“I don’t really get this fascination that people have with the ocean. I mean, I stare at it for ten minutes and I go, Ok, I get it…I feel aggravated that I’m missing what other people are getting.”
EVERYBODY loves Raymond, everybody hates Chris, but no one knows exactly how to handle Larry.
Which is understandable.
After all, Larry David, co-creator of Seinfeld and star of HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm—a mockumentary about his life as a semi-retired TV producer—is an acquired taste.
So why even decide to spend half an hour watching a rich, self-loathing, white Jewish male kvetch his way through middle-age when other sitcoms can easily tickle funnybones with a lot less angst and effort?
Simple: Curb Your Enthusiasm—now into its sixth season—is worth it.
If Seinfeld took the traditional sitcom format to the edge—an award-winning episode, The Contest, deals with self-gratification without even mentioning the M word—Curb, which is shot without a script, pushes the envelope all the way.
With no less than David doing all the heavy lifting—conceptualizing, producing, acting, and editing—Curb has its misanthropic anti-hero lie about sexual molestation in group therapy, discuss his wife’s numb vagina with a Native American gardener named Wandering Bear, and suggest a name for a lesbian couple’s adopted Chinese child (“How about Tang… It’s not a name, it’s a juice.”).
But critically-acclaimed Curb is more than just provocative storytelling.
Although most episodes feature a story arc—in which widely disparate events at the beginning come together at the end, a concept David used to great effect at Seinfeld—the series also offers a similar Seinfeld-like inventiveness, a characteristic generally credited to the show’s executive producer.
After Seinfeld introduced “Yadda yadda yadda,” and “master of your domain,” among others, into popular culture, Curb refused to be outdone and volunteered its own samples. These include “a big bowl of wrong,” used by Jeff Greene, David’s manager, to describe his misadventures, and concepts like “the stop and chat,” a social convention which forces David to exchange pleasantries with people even though they have nothing to talk about.
Nothing ever seems sacred to David and, by extension to Curb.
True to his nature, the show’s executive producer has made fun of HBO’s slogan more than once.
“‘It’s not TV’? It’s TV. What do they think people are watching?” he says in the second season.
Besides providing top-notch, unconventional entertainment—at least to viewers who can wince while laughing—the series has also successfully crossed the line between television and theatrical reality.
In the fourth season, David is asked by no less than Mel Brooks, who appears as himself, to play one of two leads in the New York production of The Producers. Originally a 1968 movie of the same title, the Broadway show and its more recent movie adaptation, all produced by Brooks, centers on two con artists who intend to produce a flop so they can swindle their investors.
Except for Brooks and his wife, Anne Bancroft, no one knows that David was deliberately hired to fail.
Weary of The Producers’ commercial and critical success since it opened in 2001, Brooks and Bancroft—like the two leads in the musical—sought to end production to terminate the show’s tour across the continental US. “No more dirty beds in Pittsburgh,” Brooks tells his wife, as he toasts to their well-executed plan.
Little did they expect that David, playing Max Bialystock, would actually become the king of Broadway. After he flubs his lines during opening night, David does stand-up, cracks a joke about a Sikh’s turban, and becomes an instant hit with the audience, which includes Jerry Seinfeld.
As a result, the episode, which features David singing two songs from the The Producers, is transformed into a play within a play; the two separate realities of the mockumentary and the Broadway production intersecting in a cable TV show called Curb Your Enthusiasm.
Meanwhile, despite heavy involvement with tinseltown and the Great White Way, Curb has done the real world one good turn.
In 2004, unused footage from the fourth season’s The Carpool Lane was used to release a wrongfully accused man from prison. When David received this news, he said, “I tell people that I’ve now done one decent thing in my life, albeit inadvertently.” Spoken like a true master of his domain.
An edited version of this piece came out in the June 4, 2007 issue of Personal Fortune, a magazine supplement of BusinessMirror. Mediocre photo taken with the Treo 650. Apologies for going overboard with the links.
PRIMETIME television hardly imitates life.
If it did, many males—especially those of my age and temperament—would be spending their carefree days and nights in the pursuit of scantily-clad starlets, hoping for wardrobe malfunctions.
Unfortunately, real life—such as we know it—involves working two jobs to make rent money, ensuring that the cat gets regular visits from the vet, and avoiding the nosy landlady who has expressly disallowed animals in her apartment.
In short, the life and times of a happily-married, submissive, and faithful Filipino male such as myself has none of the excitement and the drama found on soaps currently broadcast on television.
However, when my wife and I had an unpleasant experience at a mid-market Chinese restaurant, we found common cause to turn to television to exactly describe what we went through.
Our dining experience, to borrow a colorful phrase from award-winning cable television show Curb Your Enthusiasm, was “a big bowl of wrong.” The phrase was originally uttered by Jeff Garlin, (shown in the right of the picture from performink.com) who plays the manager of Larry David, (on the picture’s left) Seinfeld co-creator, whose fictional life is what the show is all about.
Even before we entered the establishment—located at Gateway Mall in Quezon City—the arrangement and the decor gave us the impression that the restaurant was not your typical, inexpensive hole-in-the-wall which offered fly soup as a side dish.
While it was not an upscale restaurant, it nevertheless emphasized that it was neither fastfood establishment especially since we were made to wait before we were ushered to our tables. Which wasn’t any trouble at all until we realized that we were seated beside a gaggle of noisy, middle-aged women who applauded anytime any single one of them uttered a syllable.
In the meantime, the waitstaff was as responsive as government employees taking their daily two-hour lunch breaks. Whenever we tried to call their attention, in our vain attempt to inform them of our orders, they seemed to pretend that they were busy serving other customers.
To ease hunger and to ward off our growing impatience, we simply munched on the complimentary dish of kropeck crackers immediately made available after we were seated. Fortunately, before anyone took the last piece of kropeck, a waitress came by. Noticing that my wife and I had were both eyeing the last cracker, the waitress, gifted with tremendous powers of perception, asked us whether we had ordered already.
My wife, hungry and irritated, replied in the negative, especially when she found the last kropeck missing.
Her irritation was later compounded when she discovered that her order—a beef and wanton noodle soup—was far too salty for her taste. I didn’t doubt her culinary assessment one bit, knowing fully well that she eats everything—from adobo to kare-kare—with patis.
But since I needed to fill myself up, I nevertheless took generous bites of the pieces of beef and the noodles that came with my brisket noodle soup.
While it wasn’t bad, it wasn’t exactly the best noodle soup I ever had. After forking out P150++ for each dish, we were convinced that we were served two big bowls of wrong that night. And don’t even get me started on the matronas.