After six years off the air, Curb Your Enthusiasm returned with an episode in which the passage of time was a noticeable feature, but what stood out most was how little has changed — for the better.
So if you’ve already seen the season premiere, “Foisted!,” and are just lampin’, enjoy some thoughts about the return of Larry David and Curb.
The episode opens with a shot that might as well have been accompanied by flashing text on the screening, reading “It’s 2017, and we bought a drone.” Even back when the show premiered in 2000, the digital photography lent Curb an endearingly cheap look that’s more or less remained across upgrades, including the jump to wider-screen HD.
Now we’ve got crystal clear shots, some shallow focus, and a lot more Steadicam shots than the show’s normal handheld. It’s a big jump in terms of the style, and made the first few minutes of the premiere feel a bit wobbly. Is this still Curb? Doesn’t this look just like any other show now? Is Larry going to do his first full-frontal scene?
The answer to all of those questions came in short order (Yes, Kinda,and We’ll see), but what really helped was Larry failing to open his twist-pump soap. Everyone knows that no matter which direction you turn the nozzle in first is the wrong one. So is the second direction. It’s when you return to the original direction and rotate the head several thousand times that it pops up. But then you have to pump a few hundred times to get soap in the tube.
Larry doesn’t waste too much time pissing someone off. Betty, who we find out later is Jeff’s hairdresser, doesn’t get the door held for her by Larry after he’s judged both her look and the distance.
Now, we can fault Larry with the surface-level judgment. Everyone likes the door being held for them. The big mistake came with the distance. Betty was far enough away for Larry to let the door shut behind him. (If Betty’s far enough away for the door to close fully behind Larry, he was in the right to let it shut. That’s the rule according to any sane person.) Larry messed up by hesitating. That delay allowed Betty to close the gap, and Larry missed his window for a clean close. If he hadn’t hesitated, he could have gotten the clean close.
What brings Larry to Jeff’s is his new project, Fatwa!: The Musical. The plan is to court producers and drum up hype before a potential Broadway run. Seeing 2017 Larry and 2017 Jeff talk business is nearly as jarring as the technical changes. Larry, because of his look, has always had an older vibe, but it’s clear especially in scenes like the one at Jeff’s that some serious time has passed. And these guys really haven’t changed.
The central conflict arises when Larry’s assistant, Mara (Carrie Brownstein), returns to the office after two unplanned days off. She had been seriously constipated and couldn’t work. As Larry correctly points out, “The whole world is constipated.” There’s no reason to stay home for that, especially when you’ve got people like Leon, who will film a porno and win a hot dog-eating contest while constipated.
So Larry is faced with a dilemma. He needs to get rid of Mara, but there’s a problem. Having been previously assaulted by her uncle and currently living with one shorter leg, she’s unfireable. She needs to be foisted, and thus, Curb delivers one of its signature keywords in its first episode back.
Like other Curb keywords, most people around Larry have a general sense of what foisting is, how it’s done, and when it’s being done to them. Jimmy Kimmel had previously foisted Mara onto Larry, after Martin Short foisted the assistant onto the late night host. And now she’s being paid forward to Susie, who’s got a bath line terribly called “Soap’s Up.”
Foisting, like Richard Lewis’ complaints about Larry only texting after the death of his parakeet who maybe said “Seinfeld,” is the essence of <Curb. It’s about dilemma and questioning the unspoken social contract and the rules that seem to appear out of nowhere. It’s relatable, even when it’s reprehensible. This is the part of the show that I think it does best and that part that will fare best in the current culture. We live in a more sensitive time than the last time a new season of <Curb aired, and I’m genuinely curious to see how something like the lesbian couple subplot will be received.
Possible offense aside, I think that story line didn’t work quite as well on a comedic level as the rest of the episode. I am absolutely here for an entire season-long arc about a fatwa on Larry (especially if his disguise is involved) with Leon as his assistant. It just feels right — especially the fatwa, kind of like this is the only natural place for the show to go.