‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ Goes To War With ‘Thank You For Your Service’

Senior Television Writer
10.29.17 12 Comments

HBO

A quick review of tonight’s Curb Your Enthusiasm coming up just as soon as I combine popcorn, Milk Duds, Reese’s Pieces, and Junior Mints for the perfect movie treat…

I got to see “Thank You For Your Service” a month ago at the New York premiere screening along with the season’s first episode. (Larry David wanted to show a second episode that wouldn’t spoil what was happening with the fatwa plot.) Seeing any episode of TV on a big screen in a packed theater is a different experience from seeing it at home, and that’s particularly true with a comedy — and even more when the theater is packed with a sympathetic hometown crowd who are laughing loudly at every joke. So I don’t entirely trust my response to this one.

Having said that (h/t Larry and Jerry in season seven), I did come out of that screening feeling more enthusiastic about “Thank You For Your Service” than I felt about the premiere, or than I have about the episodes that have aired in between. It still has many of the flaws of this season (and of season eight, for that matter), with too much going on and some bits of business feeling simultaneously labored and underwritten, but it also felt more cohesive and classically Curb-like in structure than any prior installment.

In particular, the last few minutes had that falling domino quality of vintage Curb, with Larry’s earlier faux pas with Sammy’s veteran fiance (failing to say the episode’s title phrase because, in typical Larry fashion, he doesn’t think it should be mandatory) leading him to invite the guy to a Revolutionary War re-enactment, which in turn has them run afoul of the country club security guard(*) manning the British cannons (offended by Larry’s desire to stop chit-chatting when he drives up to the gate every time), which in turn triggers the fiance’s PTSD, which sends them back to the country club where the valets’ red jackets trigger another PTSD episode, which leads to Larry walking home in full uniform so the mail carrier(**) he dated and dumped can assault him with his own mail. Bing-bang-boom. In poor taste at times? Sure. (See also Larry’s latest interaction with the country club’s manager, whose attempt to ban Larry falls apart because Larry has caught him having an affair with the wife of a member.) But it was in poor taste in a way that felt true to both the ethos of the show and the behavior of the TV version of Larry David.

(*) Played by Joe Regalbuto, aka Frank Fontana from Murphy Brown. It’s been a while since I’ve seen him in anything, and even longer since I’ve seen him doing comedy again, but he was very dryly funny.

(**) Played by Katie Aselton, the second The League star producer Jeff Schaffer has been able to smuggle into this season. Anyone want to lay odds on who’s next?

Again, not all of it worked. Larry was irritating on the movie date, for instance, but not nearly as much as of a disaster as the scene (and the mail carrier’s reaction during and after) suggested. But I walked out of that screening feeling very happy to have the show back, and the pleasing way in which “Thank You For Your Service” came together was a big part of that.

What did everybody else think? Alan Sepinwall may be reached at sepinwall@uproxx.com. He discusses television weekly on the TV Avalanche podcast. His next book, Breaking Bad 101, is on sale now.

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