Curb Your Enthusiasm

By Barry Garron

Larry David, who will go through the rest of his life with the words "co-creator of Seinfeld " appended to his name, does nothing to discourage the association with his most recent effort, a 10-episode comedy series, Curb Your Enthusiasm. His new show is more than vaguely reminiscent of Seinfeld with its unvarnished characters, its outlandish yet faintly plausible situations and its deserved confidence in its ability to get laughs from talky, stream-of-consciousness dialogue.

Yet in other important ways, Curb Your Enthusiasm has a unique sensibility. An outgrowth of David's HBO special of the same name, this series is shot by actors who follow a five-to seven-page story outline. In other words, no writers were harmed (or employed) in the making of this sitcom. That, along with the use of Steadicams, gives the show something of a documentary texture, a spontaneity and a realism that makes it stand out from the smoother, more polished look of a typical sitcom.

Curb Your Enthusiasm is a front-row seat for David's personal life -- or at least what his personal life would be if he got lots of takes each time he did or said something and painstakingly edited together the best ones. Each episode features his wife, Cheryl, and his agent, Jeff, in roles reprised from the HBO special by Cheryl Hines and Jeff Garlin.

In addition, each show has A-list guest star or stars, including Ted Danson, Mary Steenburgen, Diane Keaton and Julia Louis-Dreyfus.

In the opener, David contemplates how the bunching up of his pants around the crotch suggests an erection that isn't there. That sets the stage for a misunderstanding in which Cheryl's friend, seated next to David at a movie theater, misinterprets the bunched material for the real thing. The theater also is the setting for a confrontation between David and a woman seated on the aisle, who becomes aggravated when he tries to pass her to get to his seat.

Of course, the woman (Sofia Milos) turns out to be the new love of David's pal, Richard Lewis. Depending on the scene, the level of humor ranges from mere chuckle-producing to out-and-out hilarity. An example of the latter is David's attempt to apologize to Jeff's parents for jokingly referring to his own wife as Hitler. Veteran comedian Louis Nye is unforgettable as Jeff's father.

Working without a script and on location much of the time must complicate the job of director Robert B. Weide. To his credit, though, scenes shift smoothly from one to another, and the interaction among characters feels natural -- not forced or hastily improvised.

Curb your enthusiasm? Not for this series. It's a laugh-filled winner.

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