Monday, November 02, 2009

Curb Your Enthusiasm, "Black Swan": Stone guilty

A bit hung over from last night's World Series game, and I have a full plate today at the office, so no time for a full "Curb Your Enthusiasm" review. I didn't love "Black Swan," but it was a good example of a type of "Curb" episode we haven't had a lot of this year, in that Larry was in the right for most of the episode (other than what happened to the swan, obviously), but circumstances, other people's reactions and Larry's own innate abrasiveness kept making him into the bad guy. Plus, in a nice role reversal, someone else got to use the stink-eye lie detector on Larry - and it was just as (in)effective.

What did everybody else think?


Carl said...

I'd give it a B-. Adam's wife's hat business seemed like a poorly recycled use of Susie's jacket business, and I feel like Adam demanding that Larry pay for his wife's cosmetology tuition was a rehash of something from previous seasons (involving Adam).

I did enjoy the callback to the early season episode in which Larry's dad didn't tell him about his mother's passing because he didn't want to bother him.

Anonymous said...

It was a decent episode, but I'm starting to agree with others who have commented that lots of the things in the season seem contrived and forced. Larry getting so agitated about the stone mason who thought Jeter was overrated? I kinda thought Larry wasn't the sort to engage in small talk when he doesn't need to. And why would the stone mason go to Norm's memorial at the club. The moments at the end where everything ties together seem a little off.

Anonymous said...

I'm the same anonymous at #2 and I've got another nit to pick. The headstone said past instead of passed. Really? I've never seen a headstone that ascribed significance to the two dates- there's one date- the birth, and another, the death. 1925-2006. No explanations required. So, to conclude, I thought the whole stone mason headstone plot was contrived.

Anonymous said...

So much for an original script, the whole black swan death is a rip-off of actual events from a Florida golf club. What happens next week, Larry gets into a dispute with a mother who has 8 kids?

Jeff said...

Personally, I don't care if the plot is contrived as long as the show is funny, and I definitely thought this episode was. Especially Marty Funkhouser.

Try Reisling...Great Wine said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Try Reisling...Great Wine said...

I love how many comedy experts leave posts on these sites.

What a load of BS complaining about supposedly contrived situations, and how Larry is suddenly going out of his way to be an asshole on the show this season. The show is not meant to be 100%'s not even like we're seeing real Larry, as has been stated many times over the years. It's a caricature, which allows them to take the stories in some truly fun directions.

Would someone really confuse a pants bunch-up for a raging erection? Would Larry really sit down and watch a porno in Jeff's bedroom and be unfazed when Jeff's parents walk in on him? Would someone really steal Larry's shoes from a bowling alley, miraculously be at the bowling alley with Larry's shoes when Larry shows up, and then give up the shoes without so much as an argument? Would moneybags Larry truly not have enough money on him to pay a parking lot fee multiple times? Would Larry actually go to an Incest Survivors group meeting...and pretend to be an Incest Survivor?

These are all distinct instances from Season 1 alone! From the start, it has been clear that Larry's neuroses are very much on-point with his true beliefs, but he interweaves them into fun stories that aren't always necessarily realistic.

To say that the show has disrupted its formula and suddenly come up with unrealistic stories is just not accurate on the whole, especially if you look at the evidence from past seasons. The one episode I did not really enjoy as much was "The Bare Midriff" because that was the one story that seemed to resemble Season 8-era Seinfeld. Ironically, Sepinwall (who doesn't have to do his job when the World Series is on, apparently) ranks that episode pretty high on the scale this season. My point is that I have no problem with the show exploring new frontiers if doing so allows Larry David to keep being inspired to create new material.

For some reason, you people want to find ways to criticize the show week after week. My question is: if you think it's become a bastardized second-rate version of itself, why watch?

Anonymous said...

