The character Larry David plays in HBO’s new 10-episode cinema verite comedy is self-absorbed, duplicitous, unnervingly off-balance and overcome by an extraordinary sense of self entitlement. No one has created a funnier TV character this fall.
Series is the outgrowth of the comedy special David did last season that followed him around the L.A. comedy club circuit. David, a co-creator of “Seinfeld” and writer/director of the pic “Sour Grapes,” continues to play himself with his combustible wife (Cheryl Hines) and perpetually propitiating manager (Jeff Garlin) along to deal with his every complaint.
Each episode finds him twisting minutiae to the breaking point and riffing on sticky situations to the point of absurdity. While the first four shows have their fair amounts of laugh-out-loud moments, each ends on an enormous knee-splitter; it’s a show viewers will remember the following day and likely laugh at even harder than they did the first time.
First episode finds David, who exaggerates his New York Jewish roots, concerned about the way in which his pants bunch up when he sits down. He appears aroused. He wants to see the “Dustin Hoffman movie” and his wife’s friend is about the only one available as a date. Once inside the theater, though, he has heated tiff with a woman about theater manners before getting to his seat in the same aisle.
David winds up with two problems: The woman he fought with is not only the girlfriend of Richard Lewis, but the two couples have pending dinner plans; and as the wife’s friend tries to calm him down, she believes her rubbing his arm has turned the pants-bunched David on. David elevates both situations into bigger-than-life problems and then only tells Cheryl half the stories, which further compounds his problems.
The date is off, but David still heads to the restaurant with Cheryl — without changing the reservation. The eatery, Mama’s Boy, is booked to the gills and won’t seat them, but manager Garlin at least partially helps out by having the two join his family — where David spies Lewis and date getting seated without problem.Story arc continues into episode two, in which David and Lewis are both interested in the purchase of a similar bracelet.
“Ted and Mary” seg finds David and Cheryl getting chummy with Danson and Steenburgen; and “Porno Gil” makes a beautiful mockery of Hollywood party rituals and some men’s lifelong fascination with porn.
Series is shot mostly in a neo-docu style that’s often as unsettling as David’s behavior. Sound is intentionally echoey, and the brass band music is gleeful.
HBO deserves kudos for greenlighting such a terse character study: While “Sex and the City” may have a kind of universal appeal, members of the “Curb Your Enthusiasm” audience will be embracing David’s show for nonconformity, not universality.