For HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” a Strong Seventh Season Delivers a Disappointing Finale

11/23/2009 Posted by Admin

By our guest blogger, Colin George

Worlds collided! Larry David had the weight of 11 years on his shoulders Sunday night, not only bringing to a close the seventh season of his HBO series, “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” but in that he delivered a fictional “Seinfeld” reunion to fans of the iconic '90s sitcom. The season-long “Curb” story arc, which began back in September, focused on Larry (playing, as always, a hyperbolic version of himself) trying to win back his estranged wife, Cheryl (Cheryl Hines), by casting her in a prominent role in the reunion show. David was the real-life co-creator of “Seinfeld,” and though he always scorned the idea of returning to the series, he decided to make the production of a faux reunion episode the focus of the latest season of the semi-autobiographical “Curb.”

And for the most part, David’s efforts were realized to great effect. His chemistry with comedian and writing partner Jerry Seinfeld made for some of the most memorable moments this season, adding some much-needed comradery to the usual motley crew of neurotic combatants David typically pits himself against. We’ve also been treated to appearances by “Curb” vets Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Elaine), and Jason Alexander (George), as well as Michael Richards (Kramer), playing fictional versions of themselves as the reunion show begins to come together, and--as always in David’s world--fall apart.

Sunday’s episode, simply titled “Seinfeld,” ran an extended 41 minutes, and perhaps somewhat due to media hype, couldn’t help but disappoint. Last week’s episode, “The Table Read,” deftly blended the world of “Curb” and the charm of “Seinfeld” in what felt like a mockumentary behind-the-scenes special. The finale, by comparison, felt a little too busy, filled with red herrings, false conclusions, and unruly, reluctantly intertwining story threads.

The sloppy construction upstaged some legitimately funny scenarios, such as Larry’s suspicion of Cheryl and Jason Alexander’s burgeoning relationship, or David’s brief attempt at playing the role of George Costanza, the “Seinfeld” surrogate Larry David, himself. The layers of meta-comedy were stacked high enough to make your head spin, but the brilliant ideas in the episode also never were quite satisfactorily integrated. In fact, a good chunk of the overlong running time found David at his most minor, squabbling with a coffee proprietor, debating the ambiguity of tinted windows, and being wrongfully accused of disrespecting wood. Of course, “Curb" wouldn’t be “Curb” without the minutia, and these scenes are all worth a few chuckles individually, but never memorably dovetail, and don’t quite live up to the precedent set by the quality of previous “Curb” finales.

As a “Seinfeld” fan myself, there admittedly is some very interesting material here, including a mock-up of select scenes from the finished show, but the material was largely rehashed from last week’s superior episode. Richards also felt underused this week, and Larry’s roommate Leon, the sole remaining member of the Black family (that’s their last name) boarding with him since Season Six, is never so much as alluded to.

This is probably the last thing David would want to hear, but I felt roughly the same about his seventh season “Curb” finale as I did the infamously hated (though not by me) finale of “Seinfeld.” Both concluded their respective storylines in a way that I think is clever and ironic, but both also inarguably packed far fewer laughs than Joe Average Episode. Season Seven, on the whole, has brought us shining examples of the show at its best, including “Vehicular Fellatio” and “The Black Swan,” so when I say the finale disappoints, I don’t mean to suggest it was unwatchable--it simply was less funny than most of the episodes that preceded it.

“Seinfeld,” along with the rest of the seventh season of “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” is available through the end of the year on HBO On Demand, and is worth checking out for any fan of David’s work. Without spoiling it, he finds a moment to close the season that could serve perfectly as a series finale should the ever-indecisive curmudgeonly comedian choose not to return for an eighth season. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but if previous seasons are any indication, new episodes of “Curb” are probably just a couple years down the road.

Episode 70:  Grade: B

Season:  Grade: B+

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