Ironically, Sepinwall (who doesn't have to do his job when the World Series is on, apparently)...
hey reisling.....this blog is not part of Alan's job...he does it for us, his readers. And, may I point out that it is on top of his job with the Ledger, and, currently he does not charge anything for the blog.
Obviously, you must think he is doing a pretty good job, or you wouldn't be on here.
Only thing I didn't really like was the fact that the tipping story line seems to have been done earlier in another season....I think around the holidays or something around a story of gifts for all the club employees, but I can't quite remember.

Try Reisling...Great Wine said...

I actually Google all the news reviews the day after each episode to see peoples' opinions. Sepinwall's opinion is no more valuable to me than another reviewer's. Because of that, I find a cumulative review site (e.g. Metacritic) a lot more valuable when I am gauging my interest in buying a new album or catching a TV series or don't just get the review that's one or two standard deviations above or below the mean.

I'm simply of the mind that if you stick this season's episodes in the middle of the show's run as opposed to them being the most recent, people aren't going to be nearly as critical.

It's human nature to search for the death knell, whether it be for a professional athlete over age 30 or a long-running television show. People are obsessed with discovering signs of slippage with this show to the extent that it's precluding them from just sitting back, saying "you know what, this is still funnier than just about anything on television," and enjoying.

Mike F said...

Stop, you're both right...of course, its always been contrived...of course, its always been funny and still is...we're all fans, I think, who are debating matters of degrees

A show in its 5th/6th season isn't going to seem as original as it did early in its run, because its not. If it delivers the same kinds of jokes, it gets criticized for just dishing out more of the same. If it tries new things, it gets criticized for trying to be something its not or betraying its identity.

Bottom line is that there isn't a better power hitter of a comedy than this on the air right. They swing and miss sometimes, it isn't always elegant, but they hit the most home runs.

As for this one, I thought this episode was pretty terrific. Maybe its because I'm a golfer. I loved all the little moments/beats in this episode even if I didn't particularly care for the biggest moments.

David C said...

This episode had everything I find obnoxious in a Curb Your Enthusiasm episode, above all, that it was mostly focused on rich people's problems. Oh, Larry doesn't like to calculate the tip? Just give the guy forty bucks and call it a day, man who still gets insane checks from Seinfeld. Poor you. Your country club doesn't allow cell phones? I DO find that ever-so-annoying myself. And how about those mongols who take forever playing a single game of Golf? What's next, someone taking more than their allotted caviar at a party?

And what's with Larry's obsession with funeral based gags? I love a little gallows humor if it's funny, but this wasn't funny to me. Nor was that gravestone at the end. It was a cheap gag, something I wouldn't have minded if it was funny.

I did, however, enjoy the chemistry between Super Dave, Garlin, Andy and Larry was a lot of fun. But everything surrounding their Marx Brothers-esque banter was pretty bad.

Anonymous said...

I am a big CYE fan. And a golfer to boot. So I definitely enjoyed this episode. Here's the thing though. I didn't think it was funny at all. I also agree that this season seems a little bit forced.

Also, there definitely was a leap of faith for us to believe that LD could get that upset over the Derek Jeter comment.
And I personally think that the majority of the golfers at the Club would secretly hate Norm (the slow golfer). No golfer likes slow golfers, especially someone who looks for a lost ball for 20 min.

Adam said...

Larry's always been into sports, so the Derek Jeter thing didn't surprise me at all. Seems like a silly thing to complain about.

And I for one found plenty to laugh at in this episode. I think real Larry is at his best when he surrounds his character with funny, talented people. This episode worked well on that front I think--I loved seeing all the interactions between him, Jeff, Marty, and Arthur (and yeah, Carl, it's Arthur, not Adam).

I also thought all the murder business was hilarious. Larry's half-hearted reaction to the whole thing was priceless, and I loved that he still wanted to talk about playing golf the next day.

Although I will say that I am disappointed that there wasn't any Seinfeld in this episode. The last three episodes better have plenty of reunion storyline in them >_<.

tony libido said...

lazy, unfocused, awful. and another running bit about tipping / restaurant checks. granted I only came back this season for the seinfeld stuff (though I did laugh long and hard when he told the cancer doc "I think you blew him") I amazed how the show is now rivalling Californication in the lazy, self-absorbed wankery category.

