Do Not Diss Curb ...
... But it's understandable why so many women were turned off by the second season of HBO's Enthusiasm.
by Craig D. Lindsey
There's a new trend among women that's sweeping the nation. It's called Larry David-bashing.
When the fourth season of David's HBO show Curb Your Enthusiasm rolled around earlier this year, I read an article in one of the New York papers about how more and more women were getting turned off by David and the misanthropic humor that basically makes up his largely improvised sitcom. Even a couple of my female co-workers told me they scurry off to another part of their homes whenever the show comes on, while their male counterparts stay put.
David's brand of comedy--an intricate blend of sophomoric pettiness, button-pushing outrageousness and all-around bad manners, played out in an upbeat, deceptively sophisticated manner--is such an acquired taste, even folks who enjoy the flavor have been known to choke on it once or twice. But I would've assumed women would get a kick out of the show given that David surrounds himself on-camera with women who are not only funny, but who usually give the most fully realized performances I've seen on a sitcom.
As Cheryl, David's wife, Cheryl Hines is a smarter actress than people give her credit for. Unlike most sitcom wives you see on TV these days, Hines doesn't play her character as a controlling, manipulative shrew whose lack of love and respect for her significant other makes the audience wonder why she married the oaf to begin with. Hines displays a Zenlike logic as David's wife--Cheryl knows she married an oaf, and loves him anyway. The most she can do is keep her oaf from getting seriously beaten by somebody.
If Hines injects some calm and cool in her role as a TV wife, then Susie Essman does a 180 and throws some venom and vulgarity into her wifely TV duties. Essman plays the foul-mouthed, bile-spewing and utterly uproarious wife of David's gluttonous manager (Jeff Garlin), often gladly calling David on his own bullshit without even having to think about biting her tongue.
Rounding out the lineup of Curb's strong women is occasional guest star Wanda Sykes as Cheryl's friend Wanda, displaying the same patented no-nonsense shtick that was turned annoying and unfunny by the writers of her overrated, short-lived Fox sitcom Wanda at Large.
I'm pretty sure David's women problem (or shall we say, the problem women have with Larry David) can be traced back to the show's second season, which just came out on DVD. Many of David's hilarious but unattractive moments on the show are from the second season: getting accused of having an "ass fetish" by Cheryl after complimenting Wanda's tush ("You are an ass man!" Wanda later tells him); jokingly calling a guy a "cunt" at a card game, thus prompting the guy to question David's heterosexuality; stealing a doll head from his manager's daughter after he cuts the hair of another girl's doll; starting a religious riot between two families after accidentally keeping a Jewish man from getting baptized. It just goes on and on--and it doesn't get any prettier.
And yet that's what makes Curb not only deviously brilliant, but the most relatable show on television. If you explained an episode to someone, that person would immediately think the show is about the world's biggest asshole. But when you watch it, you're immediately drawn into David's daily plight of trying to please people in a fickle, oversensitive society.
The people David ends up dealing with most of the time are bigger jerks than he is. You end up rooting for the guy even when he does things that end up making him repugnant, because he's just trying to go through life without pissing off everybody or having everybody pissing on him--and isn't that what we're all going through?
Ironically, it was a woman--and one who writes for PW, no less--who hit the nail on the head regarding why Curb's such a great show. "David has crafted a completely hateful character who somehow is totally easy to sympathize with," Katie Haegele wrote way back in 2001.
I guess there are some gals out there who get the crazy sum-bitch after all.
Curb Your Enthusiasm: The Complete Second Season $39.98