TV wouldn’t be so agonizing if it were uniformly lousy. Then you could just press the mute button in your brain and pig out on bachelors, bachelorettes, bad dates and all the other small-screen junk that would normally turn you into a complete misanthrope. But every so often the medium serves up gourmet fare, making the 100-channel smorgasbord seem not such a rip-off after all. Unfortunately, viewers have to wait forever for the good stuff, as fans of Six Feet Under, adrift between seasons two and three, can attest. Superb comedy is particularly rare, but it keeps cropping up just when you’ve lost all hope. There was SCTV in the 70s and ’80s. There was Seinfeld, The Larry Sanders Show and Mr. Show 'm the ’90s. The past while has been particularly bleak, but now comes Curb Your Enthusiasm. The Movie Network has been airing the brilliant HBO series since 2001, and on Feb. 12 at 11 p.m. it arrives on Showcase. Hallelujah.
Enthusiasm, which just won a Golden Globe for best comedy, is reminiscent of Seinfeld— not surprising, given that its creator, writer and star, Larry David, was co-creator and co-executive producer of the hit show. In the new series David plays himself, a TV writer basking in Seinfeld's success, and he reinforces the assumption that he was himself the basis for George Costanza (though he has attributes of all the characters). The fictional Larry is basically a good guy, but he’s not above lying to avoid some minor task or to save face. Just like the rest of us. In fact, with its improvised dialogue and real-seeming people, there’s a strong sense of Larry as Everyman, and much of the comedy’s strength lies in his ability to both appall and endear himself to viewers.
Among the recurring guests is the inimitable Richard Lewis-a sort of Everyneuroticman-as Larry’s best friend. Such is his character’s narcissism that he tells a needy blind person about his problems with booze and intimacy. Overall, the humour is more dryly satirical than laugh-out-loud. There are few one-liners, and often the hilarity doesn’t strike you till later. But that’s no reason to curb your enthusiasm.
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