Unknown said...

I'm really shocked at how negative the comments have been about this whole season. Curb has always had lulls and so-so episodes, but this whole season has been gold, Jerry, gold!

My Tivo grabs a lot of old Curb episodes, and I find many of them improve with multiple viewings. Shows like "The Ski Lift" and "The Doll" actually get funnier every time I see them.

And watching a terrified Larry kill the black swan will always, for all eternity, be hilarious.

Anonymous said...

David C you are one miserable bastard, get yourself out of the house once in a while if you dont dont like watching it.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Guys, what's Rule #1 around here? Be nice.

Talk about the show, not each other. If you can't do that, your comments will be deleted going forward. Period.

Eldo Owens said...

I liked it. I laughed out loud a bunch of times. Just the way the music was playing in the background during that whole black swan sequence was hilarious.

I also loved the "murderer", "involuntary manslaughter" discussion in the dressing room.

It's a comedy on TV, I don't think it's meant for us to analyze like it was Proust in some lit class.

David C said...

I think whether or not it's funny is sort of the ultimate question, and if it hadn't been for all the elements that I found kind of icky, I may have found it funnier. But I didn't. Comedy, like everything else, is subjective.

And yeah, I know this isn't Proust, mainly because more people will have seen this episode than have read Proust, which to me merits the same level of analysis I'd give to great literature (not that I'm offering any academic analysis on these comments. I've always felt that television ought to be elevated on a critical level (one of the reasons I read this blog), and just because it's a comedy doesn't make it less critically relevant. I mean, The Simpsons (in the 90s, preferably) was just a TV comedy, but it has rightfully spawned plenty of serious minded criticisms about it's cultural significance. Seinfeld even has a book devoted to the philosophical underpinnings.

And I personally think (and this is not a steadfast rule. Most arbitrary rules are pretty easily disproven) that a lot of good comedy taps into the way a country is feeling. Heck, that's true of art in general. Whether it's "high" or "low" art shouldn't enter the conversation as much as whether it's "good" or "bad" (words I'm not sure I like using). Either way, every episode of a major show like Curb Your Enthusiasm is relevant, and I try to treat it that way. Maybe it's true that nothing ruins comedy like over-analysis, but that's sort of what criticism does.

Bix said...


You're both wrong. Richard Kind's character is Cousin Andy.

Gridlock said...

How did the mason know about the swan?

Try Reisling...Great Wine said...

Gridlock--the mason found out about the swan through Cousin Andy's wife, who had promised him that ridiculous red hat that he was seen wearing at the end of the episode.

Adam--you're right on about the Jeter subject. The people who question whether or not a diehard Yankees fan would get bent out of shape about someone saying that "The Captain" is overrated are either not baseball fans, or don't really understand Yankees fans. This is absolutely plausible, especially knowing how passionate Larry is about his team.

David C--If you don't like a show about rich people having expensive things and doing rich people stuff...what turned you on to the show in the first place? This is a show about a guy who seemingly has it all! In light of Sepinwall's recent moderation, this isn't to bash you--just a bit confused by you viewing this show in the first place when you obviously harbor these feelings.

Unknown said...
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Unknown said...

liked how for once (with cousin Andy in this episode) Funkhouser was not the most annoying one in the group. I love Funkhouser's character, but it was interesting to see him in a different light. Andy was the one who got on everyone's nerves, and it was funny to see Funkhouser become frustrated with someone rather than see him frustrate everyone else.

Also, I agree 100 percent that Larry's reaction to the Jeter comment is plausible. I don't happen to be a fan of the Yankees, but it is well documented that Larry is a huge lifelong fan of them. Of course he is gonna get upset when someone ignorantly insults Jeter. In my opinion, it is a stupid thing for a contractor to do. If you want someone's business, don't insult a sports team if you don't know the person. Not very smart.

Unknown said...

