Monday, November 16, 2009

Curb Your Enthusiasm, "The Table Read": The Duberstein doppleganger

Some thoughts on last night's "Curb Your Enthusiasm" coming up just as soon as I recharge the mitzvah...

There may have been funnier episodes of "Curb" this season ("Vehicular Fellatio" comes to mind), but none have felt as satisfying on so many levels as "The Table Read." It worked as an episode of "Curb." It worked as a quasi-"Seinfeld" reunion, and as a kind of DVD bonus feature about what life on the "Seinfeld" set was like(*). It mixed the two worlds expertly, with Marty Funkhouser making an ass of himself in front of Jerry and Jerry letting him do it, and with Leon finally, inevitably, crossing paths with Michael Richards. And it all left a big smile on my face.

(*) The interaction between Julia, Jerry and Wayne Knight in particular seemed exactly like how I imagine rehearsal on that show went.

I loved seeing Julia and Jason both start to realize that there's something fishy about the casting of Cheryl to play George's wife, and the ongoing smug hatred between Larry and Jason remains a delight. And I love that what little we heard of the reunion script feels like actual "Seinfeld" writing. A character getting mixed up with Bernie Madoff is exactly the sort of thing a 2009 "Seinfeld" episode might feature, the dialogue had all the right rhythms, and there were nice little moments like Jerry being surprised that Elaine knows about the Fortress of Solitude crystals. Plus, we got both Newman and Banya! It's clear that Larry (and probably Jerry) put a lot of time and effort into getting the one scripted part of the show right.

I mean, I don't think I would actually want to see this script produced as a real reunion special, but I'm much less confident about that than I would have been before I watched this episode. Where the script for "Jerry!" (the show-within-the-show from "Seinfeld" season four) was deliberately awful, this felt like it had potential. (Though, of course, the fact that we only got snippets, and not the whole thing, no doubt made the material seem better than it would on its own at full length.)

But taken as an episode of "Curb," it also worked. Funkhouser again overstepped his boundaries, as he so often does. The maitre d' gag tied in nicely with the little girl texting story(**), and that in turn paid off beautifully with an oblivious Larry at the doctor's office.

(***) Given that "NewsRadio" briefly aired alongside "Seinfeld" on NBC's Thursday lineup, it was a little odd to see Vicki Lewis not playing herself. But overall, she's definitely lower on the fame threshold than someone like Elisabeth Shue or John Schneider, and if they could play characters last week, then I guess she can, too.

I was a little disappointed in the references to Michael's infamous racist tirade, but more in that it's something I think I'd built up in my head ever since this season's story was announced, and so nothing could live up to that. And I think that Michael Richards as himself is more introverted and less inherently funny than Jerry or Jason are. But Leon doing his best impersonation of a white Jewish man, telling Kramer all sorts of lies about Groats disease(***), was yet another example of the genius that JB Smoove has brought to the series.

(***) Groats is fictional, and a callback to season two's "The Thong."

I have high hopes for next week's finale, but in a way, I feel like I've already gotten the "Seinfeld" reunion (or a facsimile of it) that I wanted.

What did everybody else think?

55 comments:

sawks said...

Danny Duberstein is good at two things...

bmfc1 said...

Don't forget that Vicki Lewis was George's secretary at Yankee Stadium for two episodes in 1994 (he promised her a raise while they were having sex).

bsangs said...

I'm pretty sure Vicki Lewis played the "unattractive" secretary that George eventually had sex with -- and gave her a raise while doing so. Unless my mind is playing tricks on me.

Loved the episode, especially the rehearsal scenes in Jerry's apartment. I bet they all had a difficult time keeping a straight face while filming these. I disagree about the Richards' subplot though Alan, I thought that paid off handsomely.

bsangs said...

Whoops, bmfc1 beat me too it while I was writing. Sorry!

akaBruno said...

The Danny Duberstein joke about having bar mitzvahs every 13 years to recharge slayed me

Jay Amabile said...

I haven't been disappointed in any of the episodes this season except the golf episode, but that's only because I don't like golf. The writing has been unbeatable thus far.

ej said...

It was a real pleasure to see the simulated table read and to get a sense of life on the "Seinfeld" set. Kind of a nice little bonus for dedicated "Curb" fans.

The scripted table read also clearly contrasted the different worlds of the two sitcoms. It provided a good showcase for the smooth, old-pro comedic skills of the "Seinfeld" regulars, while reinforcing the illusion that with "Curb," we're actually seeing reality.

For example, even beyond the Cheryl airplane incident, Larry seems to be mining his "real" life -- from episodes like "The Car Pool Lane" -- for the reunion script. Much like Woody Allen pretending to have turned "Annie Hall" into a play at the end of that movie.

