HBO // 2004 // 330 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // September 5th, 2005
Larry: I pee sitting down.
Curb Your Enthusiasm is the quasi-documentary look at the miserable existence that is Larry David's life. David, best know for engineering Seinfeld, has offered himself up to HBO to be mocked and ridiculed -- and you, the audience, win!
Here's the deal with the show. It's all fiction, with stories meticulously crafted by David, but ad-libbed by the actors. The episodes are shot in a documentary format, with one camera, and follow the cantankerous lead throughout his life, wallowing in the grief that his inanity and bad luck cause him.
Larry plays himself, Cheryl Hines plays his wife, and Jeff Garlin plays his friend and manager Jeff Greene. From time to time guest stars will show up as themselves; this season brings us Ben Stiller, David Schwimmer, Richard Lewis, Wanda Sykes, and even Jerry Seinfeld. Again, it's all ad-libbed (though there are multiple takes) and the storylines work much in the same way David's flagship show, Seinfeld, succeeded at. Larry's actions and predicaments from the beginning of a story always come back toward the end to blow up in his face.
Season Four, like the previous seasons, works in an arc that spans the ten episodes and is resolved by the final show. This go-round, Larry finds himself tapped to play the lead in the Broadway hit The Producers (!) alongside Ben Stiller and, eventually, David Schwimmer.
Simultaneously, Larry is on a quest to cash in his tenth-anniversary present from his wife, the clearance to have sex with another woman prior to the actual anniversary (which happens to coincide with opening night of The Producers). Of course, to get to that point, Larry will have to endure all manner of social faux pas, awkward situations, venomous verbal exchanges with his friends and strangers, and a nasty groin wound from a German shepherd.
Before jumping into the individual episodes, let me say this: This fourth season of the second-funniest show on television (sorry, but that honor stays with Arrested Development) is relentlessly hilarious. Having loved the first season, been disappointed in the second, and enjoyed the third, I was a bit wary: Could Larry David keep it up, or would the series grow tired, backsliding into the so-so quality of the sophomore follow-up?
No worries, kids. Curb Your Enthusiasm: The Complete Fourth Season is as good as this series gets, which is, of course, great.
* "Mel's Offer"
Larry is shocked to be offered a lead role in The Producers from Mel Brooks after a night of karaoke. Meanwhile as Cheryl and Larry's anniversary approaches, Larry reminds his wife of a conversation they had prior to getting married -- that if the couple were to ever reach the decade mark, her gift to him would be a one-time sex allowance with another woman.
Setting the table for the rest of the season, this episode features some big
laughs with a typical brouhaha that Larry starts with this doctor ("There's
definitely a prick involved"), following an unfortunate collision with a
* "Ben's Birthday Party"
Tensions are already high between Larry and his costar, Ben Stiller, after Larry refuses to shake the Ben's hand for fear of sneeze residue. Incidents at Ben's birthday party only fuel Larry's hardships, including an unfortunate eye wound with a skewer.
This episode marks the return of Mike the blind guy, who Larry and Richard
helped move a few seasons back. The reconnection gets soured when, in typical LD
fashion, Larry informs Mike that the woman he's dating -- who claims to be a
model -- is far from attractive.
* "The Blind Date"
His conscience burdened by Mike's ruined relationship, Larry takes it upon himself to track down a suitable girlfriend. Following a particularly hectic charity car wash from a group of mentally disabled men, Larry runs into a Muslim woman shrouded by a burka, who is desperate for a relationship. The literal blind date is on.
One priceless scene stands out: One of the producers of The
Producers, who feels that Larry is exactly the wrong choice for the role and
believes him to be mentally challenged, spots Larry in a restaurant laughing it
up with the gentlemen from the car wash and a Muslim woman clad in black. You
want another? How about Jeff informing Larry about Cheryl's presence in one of
his autoerotic fantasy sessions?
* "The Weatherman"
Larry suspects the TV weatherman is falsely predicting bad weather so he can have the golf course all to himself. At the same time, Larry is shocked to find out that his dental hygienist has been telling everyone about his plaque buildup.
Larry pisses so many people off here, you'd need an abacus to keep score.
* "The 5 Wood"
Ben Stiller is out and David Schwimmer is in. While this is seemingly good news, since Larry and Ben clashed from the moment they met, everything else in Larry's life goes straight to the dogs. Like, literally.
This episode truly displays Larry David's willingness to humiliate himself
for the sake of entertainment. The infamous dog bite to the genitals happens
here, resulting in Larry running from the bathroom in his underwear screaming
"The dog bit my penis!" Then there's the funeral scene, where Larry
and Jeff try to steal a golf club from a corpse in a casket. The endgame is one
of the most glorious, horrible, awkward social situations devised.