Is anyone else disappointed by the lack of Seinfeld stuff thus far?

David C said...

Great Wine- I see your point, but for me, the show's always worked best with relatable foibles of everyday life. I don't mind hanging out with rich people on a comedy and not everything has to be Norman Lear. I just felt like this episode in particular was really whiney about class. I like to be on Larry's side. When Larry's being totally obnoxious about something, and the show doesn't agree with me, that I find annoying. I'm not saying I have to agree with EVERYTHING Larry does, but when the whole episode is this dumb about class and race (I felt like Mickey Rooney forty years ago would have auditioned for the role of the club owner), I can't like it unless it's REALLY funny. And this wasn't

I have to add though, looking back on this episode, everything with Larry acting like some mob boss with his gang had me smiling. Anytime he strong-armed Andy, I laughed a bit. Larry, Jeff, Marty and Andy should all share an apartment with Leon in the next season. I wouldn't mind any plot contrivances to make that happen. It'd be too perfect.

Unknown said...

"Is anyone else disappointed by the lack of Seinfeld stuff thus far?"

Not really, because there has been about as much as was promised in interviews. The interviews said there were four episodes featuring cast members. I can understand if someone who is a newcomer to the show is disappointed that there isn't more Seinfeld stuff. But I don't think it would serve the series well if the reunion plot dominated every episode. I like how Curb continues to be the type of show it has always been. It has season long arcs (the restaurant, The Producers, the Blacks to name a few) but the arcs don't dominate every episode. The show is still Curb, after all, it hasn't been changed to the Seinfeld Reunion show. It's just part of the season: not the only part. Don't get me wrong, I'm looking forward to the season finale. However, anyone who watches this season only for Seinfeld cast appearances is missing some classic comedy this season.

Toby O'B said...

Have we seen evidence of Jeff's infidelity in past seasons; I can't remember anything other than his collection of porn. But so far this season, he jumped into bed with Funkhouser's sister and was willing to have her sent back to the sanitarium to cover it up; and now we learn that he tells Susie that he's golfing when he's with another woman, which means it's happened more than once.

I'm wondering if sooner or later this is going to flare up as a major plotline.....?

Unknown said...

"Have we seen evidence of Jeff's infidelity in past seasons; I can't remember anything other than his collection of porn."

Yes. In the pilot, he is out with another woman (and Larry gets stuck walking with her). Also, he hooks up with the incest survivor at the end of season 1, and crashes the 57 Chevy. I believe there may be more instances, but those come to mind immediately.

dez said...

No golfer likes slow golfers, especially someone who looks for a lost ball for 20 min.

I'm what's known as a "duffer" (I stink at golf), so I always let people play through. And even *I* would have yelled at Norm to move on :-)

I think my favorite part, besides the tombstone at the end with the club owner looking at Larry smugly, was Larry running around trying to convince everyone that the swan killed Norm. He probably could have convinced them all, too, if he'd just put Cousin Andy's wife through cosmetology school.

The only thing missing in this episode was Leon. I need more Leon!

Adam said...


You're both wrong. Richard Kind's character is Cousin Andy.

Whoops! I must have been thinking of his character in A Serious Man. (Speaking of which, I must say that his performance in that film is probably the most precisely I've ever seen him used as a character actor. Just brilliant.)

Anonymous said...

these comments are way to critcial. you talk liek it is "real" larry davis curb and alot of seinfeld episodes are like cartoons, there is nothing real about the storyline, it doesnt have to be. just enjoy them , laugh and wait for next weeks episode. you guys have way too much time on your hands to dissect adams wife's hats.

Anonymous said...

RE: Jeter
It is also Larry's essential nature that he can't let anything slide, so if someone made what he considered to be an innane comment about something or someone he feels strongly about, he'd certainly contest it.

RE: Leon
Seriously, couldn't they have found a way to get Leon's input on the swan cover-up...forget more cowbell, we always need more Leon.

