Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Curb Your Enthusiasm, "The Bare Midriff": Go with your gut

Thanks to the concurrent Yankee/Giants games Sunday night, I only got finished with "Curb Your Enthusiasm" this morning. Some quick thoughts coming up just as soon as I take a break in the flaunt...

What a bizarre, but ultimately satisfying, episode.

"The Bare Midriff" went to some very weird places, even by "Curb" standards: the 1960s flashback, which ended with blood being sprayed onto the windshield as the woman's husband was beaten to death; Lewis being uninjured by being hit by a car aimed straight at him; Larry being arrested for stealing napkins; and the running gag about how all bald people, regardless of race, look alike to non-baldies. "Curb" usually takes place in a slightly exaggerated version of the real world, but it has to be mostly real for Larry's behavior to be as funny as it is, and there were large swaths of "The Bare Midriff" where it felt like we had traveled to that parallel earth from "Fringe."

At the same time, though, it was such a pleasure to watch Larry and Jerry Seinfeld bounce off of each other, to see how alike they are and how much they enjoy each other's misanthropic company, to see how well they know how to push each other's buttons and can understand each other's hidden motivations(*), etc.

(*) In that respect, I think they should have had Jerry figure out the reason behind the Cheryl thing as quickly as Jeff did a few episodes ago. They could mine a lot of humor out of Jerry being irritated that he got sucked into helping Larry fix his marriage, but realizing it's too late to back out now.

And the bare midriff itself was a wonderful sight gag that kept paying dividends throughout the episode, leading to the great moment at the end where Larry's life was saved by Maureen's love handles(**).

(**) Speaking of which, what kind of casting call must that have been like?

What did everybody else think?

49 comments:

Dan said...

Yeah this was an odd Curb episode for me. A bunch of laughs...but again, I felt like it didn't quite work as well as the first couple episodes of the season.

But once again, it left me wanting more with that final scene. I was laughing out loud.

Anonymous said...

That last scene of Larry hanging onto that flabby midriff had me in tears for a good 10 minutes after I saw it.

I'm not one that actually usually laughs out loud a lot at TV shows, but my god that was one of the funniest things I've seen in quite some time.

It was one of those when after my laughs would subside, I'd picture that scene, and start to lose it all over again.

Also liked Larry and Jerry at the restaurant, much as they used to do in the old days spawning the idea for Seinfeld if I'm not mistaken, riffing on quantity of napkins, the appropriate use of the car honk.

Funny stuff, and even after all of these years of Curb, and Seinfeld, nice to know there are still plenty of little things in daily life that can be picked apart and analyzed in a funny way.

renton said...

Already used the "luxury suite" line for the booth at the restaurant.

You get the sense that the conversations between Jerry/Larry on the show are exactly how they went in real life.

sk180 said...

If anything it was like Larry David has subconciously started writing Curb in more of the heightened reality of Seinfeld episodes. Hanging around the cast again is rubbing off on him. Yet I have to say I loved the chemistry between him and Jerry.There was even more of that sense of the two actors ready to crack up laughing/corpsing for real. Anonymous reaction perfectly sums up what I went through after the finish. It's rare that I cry laughing watching something by myself, so even if parts weren't the usually great self, you can't trade that last experience in for anything.

jasctt said...

This was the weakest of this season (so far). The ONLY LOL moment for me was the 60s flashback with LD saying "are you looking forward to the sex?"

Jobin said...

Larry's banter with Jerry made this episode for me. I can totally see them acting exactly like that in real life. Otherwise, the show was decent. This season's been lackluster, and I had high hopes. At least we get Funkhauser next week.

Anonymous said...

It seems as if Larry wanted to take everything to new levels this season, and the surrealness of this episode is just part of it. Everything seems a degree more WRONG, and it has me wondering how much further he is going to push it.

I'm not 100% convinced it works as well as past seasons, but its certainly not bad. I think the only problem is we've now got only 4 episodes to wrap up the Seinfeld arc. It feels weird because in the past, these season long story arcs seem to have been touched on a bit more than it has thus far. To dismiss the whole Meg Ryan dilemma as easily as they did felt a bit cheap.

Tom said...

Funny stuff. I loved "Seinfeld" but always thought Jerry was the weak link. But like others, I'm loving his easy banter with LD. Love the risks LD is taking this season. Especially the Jesus tear. That's some bold comedy, let me tell you.

christy said...

