John P. Johnson/HBO
Kevin P. Sullivan
October 22, 2017 AT 11:55 PM EDT

Curb Your Enthusiasm (TV Show)

type
TV Show
Current Status
In Season
performer
Larry David, Jeff Garlin, Cheryl Hines, Wanda Sykes
guest performer
Jason Alexander, Ted Danson, Kathy Griffin, Richard Lewis, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Rosie O'Donnell, Shaquille O'Neal, Rob Reiner, Mary Steenburgen
Producer
Robert B. Weide
genre
Comedy

We gave it a B+

Sure, it’s easy to tune into the new episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm and think, “Oh, cool! Walter White is playing Larry’s therapist.” But you’ve got it all wrong. Dr. Tim Whatley, DDS, is playing Larry’s therapist.

That’s right! Bryan Cranston — the Cran Man himself — has a prime guest spot in the ninth season, playing a character other than himself. Curb has gotten progressively loose with its rules about celebrities appearing on the show to various degrees of success. As Dr. Templeton, Cranston is exactly the right kind of famous to pull off the in-show character — deadpan with the right dose of absurd. His side-eye listening for any mention of his name associated with the warehouse sale was gold. Post Breaking Bad, Cranston’s gotten a lot of opportunities, but he has struggled to find the right fit, something to balance his strengths without treading old ground. I loved every second of this and every scribble on the notepad. Cranston is a great comedic actor.

I’m going to write that down. Great comedic actor.

After a bumpy start, the season has settled into a groove. Everyone still looks older, the image definition too high, and the cam too steadi, but this is Curb again. The fourth episode didn’t manage to be as cohesive as the third — and it was missing an out-of-nowhere star-turn from Salman Rushdie — but it’s all starting to feel like old Curb again, and that’s very good.

But, seriously, poor Funkhouser. Kenny died, but Kenny always kind of sucked. Curb played a bit more with serialization, adding an addendum to the prostitute storyline from the second episode of season nine, mostly just to set up a funeral.

The memorial service managed to be a microcosm for what’s working and not for the season as a whole. Funkhouser’s trans son, which began as a throwaway line, feels like the show daring itself to deal with topics that moved further to the front of the cultural conversation since Curb‘s been off the air, something it’s perhaps not equipped to engage with—much like the lesbian wedding.

The twist with Lewis ending up in Larry’s reserved seat is the kind of Curb I stay up for. I could watch hours of their restaurant seating war of attrition. Lewis’ increasingly skeletal face, furious in front of an idealized self-portrait, is a perfect image.

There are some questions. Susie becomes suspicious of Jeff because of the warehouse sale question, but how much does she really know? The ending of the episode suggests that she knows more than we’ve seen her learn, but I can’t tell whether that’s the show setting up more story for down the road or just getting sloppy with plotting.

And I do wish that the final scene with Dr. Templeton and Larry had been given some more room to breathe. It’s a good payoff that felt too rushed. Still, though, I’m not really complaining. I’m just happy to have the show back!

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