Tom said...

Funkhauser's joke may be the single biggest laugh in the history of CYE. "Call the police" may be number two on the list.

Interesting to see the episodes from CYE that LD deems Seinfeld-worthy. I guess "The Doll," "The Carpool Lane" and "The Tivo Guy" are his take on CYE's greatest hits.

Vicki Lewis's appearance totally shoots down my guest-star theory from last week. :-(

Don said...

Obama to Send Leon From ‘Curb’ to Kickstart Middle East Peace Talks
http://satiricalpolitical.com/2009/11/16/obama-to-send-leon-from-curb-to-kickstart-middle-east-peace-talks/

Anonymous said...

an outstanding episode, and the only thing missing was Banya's "Gold Jerry, Gold".
Alan, quick question....do you know if Curb is back again next year, or per usual, LD has not decided if he wants to do another one. Heard something before this season started that between the long hiatus this year, and the fun he had, that he wanted to do at least one and maybe two more years.
Anything you can add to this? Also hope if yes, that it won't take a year and a half.
thanks

Bitsy said...

Awesome banner! I always love seeing a Vulcan pop up unexpectedly on a Monday morning. Can anyone tell me who the girl in the first frame is?

Doug S said...

I'm still wondering why they never explained the way Vicki Lewis talked about her daughter's...ahem...body. Was this deliberate CYE leaving unexplained something another show would have explained? I kept waiting for a payoff, and maybe that's the point. If so, well played.

Anonymous said...

I love the cameos the pat two weeks.

First Ben Affleck at the pants store last Sunday and now Tim Watley on line as Kramer was having his meltdown with Leon.

christy said...

I think maybe we're overthinking the guest star thing. My current opinion is that they simply have people play themselves when it serves the story/laughs, and have fictional characters other times for the same reasons, and then they cast actors as those fictional characters, and sometimes it's an actor that's more or less famous than others.

But I have to admit, as soon as I saw Vicki Lewis, my first thought was "she was on Seinfeld." Maybe that was an intentional distraction. Or maybe it's just that there aren't that many female comedy actors that were working in the 1990s and didn't appear on Seinfeld.

Of course, all meta thoughts left my mind when she said "she has a rash on her pussy" referring to a little girl! My face was something like Jerry's when he heard Larry say it. Ha! It's like they knew they were going to catch flack for the whole pissing on Jesus thing and were like "OK, you thought that went far? We're just getting started."

Nate said...

Hysterical Episode! I'm already waiting for the season DVD to come out and there is still one episode left!

But one mild complaint... Bob Einstein is hysterical as Funkhouser, but telling that joke was totally out of character for him, but EXACTLY what Super Dave Osborne would have done!

dez said...

I mean, I don't think I would actually want to see this script produced as a real reunion special, but I'm much less confident about that than I would have been before I watched this episode.

Much less or much more?

@DougS, I kept waiting for Larry to explain to anyone that her mom referred to the rash that way, but he never did. The payoff to the storyline was better for it, I think.

Once Leon didn't recognize any of the Seinfeld cast, I knew I wasn't going to get the confrontation between him and Richards I was expecting, but what they did give the audience was pretty, pret-tay good.

"Call the police."

dez said...

@Bitsy, I think that's Sarah Jessica Parker from her "Square Pegs" days.

LA said...

Now that's entertainment!

The table read was terrific fun. And I thought Leon ultimately stole the show, along with Funkhauser's joke.

This episode was inspired, start to finish.

@bitsy - Those are the Sex and the City girls, a very young Carrie Bradshaw leading the pack.

Anonymous said...

Gold Larry, Gold

Anonymous said...

Does Larry wind up in jail ala the original Seinfeld finale?

ted said...

i actually thought it was one of the funniest episodes ever in all the seasons of Curb. I loved the intermingling of the Seinfeld reunion w/ the regular episode. the stuff about the little girl's illness culminating with the doctor's visit was hilarious. I actually thought the michael richards stuff worked quite well with the camera phones plus the Leon dressed as a muslim was great sight gag. jerry's expression with funkhouser was classic. and we even had newman! brilliant

srpad said...

OMG! I *so* want to see a real Seinfeld reunion now. The snippets we heard worked perfectly and I did not realize how much I missed the show until I watched this.

I also thought the scene with Jerry, Julia and Wayne felt just like what we saw on the behind the scene extras on the DVDs.

I thought the mother's....let's say casualness was much funnier unexplained than explained.

The non seinfeld epsiodes this season have mostly been weak but this more than makes up for it.

Anonymous said...

fantastic episode. One of the best curb's ever. The weaving of the seinfeld plot into the usual ld curb stuff was great and it was also great to see the curb stuff weaved into seinfeld. This is Monina, I take her to the ballgame so I can use the carpool lane.

christy said...

