"Seinfeld" co-creator Larry David is one unfortunate curmudgeon – his life is a wince-inducing comedy of errors that result in situations that are both hilarious and borderline surreal. In its third season, Curb Your Enthusiasm unfolds briskly over 10 episodes, which don't quite hit the heights of season one, but rather anticipate the giddily off-kilter riches of season four. Season three is about the show finding its groove, binding the season with a clearly defined story arc (Larry invests in a restaurant with some fellow celebrities) and building slight, seemingly insignificant moments into Mount Everests of comedy.
Curb Your Enthusiasm excels as hilarious entertainment for many of the same reasons as The Office or Arrested Development: it's the spaces between the jokes that create the comedy. By dispensing with traditional sitcom conventions, the stories are allowed to be more naturalistic (more or less) and the hilarity to scale near operatic heights. Granted, in a world conditioned to respond to canned laughter and stale jokes, these shows often have to garner success via word of mouth and patient viewers.
David's caustic, occasionally tasteless brand of humor is far afield from anything ever tackled on Seinfeld, something to bear in mind if you're looking for a pick-me-up after devouring the recently released sitcom-about-nothing discs. This is raw, painfully funny stuff that only gets better with age.
(Mild spoiler warning!)
Larry finds fashion advice from beyond the grave after admiring a photo of a dead man; after trying to offer Ted Danson a gift, Larry pisses off his dentist and causes havoc at a birthday party.
The Benadryl Brownie
Thanks to bad cell phone reception, Larry creates a disastrous dinner party situation for Richard Lewis and his girlfriend as well as alienating a potential chef for the restaurant; he also is accused of "tip-profiling" after firing his black TV repairman and fixing his gratuity at lunch.
Club Soda and Salt
Back to square one after the dinner party, Larry tries Ted Danson's chef but finds his food "too saucy"; Cheryl (Cheryl Hines) starts spending a lot of time with her new hetero male friend, which makes Larry jealous, but he's somewhat distracted by a great new stain removal technique.
Cheri Oteri has an over-the-top cameo as "the nanny from hell," who's prone to randomly humming the "Looney Tunes" theme; Larry makes waves when he notices one of the restaurant's investors' son's abnormally large penis.
The Terrorist Attack
Wanda (Wanda Sykes) informs Cheryl that L.A. is under threat of a terrorist attack, which fouls up plans for a Alanis Morissette benefit concert; Larry can't stop aggravating Paul Reiser's wife, Mindy, with whom he entrusts a number of personal secrets.
The Special Section
Larry, in the midst of shooting a Martin Scorsese film in New York, returns home to discover his mother died and no one told him. He proceeds to use her passing as an excuse to get out of several prior engagements. It's when he learns the truth about his mother's final resting place that the real fun begins.
The Corpse-Sniffing Dog
Weeks away from opening the restaurant, Larry's manager Jeff (Jeff Garlin) brings his family's pet German shepherd into the eatery, only to discover a potential corpse under the floor. Larry also manages to get a seven year-old drunk and anger a friend's wife over who brings home the bacon.
Wanda's fiancé, the rapper Krazee-Eyez Killa (Chris Williams, Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story), is less than faithful – information he shares with Larry. In between trying to find a jacket for Scorsese reshoots, Larry becomes plagued by an unwelcome hair in his throat.
Mary, Joseph, and Larry
The holidays arrive and Larry can't seem to figure out Christmas tipping; Cheryl's parents arrive and after destroying the cookie Nativity, Larry must figure out how to save Christmas.
The Grand Opening
The restaurant is days away from opening and Larry fires the chef for misrepresenting himself; a local restaurant critic attempts to help Larry out by recommending a replacement chef even after Larry inadvertently injures him in a free-spirited game of dodge ball.
There's nothing reference quality about Curb Your Enthusiasm, but most probably aren't looking to show off the system with this one. Shot on digital video, Curb looks soft at times with occasional edge enhancement. Presented in 1.33 full screen, all 10 episodes have decent flesh tones and black levels are solid.
Much like the visuals, the audio side of Curb is serviceable, not flashy. The episodes and special features are all available in Dolby stereo only. The score is nicely represented and dialogue is always clean and crisp (at least until everyone starts talking over each other.)
A scant (actually less than an) hour of extras are on board; along with episode previews on each episode, the bonus features are located on the second disc. "A Stop and Chat with the Cast and Crew of Curb Your Enthusiasm" was shot at the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen, Colorado. Moderated by occasional Curb helmer David Steinberg and featuring Larry David, Jeff Garlin, Richard Lewis, Susie Essman (who plays Susie Greene) along with Curb directors Robert B. Weide and Larry Charles, the candid chat moves along quickly displaying the precise chemistry shared by the creative minds behind the show.
The second feature is a quick collection of "favorite moments" from the stars and directors of the show. Taken from the same U.S. Comedy Arts Festival panel as the "Stop and Chat," it features all of the panel participants discussing clips from the first three seasons.
Curb Your Enthusiasm is acidic, occasionally bizarre comedy that's definitely not for all tastes; it's more of the same from the previous two seasons, with Larry David's unerring knack for chaos creating bigger and wilder catastrophes. Those who haven't taken a chance would do well to pick up this or any of the other seasons currently available on DVD. Recommended.