By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
You don't receive many critical kudos for accurately portraying a mostly white, mostly Jewish milieu on television, but that's what David does here, starting with Larry's marriage to the delightful Cheryl (without whose sweetly sane presence the show would probably be unwatchable). She works part time for a nonprofit environmental organization -- the perfect conscience-salving job for a childless Hollywood housewife who doesn't have to do any actual housework. What exactly is the status of this marriage? It's quite possible to believe that Cheryl's in love with Larry, though she often looks at him with the slightly puzzled wonderment of someone who's fallen for a crabby but oddly endearing alien. "Loving you is my job, Larry," she admits in an inadvertently profound comment on wedlock.
Then there's Larry's little corner of Hollywood: therapists, rappers, masseurs, basketball stars, acupuncturists, actors, agents, lawyers, movie executives, secretaries, cable repairmen, head waiters, dentists, au pairs, chefs -- the mainstays of the entertainment and service industries are all present. When Larry closes the door of his therapist's office, there's Rob Reiner, sitting in the waiting room. When Larry tells someone he's going to the desert because of a terrorist threat, the first question is, "Where do you stay in Palm Springs?" It's a classic L.A. moment. (He stays at the Four Seasons.)
The show beautifully captures the entertainment industry at middle age: the massive homes (fortresslike front doors, entertainment centers but no books); coarse language (Larry ridicules a friend for saying "freaking" instead of "fucking"); obsession with clothes (people are constantly inquiring as to the wool content of each others' sweaters); and risibly soft parenting (when Jeff, who's allergic to dogs, tells his 7-year-old daughter that she has to choose between him and their pet German shepherd, she chooses the dog and Jeff moves to a hotel). It's a world of immensely rich people who have nothing better to do than find things to argue about, particularly gifts, which constitute a peculiar obsession of the show. (A wedding present is rejected because it's overdue, a shirt returned because it has a small hole, sponge cakes angrily thrown out because the recipient is overweight.) And after Larry refuses to give two teenage girls candy on Halloween on the grounds that they're too old to be trick-or-treating and haven't bothered to dress up, he wakes up the next morning to find his garden draped in toilet paper and the words BALD ASSHOLE spray-painted on his front door. The moral seems to be: No good deed goes unpunished, nor does any bad one.
Ethnically, it's a very white L.A., just as Seinfeldwas a very white New York. But there are differences. (For one thing, Cheryl's best friend, Wanda, is black.) The characters in Seinfeld lived in a mixed neighborhood, but fraternized almost exclusively with their own kind, while those in Curblive in a mostly white community that's effectively sealed off by the wealth of its inhabitants. Perversely, David chooses to address this "problem" by having his character constantly getting into trouble with black people, at least one of whom -- a line producer he once turned down for a job -- pointedly brings up the paucity of color on Seinfeldas proof that he's a racist. So many TV shows earnestly try to bring blacks and whites together that it's almost startling to see one that emphasizes interracial awkwardness. A recent episode opened at a party celebrating Wanda's engagement to a rap star; while Cheryl seemed perfectly at ease in the otherwise all-black crowd, Larry stood around stomping on some bubble wrap.
Embarrassed by their lives of privilege, the whites on Curbcan only hope that their impeccable politics will save them from censure. When Larry makes a gauche joke about affirmative action to Richard Lewis' black dermatologist, Lewis tries to placate his outraged doctor pal by explaining that Larry couldn't possibly have meant any harm because he's a liberal -- as if that explained everything. (He's a liberal with a leaky id. "I say stupid things to black people," he admits.) Later in the same episode ("Affirmative Action," from the first season), while facing an impromptu tribunal on racial sensitivity at the dermatologist's home, Larry desperately tries to win over the doctor's angry friends by joking that not only is he in favor of affirmative action, he thinks white people "should be sleeping on the streets eating crumbs" for at least 200 years.
Of course, Larry gets into trouble with everyone, including his fellow Semites, one of whom accuses him of being "self-hating" when he overhears him whistling a tune from Wagner. ("I do hate myself, but it has nothing to do with being Jewish, okay?" Larry replies, and later hires a small orchestra to play Wagner on the man's front lawn.) Nor is he above pushing a few political buttons himself. When a police officer comes to his house following the trick-or-treat fiasco (which was perpetrated by the Wagner-hater's daughters), Larry works himself up into a fury and tries to have the "Bald Asshole" graffito classified as a hate crime. "We're a sect, we're a group," he shouts. "You can't call us baldassholes! What if we were gay? Then it would be gayasshole?" The officer, pointing to his own gleaming skull, says that even though he's bald himself, he's not offended. Larry isn't buying it. "With all due respect, officer, you are not bald, you have chosen to shave your hair," he replies sternly. "That's a look you're cultivating to be fashionable, and we don't really consider you part of the bald community."
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