Anonymous said...
"Does Larry wind up in jail ala the original Seinfeld finale?"

I wondered about that too. They seem to be setting it up so that Jerry and others have evidence that something's up with Larry and the girl. Made me think of all the people filing in to testify in the Seinfeld finale. And it would make sense that they'd find some way to lampoon the finale and/or the people that hated it.

Anonymous said...

I think I'm just a LD/Curb ho cause I thought the episode rocked! Everything from the Seinfeld table read to MR/Leon interactions were gold! Soo thrilled with the Seinfeld cast interacting with the Curb cast, I am going to be so disappointed when it's all over.:(

Loved that Jerry donated his little guys to Elaine. Ha!

Anonymous said...

Does anyone else suspect that the Cheryl isn't a real actress theme is a Larry David dig at Laurie David? Did she fancy herself an actress?

Michael said...

Jerry and Larry just need to permanently be on a TV show with each other. The chemistry is perfect. Jerry not minding that Funk was there was clearly him intentionally pushing LD's button's and then his reaction to everything Marty said. That whole scene absolutely slayed me.

Tom said...

Great banner theme, Alan! They didn't always sip Cosmos and wear Jimmy Choos, did they?

This episode was so much fun. Alan, I completely agree re: rehearsal interaction between JS, JLD and Wayne Knight. That must be it.

The part that killed me dead was the pen-as-eyes riffing between LD and Jason Alexander.

Anonymous said...

You can really tell the difference in acting ability between LD (none - just great feel for situations) and Jason Alexander (perfect timing and delivery in every scene). Both get it done, just in different ways.

Waltsense.com said...

I agree, it was the final episode revenge. IT killed all around last ...freaking awesome.
Kramer gets a little face back as well.

Hyde said...

I was surprised by how much I liked the Seinfeld stuff, since it sounded like such a desperate idea when I first heard about it. The only thing missing was Patrick Warburton.

However, I did think that the episode's climax depended on Larry being an even bigger oblivious boob than usual. He was taken aback when the mom first described her daughter's condition, so why would he casually use the same language when speaking to the doctor?

I'll miss the show once the season is over. And considering the long gap separating this season from the previous season, and the fact that Larry has now played the Seinfeld card, I suspect this might be the end for CYE, unfortunately.

JustinSlick said...

This had to be one of the most ingeniously crafted episodes of television I've ever seen in my life.

Seinfeld and Curb are both legendary in their own right, and the way Larry and the other creative minds behind this show were able to merge the two so elegantly was downright incredible.

To me, the way they've presented "The Seinfeld Thing" could not have been more well thought out.

The real treat in my opinion, is seeing a simulated view of life on Seinfeld, but set within the outrageous Curb universe.

I'll wait for the finale, but right now this whole thing is feeling like the perfect culmination of Larry David's legacy.

Oh, and I need to add one more thing... Both the Seinfeld and Curb casts are great, but the comedic opportunity when Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld share the screen is limitless. Someone else said it here already... the two just have amazing chemistry.

Adam said...

Brilliant episode.

While the Larry-going-to-jail finale does sound perfect as not only an ending to the season but an ending to the show as well... I'm just not ready for Curb to end. Even if he does go to jail (and honestly, the more I think about it, the more I love that idea), I think the show could go on with him getting out of jail and dealing with how things have changed with the people he knew, etc... maybe. I don't know.

Or hey, maybe a season of Curb Your Enthusiasm that takes place in prison? Anyone else love the prospect of Larry interacting with white supremacists and prison guards? Hmmm...

Toby O'B said...

While searching the IMDb, trying to figure out where the last picture comes from in the SATC theme, I found a listing for a movie called 'Sour Grapes' - written and directed by Larry David. Has anybody here seen it? Is it worth putting in my Netflix queue? (Not even sure yet if it's available....)

Anonymous said...

I meant to leave this comment last week but it works just as well after this episode: The only false note for me is that last week Cheryl gave a better audition than Elisabeth Shue, and this week she was just fine at the table read. Accordingly, last week I didn't buy Jerry's preference for Shue and this week the skepticism about Cheryl being cast seemed misplaced (although, it did come before the table read). Anyway, after George and Elaine expressed their doubt, they didn't go anywhere else with that thread of the story. Although, it seems quite likely that it will be picked up in the season finale.

Anonymous said...

Leon as Brother Mouzone from The Wire was GOLD.

Kirchhoff said...

Toby, "Sour Grapes" was a notorious bomb, almost universally despised when it was released. Roger Ebert gave it zero stars.

