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TELEVISION REVIEW

Season 6 brings a curbed sense of our 'Enthusiasm'

September 07, 2007|Mary McNamara | Times Staff Writer

"Curb Your Enthusiasm" is back Sunday on HBO, and it's hard to know how to feel about this. Forget red and blue, America is divided into Larry David worshipers and those who just don't get it. Certainly no one pokes fun at the idle, self-absorbed rich like David, and as our economic gap widens in anticipation of la deluge, that is a much-needed national service. (If, of course, you can overlook the fact that he himself is getting richer by the minute doing it.)

And when he's using his thinly veiled alter ego to rant on life's little irritations, there's no one to beat him. Early episodes this season have David going off on people who sample too many items (ice cream, perfume) before making a purchase, the holier-than-thou attitude of philanthropists who remain anonymous, even the mysterious rules of the dry cleaners -- and it's all gold, Jerry, gold. His eyes get buggy, his voice gets raspy and we're all happy to hear him kvetch about things that drive us crazy too.

But David has never been satisfied with the little things. This isn't "Seinfeld," this isn't a show about nothing, it's a show about everything. Or rather everything in the rarefied world of extremely successful television show creators. Since its inception seven years ago, "Curb" has taken careful aim at the rich, particularly the entertainment rich, and David is more than happy to shoot himself in the eye along with all of his friends. "I just can't stop thinking about the people in that hurricane," wife Cheryl says in the first episode as they drive to a party. "My nose really itches," Larry replies. "And you just can't scratch it."

Cheryl wants to bring a homeless family to live with them; Larry, of course, doesn't. And just as you know that Lucy will never get to headline at Ricky's club, you know that Larry will wind up capitulating. It's only a question of how ridiculous his behavior will be to get him from point A to point B.

Pretty ridiculous, as it turns out. For all its postmodern deconstruction of the mundane -- "It's an unwritten rule," Larry says of not asking for more than one, two at the most, samples of ice cream, "like tiptoeing. You tiptoe at night so you don't wake anyone up" -- "Curb" owes most of its humor to the hare-brained, wacky schemes of "I Love Lucy" or even "The Flintstones." Larry attempts to get out of going to a party by pretending he has the wrong night, Larry steals flowers from a roadside memorial and then has to steal them back. Meanwhile, a coterie of friends -- Jeff Greene (Jeff Garlin), Ted Danson, Richard Lewis, etc. -- either aid, thwart or condemn him.

May I just take a moment here to pay homage to Susie Essman? As Susie Greene, she is perhaps the most lyrical purveyor of profanity on television. She makes the entire cast of the "The Sopranos" look like rank amateurs. "Get your . . . hands off me," she says in response to Larry's attempt to pat her. "What are you, in fourth grade?" A streetwise haiku. It really is a gift.

Still, after seven years, even David is having to reach a bit. Larry is getting a little ridiculous (see the whole masturbation subplot of the second episode) and a little too mean even for Larry -- no one steals three bouquets from a roadside shrine to a friend's dead mother. Seriously.

David may have invented wince TV, those moments that ring so uncomfortably true the viewer has to look away, but too many of these and you have an audience looking at the floor for 30 minutes. Which is not so good.

mary.mcnamara@latimes.com

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