Season eight of HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm is now available on DVD. Following the previous season’s much-hyped Seinfeld “reunion,” the eighth season is decidedly lower key. This season harkens back to the early seasons of the show, which dealt more with star Larry David’s day to day life. Later seasons had Larry tackling Broadway productions, his true parentage and, of course, bringing the Seinfeld cast back together. It’s nice to see the show return to simpler storytelling after several seasons of trying to outdo what came before.
In this season Larry is finalizing his divorce from Cheryl (Cheryl Hines). He spends his days bantering with his housemate Leon (J.B. Smoove), at his office, and hanging out with his friends. Most of his friends from previous seasons have returned, most notably his manager Jeff (Jeff Garlin). Also returning are Richard Lewis (as himself), Marty Funkhouser (Bob Einstein), Wanda Sykes (as herself), and Jeff’s wife Susie (Susie Essman). While there is not really a grand story arc, there are a few themes that thread the season: newly single Larry dating and Larry’s avoiding of an acquaintance’s fundraiser.
What has always been great about Curb is Larry’s brutal honesty. Larry often says the things many of us are thinking but are too polite to actually say. Larry has no such inhibitions, giving the audience a vicarious thrill as he tells off the person who takes up two parking spaces or uses up too much cupboard space in the office kitchen. Larry’s friends even capitalize on his frankness by asking him to point out someone’s annoying habit because they are too afraid to. However, Larry isn’t always brutally honest. When a friend of his is holding a fundraiser, Larry tells him he would love to go, but he will be out of town. It is, of course, a lie and Larry ends up moving to New York City temporarily to avoid exposing his deception. Most people would not go to such extremes, but this is Larry David.
Jeff and Susie have also gone to New York City because their daughter Sammi (Ashly Holloway) has been accepted into a Juilliard summer program. New York provides a nice change of pace from the Los Angeles backdrop. Though Jeff and Susie are present, Larry encounters some new faces including Ricky Gervais and Michael J. Fox (who play themselves). While I felt the Gervais episode fell a little short, the episodes with Fox were well done. They did a good job of providing genuine laughs incorporating Fox’s Parkinson’s without being crass.
Season 8 of Curb Your Enthusiasm provided a lot of laughs. Highlights include a hilarious situation in which Larry competes with Rosie O’Donnell over the same woman, an episode where Larry inadvertently saves the day on a plane, and his romance with a woman (Ana Gasteyer) whose son has a love of sewing and musicals. While I thought that the humor had started to become more mean and bitter in the past couple of seasons, this season was a return to the observational humor that made the first few seasons so great. It’s the little things that plague our minds that the show captures so well. Was the apologetic bow he was given at the Japanese restaurant, who messed up his order, sincere? If you make lunch plans with a friend do you then need to confirm again before you go? Despite Larry’s elevated social status it’s easy to relate to all the little frustrations he experiences day to day.
This DVD offers very little in the way of special features. There is only “Leon’s Guide to New York City,” in which the character gives advice on what he thinks are the best places to visit in the city. It’s amusing, but doesn’t really offer any insight on the show. The main feature is a nearly 90 minute round table discussion with David, Hines, Garlin, and Essman, hosted by Brian Williams. The discussion is entertaining, especially for long time fans of the show. Overall, this was a good season of Curb Your Enthusiasm. The writing and acting is as sharp as ever, and in my opinion an improvement over the last two or three seasons.