Judge David Johnson laughed very, very, very hard at Larry David's misery, and he thinks you will too.
Our reviews of Curb Your Enthusiasm: The Complete First Season (published February 11th, 2004), Curb Your Enthusiasm: The Complete Second Season (published November 24th, 2004), Curb Your Enthusiasm: The Complete Third Season (published February 2nd, 2005), Curb Your Enthusiasm: The Complete Fifth Season (published August 1st, 2006), Curb Your Enthusiasm: The Complete Sixth Season (published February 6th, 2008), Curb Your Enthusiasm: The Complete Seventh Season (published June 8th, 2010), and Curb Your Enthusiasm: The Complete Eighth Season (published June 5th, 2012) are also available.
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!
Facts of the Case
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"
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"
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"
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 pisses so many people off here, you'd need an abacus to keep score.
• "The 5 Wood"
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"
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"
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"
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"
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"
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.
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