I wasn't quite sure how to take the oddness and physical impossibility of some of the bits of this episode.

On the other hand, there was something so perfect about the bare midriff thing. They really nailed both the casting and the costuming so that it was believable that she'd be proud of how her body looks, but ridiculous to be showing that much of it, let alone at work where no one could pull off showing that much midriff, but also plausible that Larry would end up unnecessarily implying that she's chubby. It doesn't hurt that that's pretty much exactly what I'd look like if I were wearing a shirt that tiny. A very funny sight gag, as Alan points out.

dez said...

I'm surprised it was only Jesus that was affected by Larry's strong stream. Ye gods, what kind of pill does that!? :-D

The love handles coming in...er, handy at the end was fantastic. I'm giggling inside just thinking about it. Yeah, the whole ep was odd, but like Alan said, very, very satisfying (or is that pret-tay, pret-tay good)?

Ted Kerwin said...

The Larry/Jerry interactions are great, Jerry is the anti-Cheryl, just confirming Larry's world view and supporting his actions. I loved how Jerry tried to come up with examples of men they did not hire and was smiling at the absurdity of foamy mouth guy.

Manton said...

Wonderful little meta moments of watching Jerry and Larry have conversations that would be extrapolated for Seinfeld bits. You could almost picture George and Jerry discussing George's over use of napkins or who would move over for Elaine in a booth.

So we're watching a show about a remake of a show that is also a deconstruction of how that remade show was made. Phew.

And that 60s flashback was downright surreal, and was really helped by the heapin' helping of blood tossed on the windshield. Just brutal.

TimmyD said...

I thought the episode was really odd too. Was it supposed to be Halloween related at all? Larry's Treehouse of Horror?

Eldo Owens said...

A little off-topic but something that's been bugging me after reading some of these comments: Wasn't there any episode of 30 Rock where Liz Lemon had to talk to Cerie about wearing skimpy clothes to the office?

Did that happen or am I only imagining it because I want to see Cerie in skimpy clothing>

Colin Fast said...

Sorry Alan, we're normally in mind-meld on these things, but this episode was far, far from satisfying.

The only decent parts were the Larry-Jerry banter and the bit following the dropped phone call with Lewis.

The spraying was a cheap sight gag. The flashback was totally out of character for the show. There's no way Larry would willingly co-sign for the motorhome. And Larry and Jerry could have easily dealt with the midriff by telling her to dress more professionally. They're socially awkward, not morons.

The bald thing and the final shot of Larry dangling from the flab were funny, but so far-fetched they took you out of the show.

Curb is funniest when it maintains at least some grip with reality. This episode was The Twilght Zone.

Anonymous said...

"And Larry and Jerry could have easily dealt with the midriff by telling her to dress more professionally. They're socially awkward, not morons."

I agree. The whole time I was thinking, "Why are they afraid to address the issue? It's common in most companies to have limits about what can not be worn". In my opinion, the show works best when the awkward social conventions that they deal with are believable. Maybe in the L.A. TV industry, anything goes with office attire, and I just can't relate.

Anonymous said...

The final scene instantly brought to mind Hitchcock's "Vertigo" with Jimmy Stewart hanging from the rooftop by his fingers, much like Larry was clinging to the admin's flabby mid-section. I wondered if there were more Hitchcockian references what with the blood drenching flashback and such, but I am not enough of a Hitchcock scholar to have them spring to mind. The were other echoes of Vertigo, though, with the woman ready to jump to her death, etc.

Pete said...

Alan, I don't think Lewis was uninjured. There was a scene at the end where Jerry and Larry discuss whether visiting Lewis in the hospital while Lewis was asleep "counts" as a visit. I think the implication was that Lewis was in the hospital because Maureen's mom ran him over.

Marc said...

Alan,

I think you're just happy the YANKS won. This season is hideous and there is nothing rooted in reality anymore. No one would go to work dressed like that with lvoe handles and if they were spoken to they would understand. Larry is just a jerk and it's not funny watching someone be an ***hole. I am only still watching for this so called reunion. The episodes this season remind me of the last 2 seasons of Seinfled, except I actually liked them more thna I do Larry.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Alan, I don't think Lewis was uninjured. There was a scene at the end where Jerry and Larry discuss whether visiting Lewis in the hospital while Lewis was asleep "counts" as a visit. I think the implication was that Lewis was in the hospital because Maureen's mom ran him over.

