Curb Your Enthusiasm Season 8 Episode 4 (The Smiley Face) Review
I’m beginning to wonder if this season is going to follow an alternating pattern of quality. The first episode was good, the second not so much, the third was great, and this one was just okay. It had its moments, but they seemed counterbalanced with some not as funny stuff. It’s making me wonder about the rest of the season and if it will be an uneven one where you don’t know what you’re getting each week. It’s odd that Larry David hasn’t settled into a rhythm yet. Previous seasons had an overarching story to keep things together to a degree even if not every episode referenced that story. So far, we still only have a notion that Curb Your Enthusiasm will feature the characters relocating to New York at some point. We’re almost halfway through the season and the topic hasn’t come up yet. Ah well, let’s get to the new episode specifically and see what worked and what didn’t…
Episode 4 — “The Smiley Face”
First off, even the parts of the episode that I didn’t think were particularly funny still had an underlying amusement to them. Nothing was flat-out bad or awkward. It was just an episode where everything didn’t land. That happens.
After last week’s criticism of saying “LOL” out loud instead of laughing, the smiley face stuff felt like a step back and outdated. While saying “LOL” is genuinely annoying, smiley faces are so rampant and accepted in e-mail, texting, and Twitter that Larry’s outrage comes off as ‘cranky old man who can’t get his VCR to work’ instead of poking fun at the foibles of modern culture. The way the smiley face came back to bite him in the ass was funny, though. You’d expect they would have had a plot point where a text or e-mail is misunderstood as joking because of his refusal to use emoticons and their role as tone indicators a lot of the time. That could have been enjoyable, but the smiley face sunburn (how could he not tell that that was the only sunscreen on his head?) was much more inventive and, ultimately, funnier.
In a similar vein, the high voiced lying got a little grating even though it led to that fantastic final scene. Like the smiley voice, the basic premise wasn’t that funny and came off as semantic squabbling with people oddly certain that Larry was lying despite him denying it and claiming emphasis as the source of any voice change. It’s easy to see why David and company thought this could be funny; it comes from the same place as a lot of his social mistake-driven comedy, but just didn’t work for me at all.
What did work wonderfully was the fight over the kitchen cabinets. Larry giving one up and everyone jumping on him for it like it’s common knowledge to never give up a cabinet. Then, Dog took TWO cabinets, cramming all of Larry’s food into a single cabinet! Their fight in the kitchen was hilarious as they mocked one another’s food choices. I particularly loved Larry saying he wouldn’t call Dog ‘Dog’ anymore and, then, immediately yelling “Fuck you, Dog!” No break between the declaration and the swearing. Fantastic. Throw in Dog’s hippy-influenced attitude that hid a clearly selfish asshole and every single one of those scenes was funny.
Larry’s confident dive into ‘shitting where he eats’ was funnier than any of his interactions with the hostess of the restaurant right near his office. I could have actually done without most of those scenes, because none of them topped people trying to talk Larry out of it and him openly admitting that he knows that the relationship will end and he plans to continue frequenting the restaurant. That’s Larry the Defyer of Social Conventions at his most defiant. No indication of caring about any awkwardness and, when the time came, he didn’t seem to feel any! It was an instance of Larry David showing the way for a future of mature adults who separate their personal relationships from others. As he said, their relationship may have ended, but his relationship with the restaurant continues.
The assistant/death story was hit and miss. When Larry’s assistant came in for a day of work, you knew her father would die. It was obvious and Larry’s reaction to the death throughout was much too callous. His initial annoyance at not having an assistant for so long was understandable, but why not hire a temp? And, when Antoinette’s father died, his seemed more miffed about the disruption to his schedule once again. Larry often walks the selfish line between justifiable-amusing and asshole-not amusing, and this was one of those instances where he was too far towards the asshole side of things. You would have to believe Larry would be a little more understanding and caring for someone who’s been his longtime assistant.
One instance of playing with our expectations was very funny: Jeff and Antoinette’s mother. I thought they would wind up having sex when she was so upset and, apparently, so did Susie! Except, this was a rare time where Jeff didn’t take the opportunity to cheat, ironically. It was a scene that played off his previous behavior incredibly well to create a moment that we’ve seen coming for a long time and, ooops, it was legitimately a massive misunderstanding. I wonder if that means Jeff will never get caught. Hopefully not.
“The Smiley Face” was ultimately a decent episode. Some funny scenes and some not so funny scenes that had their basis in typical Curb material. I’ve heard that next week’s episode is a strong one, which would continue the season’s unevenness. Still, while this episode wasn’t a classic like last week’s, it was enjoyable on the whole even when it didn’t deliver some laughs.
The 411: Pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty okay.
|Final Score: 6.5 [ Average ] legend|