* "The Car-Pool Lane"
Larry is desperate to get to the big Dodgers games and is willing to defy all social etiquette to achieve his goal, be it asking a friend who just lost his father for his season tickets or hiring a prostitute just so he can rid in the car-pool lane. Add to that a covert operation to score some marijuana for his dad's glaucoma, and, well, it's needless to say this day doesn't end well.
Just imagine everything from that synopsis executed in the funniest manner
possible, and you have an idea of how brilliant this episode is. (Fun trivia:
This was the show that a murder suspect used to prove he had an alibi, pointing
himself out in the baseball crowd.)
* "The Surrogate"
To continue with The Producers, Larry needs to secure an okay from the doctor. Unfortunately, a gorgeous African American nurse affects his heart rhythm during the test and he fails. Said nurse is also dating Richard Lewis, who is reluctant to elevate their level of physical contact because of the age-old credo about a black man's genitalia size compared to a white man's. Later, at a baby shower, some misunderstood advice given to a surrogate mother -- and her abrupt change of heart -- lands Larry in deep, hot water.
Larry learns a lot about race relations in this very special episode, with
Wanda Sykes guiding him along. When is "biracial" appropriate? Is a
dark-skinned person with a tie automatically considered a valet? And what about
that whole penis thing? A great episode, made better by a urinal cameo by Muggsy
* "Wandering Bear"
With the dog wound healing up nicely, Larry decides it is once again time to be intimate with his wife. Jeff lends him a few "Everlast" condoms, which, thanks to Larry's utter ineptitude, end up peculiarly affecting his wife. Thankfully, Wandering Bear, the Native American landscaper, knows an ancient herbal remedy. In other news, Larry must negotiate a peace settlement between his assistant (who is increasingly ill at ease because of a breakup) and cover up a car accident with Jeff's dog at risk of inciting the fury of the diabolical Susie Greene.
The great Russell Means guest stars as Wandering Bear. Though not as
consistently funny as other episodes in the set, this show sports a few of the
funniest moments of the season: Wandering Bear casually talking to Cheryl about
her vagina and Larry masking his voice to order a Girls Gone Wild
* "The Survivor"
As Larry and Cheryl prepare to renew their vows, Larry can't seem to catch a break with his perpetually stained new suit. However, one upside is the chance to get closer to his hot dry cleaner (Gina Gershon) and potentially capitalize on his tenth-anniversary present. Back at the home front, the Davids' dinner party is ruined by an argument between "survivors," of quite a different ilk than you would expect.
I recall hearing some controversy about this episode, what with the
"survivor" plot point. However, in Larry David's usual deft way, he is
able to tiptoe through this possible minefield of taboos and put together a
tasteful -- and frickin' funny -- play on the word "survivor." Don't
want to spoil it for you.
* "Opening Night"
It's off to New York for Larry, David, and the rest of cast of The Producers. In this hour-long finale, we finally find out if Larry is up to the pressure of performing in a Broadway musical while facing the challenge of not offending every worker in his hotel, the last opportunity to cash in on his anniversary gift, and the curse placed on him by a psycho tourist (Steve Colbert).
This is a solid end to the season, though not as memorable as last season's
profanity-laden finale. The last twenty minutes or so consist of Larry
performing in The Producers, though the payoff is fairly unsatisfying.
What is satisfying is Larry's aborted attempt at making it with his blonde,
For their fourth time out, the Curb Your Enthusiasm crew have delivered an awesome season, featuring some of the most memorable moments in the series. Also, the guest-star work is varied and full of recognizable faces. How many times do you get to see Ben Stiller stabbed in the retina with a wooden stick? Or David Schwimmer getting into a heated argument about a cashew-to-raisin ratio? Not a single episode is mediocre; they range from pretty good to brilliant. Simply put, the fourth season of Curb Your Enthusiasm is some of Larry David's most inspired work, as an actor and as a writer.
Too bad HBO is insistent on releasing bland sets of this superb series. Substance will carry a DVD very far, and what's on these two discs is a masterwork of comedy, but a touch of style would have been appreciated. In the technical arena, the full-frame/Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo presentation is nothing new. The picture quality is strong and the audio is fine, yet both are wholly uninspiring. Basically, it's a tech mix that gets the job done with little fanfare. But here's the screw job: not a single bonus feature to be found. Past sets haven't exactly set the gold standard for bonuses, but at least the folks at HBO threw us a bone or two. This set has nothing. Worthless.
Six hours of funny-ass, urine-producing stuff, this season is my favorite so far. Each episode is at least good-to-great, and there are plenty of home runs to be found. It's a shame HBO is unwilling to offer even a morsel of extra content to supplement such a great feature.
Not guilty. Bravo.
Review content copyright © 2005 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (French)
Running Time: 330 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Official Site