Yes, she ran him over, but at the start of that next scene with Jerry and Larry, Jerry remarks on how amazing it is that Lewis was unhurt, and how tough he must be. And Larry says that Lewis was just staying overnight in the hospital for observation.

magbot said...

I'm so glad you mentioned the casting call for the secretary. From the moment she appeared on screen, all I could think about was how they had sent out the call for that actress.

"Must have pronounced muffin-top and be willing to have adult male hang from it by his hands..." ?

I'll bet that call buzzed around L.A. faster than an Ari Gold quip.

Karen said...

Isn't this supposed to be reality based? Julia Louis-Dreyfus has two sons, why does she have daughters on the show?

Patrick said...

Karen asked:Isn't this supposed to be reality based? Julia Louis-Dreyfus has two sons, why does she have daughters on the show?

In my opinion, it's probably just a matter of Larry David thinking kids aren't that important of a detail for the show. One example of this is the way the character of Sammy evolved. At the beginning of the series, Sammy was a boy baby. (Larry was yelled at for "waking HIM up"). At some point, Larry changed his mind and decided Sammy should be a girl. So in short, I don't think Larry cares about consistency when it comes to children on the show.

Jeff B. said...

Jerry/Larry was gold! But Lewis' line about the "Mormon beautician" was the best.

The flashback was definitely odd but I thought it paid off really well with that Lewis scene.

Patrick said...

To follow up on what my comments about children on the show, it may have been as simple as Larry wanting to set up a joke. When Julia says her "daughter" had a birthday party to go to, the gag only works if she has another daughter. Larry probably figured people wouldn't care about whether Julia actually has two daughters in real life, but I guess some people do care.

Patrick said...

To Jeff B.: I couldn't agree more about that "Mormon beautician" line. Richard Lewis delivered that perfectly.

BC said...

I loved the whiteboard behind Jerry, but didn't get a chance to pause and read before I deleted the episode. Was wondering if anyone else did. I have a vague memory that the old Seinfeld set had some "issues" with what was printed on the menu board. Anyone remember that controversy?

SJ said...

my favourite moment:

the look Jerry gives Larry when the girl tells them both that it happened right after Larry went in the bathroom.

Tim Masterson said...

I agree with SJ. That look Jerry gives Larry was priceless. Who says Seinfeld can't act?

CarolMR said...

Was no one else bothered by Larry David urinating on a painting of Jesus? Was that supposed to be funny? Would he and HBO have had the nerve to have him urinate on a painting or statue of Muhammed in a Muslim home? Of course not because they have no courage. The easiest thing to do in Hollywood is attack Christians/Catholics.

Alan Sepinwall said...

The easiest thing to do in Hollywood is attack Christians/Catholics.

Yes, because Larry was clearly attacking Christians (of any denomination) with that storyline, as opposed to making fun of himself, which is what 99% of Curb plots are about.

This is a spectacularly offensive, tasteless show. Always has been. Always will be. No one is spared. And Larry builds jokes around the sacred cows of the Jews a whole lot more than he does with Christianity.

dez said...

Larry didn't purposefully pee on Jesus. Besides, Jesus wasn't some blondie, so it's not like it's a real picture of him.

And Larry builds jokes around the sacred cows of the Jews a whole lot more than he does with Christianity.

The Wagner joke comes to mind. Still makes me laugh just thinking about it.

JanieJones said...

I thought it was a decent episode building from the Jerry/Larry scenes. However, it did cross my mind regarding the casting call for the secretary.
Also, when I saw the 60's flashback, I thought of Mad Men for some reason, even though it's an inherently and totally different piece of medium through the TV.
I thought the Lewis/David exchange on the cell was particularly funny as it had just occurred to me late in the week. I didn't call back. However, David takes his show into another level of humor and doesn't apologize for it, he must be commended. I laughed.
The show continues to amuse me.

Patrick said...