I haven't seen it myself, so I can't personally attest to how bad it might be, but it's reputation is pretty awful.

Jeff B. said...

I don't think that was Bryan Cranston (Tim Whatley) on line, I think it was Alec Berg - a writer on Seinfeld and a producer/director on Curb.

Larry vs. Jason is now officially my favourite tv rivalry.

Jeff W. said...

"Everything I ate tasted like peaches!"

Best line of the episode.

Mr. Peel said...

SOUR GRAPES isn't all that good, but it's not particularly terrible either. For anyone interested in tracking Larry David's development moving from SEINFELD to CURB it's definitely worth a look, at least at Netflix prices. There are a few scenes in there, like one involving the great Philip Baker Hall, that truly belong in the pantheon.

Paul B. said...

Toby O'B,

I think that picture of Kristin Davis (Charlotte) is actually from SATC, when she dressed as a man, I think so an artist could paint her?

Paul B. said...

I can't say whether Sour Grapes was good or bad, but it was just the right length.

Anonymous said...

this was probably my favorite of this episode since the introduction of crazy eye killaz to larry david and his recommendation on the usage of curse words. or perhaps the finale with tourrettz...nonetheless i loved this episode

Anonymous said...

Just a heads up: Leon was on an episode of Castle last night as a thief trying to go straight - by getting into locksmith school!

TheBZA said...

One thing I wanted to comment on is the appeal of Curb to old Seinfeld fans, and Larry's use of something so vulgar and off-putting that it would alienate the same audience that HBO desperately wants watching. I have several friends that love Seinfeld but don't give Curb a fair shot. "The Table Read" is the kind of episode I would recommend to someone like say, my parents. However, the liberal use of the word "pussy" is something that's so hysterically uncomfortable about Curb. Anyone else think Larry is intentionally trying to keep those fans uncomfortable our perhaps even outraged?

chalmers said...

Well played, Paul B.

I also loved the little moments between the actors like Julia/Jerry/Wayne Knight at the door and the warm reactions as Bania and George's mother delivered typical lines at the table read.

The reactions felt real, as did Jerry's admonition to Larry that he never lend anything to Jason if he ever intends to touch it again.

"Curb" can't do another Seinfeld reunion arc, but if they come back for another season, I really hope they can work some of the Larry-Jason Alexander tension into it.

Funny that Vicki Lewis played the outwardly prim Ada on "Seinfeld," but her character here dressed and spoke more like Beth from "NewsRadio."

Steve said...

Perhaps the most rewarding half hour of television that I can remember. Aside from the laugh-out-loud brilliance, I loved the fly-on-the-wall treatment to the Seinfeld set.

Perhaps the best part was the fortress of solitude back and forth between Jerry and Elaine. "You know about the crystals?" -- "Of course I know about the crystals." It was so pitch-perfect and the nostalgia emanated from that scene.

Whomever thought of the idea that Larry would end up in jail to lampoon the Seinfeld finale... kudos to them. I hope it happens, but I must say that I absolutely LOVED the Seinfeld finale. I know I'm in the minority, but I thought it was the absolute best possible way to end that show. I think it caught a lot of heat because many people didn't want to see it end.

I can't wait for next week. Dave Einstein, you have been incredible.

SJ said...

Best Curb episode in a LONG time. Leon is just pure genius.

I almost died laughing when Leon shows up and Richards loses it.

Audacia said...

This was just a beautifully performed, written (story wise, of course) and directed episode. Loved everything about it, really, and that is so atypical of TV, especially long-running TV.

Oh, and I agree with the poster who said the Mother's use of 'pussy' was funnier left unexplained..I liked how the humour there crossed over with the punchline to Funkhauser's joke < Curb is always very funny with sudden, shocking profanities (e.g. 'You cunt, what a cunt!' during the poker game, seasons ago)

Isaac, your bartender said...

Only one criticism--where was Frank Costanza!

Kalman said...

I don't even think Larry knew this, but Dooberstein/Leon was right. Some Rabbis do believe in "recharging" a Bar Mitzvah every 13 years.

See the first paragraph here:
http://www.jewishsightseeing.com/louis_rose_historical/honorees/gold_aaron_rabbi/about_rabbi_aaron_gold.htm

Tim Masterson said...

Something about Richards investing with Leon cracked me up. I need to watch it again just to get that line right. "I Dubersteined his ass!" or something.

Tim Masterson said...

Ok, I found it online. "I Danny Dubersteined the f*** out of that man in that room!"

Leon coming out of that meeting was just a great scene.

Tyler said...

The Larry-litte girl storyline was hands down the funniest set of exchanges of the entire season.

Anonymous said...

Anyone know the designer of any of the outfits Vicki Lewis was wearing in this episode?