The formula for an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm isn’t as replicable as it might seem. Something like Bern Your Enthusiasm from Saturday Night Live is a good distillation of form — it’s a lot of arguments and coincidences — but that’s really only scratching the surface.
Yet, parts of the new season of Curb Your Enthusiasm, including pretty much all of “Thank You for Your Service,” feel like as shallow a recreation. The arguments feels forced, and when the smallness of the world does come back to bite Larry in the ass, it’s out of a need to wrap things up. The intricate structure holding up the series’ best episodes — onto which all of the improv is draped — feels like it’s missing here.
That’s a big problem, and I haven’t even mentioned Chet Hanks yet.
If you’re not familiar with some of the more annoying corners of the internet, the eldest son of Rita Wilson and Tom Hanks may have never graced your computer screen. The short version of it is that Chet tried a career as a hip-hop artist (sorry) named Chet Haze, who thinks he can definitely say the n-word (very sorry).
With “Thank You for Your Service,” he snagged the role of Victor, Sammi Greene’s fiancé and Afghanistan veteran. It’s a plum guest spot, and if his performance had been on the level, the other dumb stuff from his past really wouldn’t be worth mentioning. That’s one of the cool things about acting; someone can completely disappear. But watching the latest Curb, it was only Chet Haze.
The rest of the episode was a series of limply set up structure points that allowed Larry to start arguments and screw things up for himself. The one really strong element was Sal, the gate attendant at the country club, played by Murphy Brown‘s Joe Regalbuto. There’s a real truth and comfortable cruelty in the story line, to the effect that the very similar plot with the mail carrier (Katie Aselton from The League and Legion) suffered the comparison. What was the point of that, besides getting to another reset button scenario? That it’s hard to find people in a movie theater?
After two strong episodes, it was beginning to feel as if this season of Curb had found its footing, but “Thank You for Your Service” ended up as a perfect encapsulation of the return’s flaws.