I think the earlier poster just doesn't get the point of the Jesus picture incident. Obviously, nobody thinks, "hey urinating on Jesus is hilarious". The whole point of the show, as it has been since the beginning, is to have Larry put himself in extremely awkward situations. The fun for the audience is to see how he will get himself out of them. In the course of putting himself in embarrassing situations, he is bound to do things which offend people, which is the whole reason why there is something to be embarrassed about. The poster acts as if Larry deliberately urinated on the picture, and took some sick pleasure in it. Alan put it better than I can. Larry's humor is sharp, and is an equal opportunity offender

Anonymous said...

As far as the Jesus thing goes, it was pretty obvious that Larry's character was horrified at the splashback on Jesus's face. I also think one could see that he thought it was better to just let it go than to try to scrub the urine off the face of Jesus. Ironically, with the whole thing on worshipping idols and offering the other cheek, I think it's what Jesus would have wanted. Honestly, as a Curb fan, the biggest problem I had with this storyline was that the show had already established LD as someone who sits when urinating, rendering the whole issue moot.

Anonymous said...

"Would he and HBO have had the nerve to have him urinate on a painting or statue of Muhammed in a Muslim home?"

Uh--Muslims don't make images of Muhammed. You've obviously missed some events in Denmark in recent years...

Anonymous said...

For me, the funniest CURB ending since they were all swearing in that restaurant on opening night! The flashback sequence was hilarious - the look on the newlywed's face had me in hysterics!

Anonymous said...

Quite the uneven episode. Nothing was remotely entertaining until Larry's Piss Christ moment 18 minutes in.

I think the Seinfeld theme needs a rest. It seemed quite forced in this episode. In my opinion leave out the Seinfeld bits in this episode and you could have one on of the better eps of the year

Quazi

Patrick said...

"Honestly, as a Curb fan, the biggest problem I had with this storyline was that the show had already established LD as someone who sits when urinating, rendering the whole issue moot."

Great point! I don't know how I missed that

Em said...

There's no way Larry would willingly co-sign for the motorhome.

I think Larry was so keen to co-sign because it was an easy way to get the girl to leave (given that Julia had already prevented him from firing her or letting her quit). Larry and Jerry were encouraging her by being overly enthusiastic about the concept of the 'Jesus tour' when realistically they would not have cared in the slightest.
And on the topic of that scene, my favourite part of the whole episode is during that conversation when Jerry says "Trust your gut" and the looks that he and Larry subsequently exchange. Hilarious! I had to rewind that part about five times before I could keep watching.

I really liked this episode a lot - the banter between Larry and Jerry more than made up for any weaknesses in the plot (and in saying that, the parts I was initally dubious about - eg the flashback scene - ended up having a perfect payoff later in the show).

Lol I too was thinking of the casting for that part - not so sure I'd want that role being on my resume!

Danny said...

About Larry's urinating position. He had mentioned that he was taking a vitamin that created that large stream and it has significant splashback. I think that can qualify for not sitting down.

Anonymous said...

Would Larry have accidentally splashed urine on the Koran?

kyle said...

no, because urine on a book isn't funny. urine on a face, though? gold, jerry. gold.

Anonymous said...

Kyle, so then using your logic, it would have been just as funny if Larry David had accidentally splashed a portrait of President Obama?

Anonymous said...

Obama wouldn't be as funny, because it wouldn't qualify as a life changing experience or a miracle to witness a tear on Obama, and quite obviously, none of it would work with a random "famous person." You always hear of some wacko who finds Jesus' likeness in their toast or such, and this was a homage to that. Why are the religious fanatics getting bent out of shape?

Paul B. said...

I can understand that the Jesus scene might be offensive to some members of the general public, but not to anyone who regularly watches this show. Isn't this a typical Curb gag? Wasn't there a scene a few years ago of a Hispanic guy named Jesus who was walking with a wooden fence post on his shoulder that was shaped like a cross? Didn't Larry once burn down a church Nativity scene?

I actually didn't find the Jesus tears thing particularly funny either, but I fully expect this type of joke from Larry David.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know the exact name of the song that Larry & Madeline (Maureen's mother) are listening to in the car in the Flashback scene.

It goes something like "thinking about my baby" - or something similar to that.

Thanks

Anonymous said...

The song is "Don't Say Nothin' Bad (About My Baby)" by The Cookies

Hayley said...

Boy after reading these comments I am really looking forward to seeing this one.