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Curb Your Enthusiasm 9.7 Review – ‘Namaste’

November 13, 2017 | Posted by Jeremy Thomas
Curb Your Enthusiasm - Namaste
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Curb Your Enthusiasm 9.7 Review – ‘Namaste’  

[Warning: spoilers abound for those who have not seen Sunday’s episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm.]

Curb Your Enthusiasm is a show that bills itself on making its lead character as unlikable as it can get away with. That’s not a side effect; as anyone with even a passing familiarity can attest to, it’s baked into the series’ DNA. And the show is generally at its best when it manages to strike the delicate balance between making Larry an asshole and making Larry…well, kind of right. Curb Your Enthusiasm has mined a lot of humor from Larry pointing out all of the little things that are wrong with social niceties in a way that goes way over the top to the point that he destroys his own argument by the sheer fact that it’s coming from a rude, ranting jerk.

There are moments when the new season of Curb effectively plays off that old feeling. And to be sure, some of those are present in “Namaste.” But one thing I’ve kind of liked about this run is that, at least some of the time, Larry is generally more wrong than he used to be. I really enjoyed those moments in “Namaste.” There has been some discussion elsewhere about this as a bad thing, and that the show is no longer about Larry trying to do good and is just a jerk. The latter half of that statement isn’t wrong. However, I don’t think it’s a bad thing. Rather, for me at least this is about David — the writer and performer, not the character — figuring out how to make a maladjusted guy who refuses to change like Larry the character still be funny in a world that has advanced without him.

There are several moments in “Namaste” which see Larry double down on his misanthrop to comic effect. They range from his exclaiming to Jeff’s mechanic friend after first talking to him over the phone, “You’re black!” to asking the Romanian Uber driver for his opinion and then trashing his country when it’s an opinion he doesn’t like. Add in the row on the bus in the end for good measure. Each of these moments involve Larry being clearly, black-and-white in the wrong, or at least the other person being justified in their offense. It’s no surprise, then, that these are the moments that really screw him over.

They’re also the funniest moments, because David is just so damned good at making unsympathetic look funny. It’s not as easy of a feat as it may seem, but Larry really works as this kind of chararacter when David is on his game. It’s cringe humor, to be sure, but cringe done at its best. We know the second that Larry walks up to Greg is going to be something offensive about his race. David’s timing and deliverance, as well as Doc Farrow’s, make it funny despite the obviousness.

But more to the point, David doesn’t mind making it clear that Larry’s in the wrong. Larry has some terrible views on the world, and even when they’re right they’re kind of wrong. A perfect example is the bit about Bridget’s kid with Asperger’s. This is a plot point that will likely have some people pissed, and I understand. But the point here isn’t that Asperger’s isn’t really an excuse for people who are terrible people. The only opinions we have that the kid isn’t neuroatypical comes from Larry and Jeff. Why in the hell would we trust their judgment? Larry is the one who tries to use it as an excuse, and it doesn’t work. That’s where the joke is, and it’s funny.

The rest of the episode plays pretty much like a typical Curb episode, and it works. Leon hooking up with the hot yoga instructor who hates Larry is full of great moments. Most notably, there’s the angry back-and-forth between Larry and Leon about the heat and Leon having sex in the house instead of the guest house. Hearing Larry say “I don’t like the scent of f**k” is classic thanks to David and JB Smoove’s chemisty as performers. It also gets us the great sight gag of Larry’s fogged-up glasses. That was an A+ in my book.

There are a couple of points where “Namaste” feels like it’s stretching, to be fair. The bit with the heating guy about sending air conditioning to the concentration camp was a long way to go for that joke. “Namaste” also feels like it suffers from a common issue this season. David has made most of the episodes thirty-four to thirty-five minutes, which is four to five minutes too long. That lets him cram an extra plotline in, and it generally feels too busy. We really didn’t need the whole bit about the guy whose car Larry backed into. Sure, the moment with him and Leon was decent, but the episode would have been tighter without it.

That’s not much of a complaint, really. At worst, it’s an example of where I think Curb Your Enthusiasm can go wrong. David’s ad-libbed style works most of the time thanks to his cast and guest stars. But it also encourages indulgence, and takes that go on too long can quickly go sour. That doesn’t tend to happen on this show to the point that it really drags things down. And it’s not something I expect to change; the formula has worked thus far. But it is something I would hope that, should he go for a trenth season, David keeps at least a little closer eye on.

Some Final Thoughts:

• An internet outage led to me not being able to get last week’s review up; sorry about that. For the record, the episode was pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty, solid.

• Bridget censoring the profanity in her text messages is a fantastic visual gag.

• “I know a lot of people with Asperger’s, I do. Not a lot, but I know some.”

• Shoutout to the great Joel Murray in a blink-and-you-‘ll-miss-it appearance as the first bus driver.

• This show needs more Swat. Where did he go, anyway?

The final score: review Very Good
The 411
"Namaste" gives Curb Your Enthusiasm -- and more specifically, its protagonist a nice kick in the pants. David is still sailing through the season pretty well, minus a few minor missteps, and with three episodes left I'm hoping he can end things strong. Thus far, there's no reason to expect otherwise.