After a very long absence, Curb Your Enthusiasm has returned to our lives. A review of the season premiere coming up just as soon as I’m lampin’…
Thank God it’s back. Thank God it’s still prettay, prettay good.
Despite what I wrote on Wednesday, I had braced myself for the possibility that Larry David had lost his fastball after so much time away. The 2011 season was mostly underwhelming, with a couple of Hall of Fame episodes mixed in; would these new ones feel even rustier?
Thankfully, “Foisted!” felt like… well, like an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm. Not a pantheon installment — which, given how many amazing episodes the show has done over close to 20 years, is no sin — but wickedly funny at times, and effective at both bringing us back into the fold and setting up this season’s storylines.
“Foisted!” doesn’t go entirely meta, but I like the idea that both real Larry and TV Larry have been away for the last few years writing furiously. For TV Larry, it’s Fatwa, his Broadway musical about the Ayatollah vs. Salman Rushdie. For real Larry, it’s this new season of Curb, which kicked off with plenty of friends both old — Jeff, Susie (now with straight hair), Leon (predictably making for a terrible assistant to Larry), Cheryl (still just vaguely tolerating him), Richard Lewis, and even Ted Danson (making his first appearance in several seasons, and — if I’m reading that scene and the decision to make him fictionally separated from Mary Steenburgen correctly, a potential new love interest for Cheryl?) — and new.
Carrie Brownstein, continuing this delightful second act as a comedienne, was wonderful as Larry’s assistant Mara, difficult in so many ways — walking with a cane, constipated, absent-minded, lazy (even while complaining that the job was unchallenging) — yet impossible to fire because she was a molestation victim. (If you didn’t think Curb was going to go right back to pushing past the barriers of good taste, well, I’ll forgive you since it’s been gone so long. But come on.) Julie Goodman sparred wonderfully with David as Betty, the butch hairstylist who kept defying Larry’s expectations, including wanting to be a bride while her femme partner (Nasim Pedrad, hilariously fierce in her justified disdain for Larry) wanted to be the groom. And Jimmy Kimmel, as you might expect given his onscreen persona, made a fine amused foil for Larry, both in the green room and then during the faux taping.
The focus was primarily on the three plot threads — Larry’s ethnic caricature Ayatollah impression getting a real fatwa declared on him, Larry foisting Mara off on Susie like Kimmel foisted her on him, and Larry ruining Betty’s engagement — but but there was also room for plenty of other bits of vintage Curb business, like Larry being unable to stop himself from mocking the names for Susie’s new business and Cheryl’s new charity (“PAM? That’s a cooking spray!”), or Larry and Lewis furiously gesturing at each other at the party because neither felt they should have to walk to the other side of the room. (And even when they meet in the middle, Larry complains that he had to go further than Lewis.)
You can quibble with some of the plot logic, like no one thinking about the idea that Fatwa — and, specifically, Larry doing an Ayatollah impression — could offend the real Ayatollah until the day of the Kimmel taping, or the fact that no one suggested both women could be grooms. But if the show has to contort itself here and there to get to the appropriate comic end, the overall formula still works.
For that matter, Larry’s binary bride/groom conception of the wedding is more something he would care about than the two women probably would, but the show has always to a degree filtered Larry’s retrograde sensibilities out into the rest of its world, and usually gets away with it because David makes himself the jerk in virtually every situation. The episode ends exactly as it should, with a Psycho riff where the monster on the other side of the shower door is Susie, ready to deliver Larry the punch he deserves for foisting Mara on her. The perfect closing note for a fine opening stanza to the new season.
I’ve only seen this episode and the fifth (a self-contained story David felt comfortable screening at the premiere because it doesn’t give away where the larger stories are going), and there won’t be screeners, so most of my reviews will be on Monday morning. Very glad to have it back.
What did everybody else think?