Although he's been largely known as the co-creator of "Seinfeld", former stand-up comic Larry David has sort of turned the George Constanza character (apparently based upon himself) into a show that David stars in. Born after a documentary/stand-up performance showcase on HBO, "Curb Your Enthusiasm" stars David as himself, a socially awkward, paranoid, hilariously self-obsessed person who manages to say the wrong thing at the wrong time, then sink ever deeper into his own mistake until the result is almost difficult to watch - yet still claiming himself to be the victim the entire time. A minor mistake, a little moment blown out of proportion, can suddenly snowball into something much more devastasting for David down the road.
In the show, David is joined by a series of characters, including his wife (Cheryl Hines, excellent), manager (Jeff Garlin, very funny) and occasional stars playing themselves, including Wanda Sykes, Ted Danson and others. The show's dialogue is largely ad-libbed, with the actors getting a general outline of the plot and scenes, then going from there. Combined with the often-handheld camerawork, the improvised dialogue feels even more realistic.
The seventh season of "Curb" is a significant improvement for the series, which had started to become a little repetitive (or, better yet, the awkward situations Larry found himself in started to feel a tad forced - Larry's gotten himself into yet another fine mess...) by the time the fifth season had rolled around.
Previous seasons of "Curb" were reportedly the last (as was this season, although just recently the series was renewed again for another season), but if the series were to have ended, this season would have been a reasonably good point to do that. The show comes full circle here in a nice way, with Larry changing his mind about a "Seinfeld" reunion thanks to hints from now ex-wife Cheryl (Cheryl Hines), who has now become an actress.
While the fact that Larry gets the inspiration to do what he does in an attempt to get back with Cheryl is nice, Hines almost comes off as a little bland (not a knock against her, it's that there isn't all that much for the character to do) in her scenes as she no longer has to deal with Larry's neurotic moments. The character isn't worked in (at least in the first half of the season) all that well, either - Larry bumps into her or she wanders by.
Still, Larry has to face the fact that he's still with Loretta (Vivica Fox), who has now become ill and is waiting for the results of a biopsy (and who hilariously stood up to Susie at the end of the sixth season.) In pure Larry fashion, there's a whole discussion how to break it off before the biopsy arrives. The "Seinfeld" elements of the season (complete with the original "Seinfeld" sets for the taping of the reunion show in the last two episodes) are very funny, but they're not the best moments of the season.
One of the best episodes of the season (and possibility one of the best episodes of the show's entire run) is "The Black Swan", a basic plot that gets blown out of proportion, as Larry tries to defend himself from an angry swan on a golf course and ends up, well...ending the bird. However, the bird is the treasured pet of the Country Club's owner, and once Larry and his friends find out they try to pull off a cover-up that spirals out of control. Angering yet someone else, the ending is spot-on perfect in classic (dark) "Curb" fashion.
As funny as the initial "Seinfeld" bits are (in "The Reunion"), the funniest element of that episode is the simplest one: hypochondriac Larry diagnoses Susie's lyme disease ("Have you been in any tall grass lately?") and gets more than a little upset when she doesn't thank him for saving her. When he offers a half-hearted apology to an NBC exec he cursed out, Larry realizes the exec's sickness is lyme disease - and his thought process on how to approach the situation is the purest "Curb" darkness, pushed further by the fact that Larry has such a difficult time deciding between good and evil (and he imagines each side) that he has to flip a coin. Another solid episode is "Denise Handicapped", where Larry finds himself dating not only one but two handicapped women, and chased by an angry Rosie O'Donnell.
After reuniting "Seinfeld", one can only wonder where Larry will head next.
• Season 7
61 7-01 20/Sep/09 Funkhouser's Crazy Sister
62 7-02 27/Sep/09 Vehicular Fellatio
64 7-03 04/Oct/09 The Reunion
65 7-04 11/Oct/09 The Hot Towel
66 7-05 18/Oct/09 Denise Handicapped
67 7-06 25/Oct/09 The Bare Midriff
68 7-07 01/Nov/09 The Black Swan
69 7-08 08/Nov/09 Officer Krupke
70 7-09 15/Nov/09 The Table Read
71 7-10 22/Nov/09 Seinfeld
VIDEO: "Curb Your Enthusiasm" is presented by HBO in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. Presentation quality is about broadcast quality, with very nice sharpness and detail during most scenes, although some scenes (such as some dimly-lit scenes) appear softer.
Other than occasional softness, there weren't many issues with the image quality. A little bit of shimmering was noticed on a couple of occasions and I spotted a compression artifact or two, but other than that, the image looked clean and clear. Colors remained natural and cleanly presented, with nice saturation and no smearing.
SOUND: "Curb Your Enthusiasm" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 on these DVDs. The show's audio is largely dialogue-driven, but the loopy, offbeat and wonderful score is spread nicely across the front speakers, with some reinforcement by the surrounds. Dialogue generally remained clear and clean throughout.
EXTRAS: "The Seinfeld Reunion: It Could Only Happen on Curb" is a short promo piece on the season, "A Seinfeld Moment on Curb" talks about the inspiration for the "Seinfeld" reunion and "Rebuilding the Seinfeld Sets" takes a look at how the sets were pulled from the warehouse and were restored (along with a few modern touches added.) "Larry David as George Constanza" has David, Alexander and others talking about the character. Strangely, there is a special called "It's Not A Reunion Show but It's the Closest You'll Get" that's not included here, but a few bits of footage is seen weaved into the documentaries that are included.
Final Thoughts: A season that pushes the envelope a little further than usual at times, "Curb Your Enthusiasm"'s seventh season definitely offers some highlights beyond the "Seinfeld" reunion, which is fun, as well. The set offers very good audio/video quality, as well as a few nice extras. Highly recommended.