing breakthrough humor!
So Rosenbaum's not just a critic, he's a mindreader. Moreover, he didn't watch the show very closely, as it not only dropped the observational humor hook, but started to regularly take swipes at Seinfeld as a comedian, with characters even stating his act was tired and obvious.)

But now Rosenbaum is turning on Curb Your Enthusiasm. He liked the first four seasons but is worried Larry David is becoming self-satisfied. (Rosenbaum is sure prickly on this point.) He thought Curb originally was about a socially inept character stuck in embarrassing situations, but feels David is now getting smug and showing off.

Personally, I think Rosenbaum is missing the point. Like many, he seems so bothered by the idea of a rich man gliding through life as the center of a show that he has to make him the bad guy or he can't laugh. Everyone has problems, big and little. And while David generally plays a jerk--not because he telling deep truths, but because he can't leave things alone--he's also generally sympathetic, as circumstances conspire against him.

Rosenbaum's main error is seeing Curb as something different from Seinfeld. Sure, in some ways it has to be, with one main character, played by the dyspeptic David. But for the most part, it's a continuation of what he was doing at NBC: it's mostly about the unspoken rules and regulations of life, and what happens when you break them, with an overarching plot where everything dovetails, even if that means things are a bit ridiculous. The characters on Seinfeld could change on a dime, because the show believed in laughs, not lessons. Same for Curb, but poor Rosenbaum is left searching for the message.

Plus, Rosenbaum wants it both ways. He thinks Larry David falsely believes (there's the mindreader again) he's brave by being so politically incorrect. Then Rosenbaum is offended by how David treats his Latino employees.

I agree so far this season has been relatively weak (time, and repeats, will tell--shows often seem weaker than the memories you have of them), though I thought the second episode with the Muslim detective was pretty good. We'll just have to see how it continues. But if it does fail overall, it's because David is getting tired, not because he's getting smug.

PS. Rosenbaum states the phrase "jump the shark" has jumped the shark. Let me congratulate him on being the millionth customer to make this observation.


Blogger Yost said...

I glanced over that article in the Observer, LAGuy and I thought the article itself was about the most smug thing I'd seen in a long time. Did the writer think he was being clever? Boy, I hope not.

However, and you hint at it at the bottom of your post, I do think the CURB season thus far has been VERY weak. So much so that I still haven't watched last Sunday's episode on TiVo.

1:15 AM, October 20, 2005  

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