RE: Funkhauser
He was fantastic on this episode..loved when the waiter strong armed Larry and he chimed in quickly with, "That was definitely a strong arm!" It's nice to see he and Larry on the same page for once.

Unknown said...

I strongly disliked this episode and find that the only episodes i've loved this season are the ones involving the Seinfeld cast. Jerry and Larry in particular have such an amazing chemistry. I feel like last week's episode would have been poor without Jerry's presence. I wish he could become a permanent part of the show.

Katheen Turner Overdrive said...

If I could divide the show this season into sections, I would give the "banter" part of the show (i.e. Christopher Walken's mysterious 'role' in the Natalie Wood tragedy) much higher marks than the "plotting" (i.e. Larry David saved from falling by bare midriff), particularly the 'subplot collision course' that occurs at the end of just about every episode.

When I think back of the first three seasons of this show, I think that David & co. were much better at thinking up and executing these plotline collisions. (Examples include the Wagner symphony in front lawn, Judy doll jock itch, and Restaurant opening profanity). I know it's not about "realism", but I feel the plotting earlier in the show's run was, relatively speaking, much more "organic".

Hayley said...

I love curb, but haven't seen this yet! Hope it doesn't disappoint me like it seemed to have for some of guys.

Tom said...

My favorite bit was watching LD, Jeff, Funkhouser and Cousin Andy standing at attention like naughty schoolboys in front of the country club owner. (Funkhouser showed admirable character, I thought -- not ratting out LD despite free greens fees, valet parking, AND the bottomless range bucket!)

I liked this episode pretty much till the end. Unlike life-saving bare midriff, this tombstone punchline could be seen coming a mile away and didn't top the jokes that had come before. I guess they can't all be classics.

Also, this ep had a very different masculine vibe. No Cheryl or Wanda or Susie or Loretta. The only female was Andy's wife, and she barely figured in the story.

Maybe the black swan was a she.

Anonymous said...

There's something going on with all of these seemingly re-hashed story lines. Now, this show isn't the Wire, but I do get the distinct feeling that there's some sort of deeper message here (deeper probably isn't the right word). Perhaps it's an ongoing commentary on how recycled/contrived/cheesy reunion shows are?

Early on in this episode, there was a moment with the hats that reminded me of the puffy shirt Seinfeld thing. Wasn't Adam's wife asking Larry to get Jerry to wear one, or something like that? Then, you have the 'recycled' bit about the strange side business ala Susie and her jackets.

Anyway, it seems that every week we're getting at least one moment that reminds us of either a Seinfeld or a Curb episode. It has to be intentional and I can't believe it's just Larry being lazy.

Alan Sepinwall said...

you guys have way too much time on your hands to dissect adams wife's hats.

Well, gosh... thanks for stopping by! Great to see you wasting your time along with the rest of us.

Anonymous said...

Does anybody know the name of the song that was playing in the background when the black swan attacked Larry?

Tom said...

Anonymous @ 9:31
The piece is from Grieg's Peer Gynt suite, and is the movement popularly known as "In the Hall of the Mountain King." Which figured prominently as a title last year in Mad Men, I believe.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Tom. Much appreciated.

Anonymous said...

Insignificant point, I know, but does anyone else get distracted by the Stonemason's (Eric Edelstein) man breasts? I was disturbingly captivated by them when watching Parks and Recreation, and once again, it happened with this episode of Curb.

In my opinion, not a bad episode, not a great one. I can't stand Andy, so that brought the episode down for me, but at the same time, it's always great to get some Funkhouser.

I now understand why HBO didn't use the Seinfeld gang in the advertisements for the new season. While that in itself I'm okay with, I'd kill for some more Leon.

Anonymous said...

You people need some Larry lessons. As a self proclaimed Larry expert who has watched every episode like 100 times and scored 95 on HBO's Curb test which had over 450 questions, I must say that the problem with this season in general isn't the little nitpicking you are doing for each episode, but rather the fact that we were sold a big winded bag of BS by HBO, and Larry. We had to read article after article about the Seinfeld Reunion. We had to watch Larry and Jerry hype it on TV like everyday. We had to watch a 30 minute HBO Curb Special about season 7 that only showed one thing: The Seinfeld Reunion. The fact of the matter is all of us Larry and Seinfeld fans were very psyched for this Reunion and now it's just going to be anticlimactic.

