Curb Your Enthusiasm: Season 1

Curb Your Enthusiasm: Season 1 (2003)
HBO Home Video
Extras: Bonus Pilot Episode, Commentary Track, Interview, Episode Previews

What happens when you mix Charlie Brown, Woody Allen, Ziggy, and Los Angeles? You get Larry David’s "Curb your Enthusiasm." The DVD of Season one is out, and packs a walloping 360 minutes of content on 2 discs.

Larry David, co-creator of Seinfeld, stars as, well…, himself: Larry David, co-creator of Seinfeld, whose daily life is more bizarre and absurd than anything he could possible write about. Cheryl Hines plays Cheryl David, a remarkably patient and wife to Larry. Jeff Garlin plays Jeff Greene, Larry’s agent and long-time friend. Other cameos in the series include Ted Danson, Mary Steenburgen, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and multiple recurrences of Richard Lewis, all who play themselves.

The series is shot on digital video, in a documentary, hand-held style that emphasizes realism. Another unique quality is that the scripts are based on improvised dialogue; the scenes sometimes contain exceptionally long takes which feel utterly real and unscripted. The two discs span season one, encompassing 10 episodes which remarkably work well on their own, and even better in sequence, as some storylines connect from show to show. Standout episodes include "The Pants Tent", a show that will have some of us men re-evaluating our wardrobes, "The Bracelet", an episode which explores helping out those in need, and the final episode of year one, "The Group" which can be described as watching a train wreck in slow motion. There is no nudity or violence to speak of, but there is an occasional profanity as the dialogue is naturalistic. Some of the shows also deal with mature themes (see "The Group", "Porno Gil", "Affirmative Action"), but in a funny, real, and honest way. This is very much like Seinfeld, just with a PG-13 rating.

The series is presented in Full screen (TV ratio) format, and is a suitable transfer. Since it was shot on digital video, and transferred to DVD, there are no artifacts to speak of, but the typical garish colors, occasional blown highlights, and slight fuzziness that are associated with video are present here, but overall, it looks good. Sound is presented in an archaic 2.0 format, but for a show like this, it’s not expected to shine in this area. The audio is clean and crisp, but you won’t obviously use this as a demo for your new surround system.

The special features include a one-hour comedy special, in true "mockumentary" style, that follows Larry David as he negotiates with HBO to produce a stand-up comedy show. There is also, disappointingly, only one <$commentary,commentary track> – Episode one, "The Pants Tent", which teams up Larry David, Cheryl Hines, and Jeff Garlin, who banter back and forth from the hilarious "We decided the night before we wouldn’t have kids in the episode because we’d have to put stuff on the fridge", to the serious, where Jeff Garlin reveals at the end of the episode how his stroke had effected his speech.

Another extra, a 30 minute interview with Larry David conducted by Bob Costas is included, but contains sparse substance or insight. Curiously and regrettably absent are any real behind the scenes outtakes, bloopers, or improv sessions. Discs similar such as "Office: Season One" contain such gems and they really enhance the show for fans and viewers alike.

Great comedy has been described as "ordinary people in extraordinary situations", and that is this series. Woody Allen trademarked neurotic behavior and modern improv acting in cinema, and Larry David follows in his footsteps. As a fan of "Seinfeld", as well as BBC’s "Office" series, "Spinal Tap", and Christopher Guest’s other improv offerings "Waiting for Guffman", "Best in Show", and "A Mighty Wind", I consistently find this type of humor and acting refreshing – and often brilliant. The writing is painfully razor-sharp, the acting is magical, and the whole series plays as one hilarious tragic real-life situation after another. The cast, top to bottom, make the show go, with Larry’s wife an incredibly talented co-lead. Even the side characters, including Mike Meyer’s wife, are more than solid. The shows including Richard Lewis, in a hilarious turn as himself, are my favorites, "Pants Tent" and "The Bracelet".

I live in L.A. and find some insider jokes in this series, but the everyday/everyman storylines dominate more often than not. If you love truly smart, sometimes subtle, sometimes controversial humor, this is for you. I haven’t shown it to anyone who hasn’t enjoyed it one way or another. I buy few TV series on DVD and I consider this one of my finest. Highly Recommended. Purchase it now, thank me later, and please guys – Watch for the "Pants Tent".