Every year, with the exception of Season 1, Larry has had 2 major themes. You know what they have been. This season was supposed to have 2 themes (The Seinfeld Reunion, and Larry trying to get Cheryl back). However, what have we seen? One show (Episode 3 that picqued our interest) then some very horrible episodes that had nothing to do with these themes. With the exception of the "Bare Midriff" episode we haven't had any reunion stuff, and I must say in that episode Jerry showed just what a terrible actor he really is and his awful chemistry with Larry.

Cheryl, who was in every episode until this season, has missed now 4shows and had 5 minutes in one other. The relationship between Larry and Cheryl including all their pillow talk was what made this a great show, not to mention the great Susie (where the hell has she been?), Funkhouser (great episode 1 with his crazy sister), Jeff, Lewis and most of all Leon.

If Leon didn't leave his house why isn't he in the house when Larry is there? Why isn't he using the funniest character he ever invented? Give me Susie and her rants, Cheryl and her unconditional love, Jeff and his antics, Lewis and his neurosis, and go with what works. Do we really need to see Ted again having a really stupid fight with Larry over a piece of pie? Can you actually say that wasn't one of the most forced fights he ever had. And that dumb fight with Rosie was so forced too and really stupid and meaningless.

And, for all of you Curb fans who think you know something, his cousin's name is not Adam and not Arthur! It's ANDY. And, when did Andy even get married and have a daughter? He was porking some Playboy Centerfold in Season 5 and a confirmed bachelor.

In season 4 one theme was the Producers. Yet,even in the episodes not directly involving the Producers he always managed to incorporate it into most of the episdoes (Ben's birthday party, Steve the Gay choreographer, Irving Schwimmer, Michael the Blind piano player, dance practices, etc. etc. etc.) However, this year all we get regarding the Seinfeld Reunion thing except for 2 episodes is Larry usually sitting at a table being asked by someone "How's the Seinfeld Reunion coming", and Larry shoots back "We're working on it." One line.

So for all the Hype (and believe me there was plenty) and with all the stupid episodes this season I have to say that fans should be really pissed off at HBO and Larry. I can't believe I am actually saying this but Larry may have Jumped the Shark.

Unless the finale can make up for this horrible disappointing season, then it's just going to be a big bust. And, as far as I'm concerned the only way he can make up for it is with plot lines similar to the following:

Banya has soup with the Soup Nazi and asks him if his soup is a meal, or

George walks in on his mother as Leon is putting a Manzier on her. He slips and falls and lands up in the hospital and when his mother comes to visit him Kramer is in the next bed getting a sponge bath, or

Leon goes out with Elaine and has sex with her (gotta get up that ass Larry) and even maybe George's mother.

Then we have something that will really be worth watching. I rate this season a C- so far heading down. I don't know if it can be saved, but Larry has done it before so lets hope so.


Anonymous said...

"And, as far as I'm concerned the only way he can make up for it is with plot lines similar to the following:

Banya has soup with the Soup Nazi and asks him if his soup is a meal, or

George walks in on his mother as Leon is putting a Manzier on her. He slips and falls and lands up in the hospital and when his mother comes to visit him Kramer is in the next bed getting a sponge bath, or

Leon goes out with Elaine and has sex with her (gotta get up that ass Larry) and even maybe George's mother."

Thank God Larry is coming up with the storylines and not this guy. Those are horrible.

Marjorie said...

I think the show is analyzed way too much. Just watch and enjoy, or do not watch it.

The show DID "jump the shark." Big deal. It jumped the shark after "The Producers" season. It would never be as great... but lesser than "Curb" is better than no "Curb."

I am addicted. I need that "Curb" fix.