Emmy Awards: Curb your enthusiasm
An Indie Journal and CinemaAnd joint article series.
Imagine yourself in a situation, a birthday party of your dear friend, and you do not like the whole setup. Being absolutely uncomfortable about the whole scene, you choose not to stay silent and voice your discomfort. The end result, you are asked to leave the party. Were you right? Perhaps not, in fact, you had a good point. But, should you have done it, now isn’t that the trickiest question, second only to the one from Hamlet.
Now take this feeling, this thought, and tell me... what if most of your life is this! You denounce social conventions; sometimes, just for the sake of it or sometimes you actually have a point. For no reason, you are the one who is constantly bugging the other person for the explanation. You always need a win, albeit small, but you do. This, my friends, is nothing but the central plot and the character of Larry David.
Welcome to the Larry Land! Curb Your Enthusiasm is a sitcom from the genius mind of Larry David, the same one; which gave us a gem like Seinfeld. In Curb, Larry plays himself; rather a fictionalised version of self. Now this version of Larry is rude, always questioning the social norms, causing discomfort to people around him and, even making them hate him. His world is no different than what we have around us, but Larry is an unstoppable buzzkill or a party killer. His compulsive need to question any convention is the central theme of the show.
He often refuses to be part of any social interaction, where he feels somewhat like an outsider. As mentioned above, take a birthday party where you are actually bored. Larry is always bored and as Larry would do, he ends up in a fight with the host himself. Now anyone of us would simply just let some things go and get out of the party early if we are not enjoying. But not Larry! He needs to know why he is subjected to any social norm, and why is it that he must follow that. Till the moment he finds either the ‘perfect answer’ (of course, according to him), he will not rest.
It must be noted here that, Larry is not always bad. As he says in the show, “I always think of nice things, but I never act on them.” As a misanthrope or some obnoxious person that he comes across, he is not always wrong. He argues to challenge the imposed social notions upon a person. Talking in terms of sociology, “humans, as social beings have a contract of understanding between them. It is called working consensus.” For Larry from Curb, this whole notion is a misguided one. Appropriation of any social conduct in itself is an attack on the core individualistic approach that each human holds inside – selfish nature. The degree may vary, but it never goes away.
And then there is a thin line between what is acceptable and what is not, especially, when the views one holds are not even considered radical by the progressive ones. Yet, Larry is perhaps more normal than most. Larry believes in acting out upon what he thinks is best for him. Of course, the result is not always a pleasant one, but somebody has to pose a challenge to the status quo. And, without much remorse, Larry does it.
Nevertheless, the genius of this show lies even beyond this when the show questions the contemporary socio-political system with each season. Larry believes that these personal norms or so-called social norms of conducting oneself in society are a form of political conflict. Quite recently, The President of the USA, Donald Trump, tweeted a clip from Curb Your Enthusiasm where Larry David wears Make America Great Again hat.
Donald Trump mistook the gesture and tweeted the clip by saying that “Tough people are favouring Donald Trump”, when in reality, Larry puts that cap to avoid a confrontation with a seemingly idiotic Trump supporter, who after seeing Larry in MAGA hat; lets go of the argument. Larry responded that this is the problem Trump doesn’t even get the fact that we are mocking him! Larry has openly expressed his political views and mocked the politicians from the spectrum of it. There was a question asked to him about what he feels when the audience of certain political ideologies alienate themselves because Larry is highly critical of them. Larry, without wasting a second responded, “Let them! Please alienate yourself. I do not care!”
Similarly, there is a criticism about the show for being out of touch with reality, being too old fashioned, and mostly; politically incorrect, inappropriate. Without commenting on it, Larry has continued to do the show as he pleases. The important part to understand is, Larry believes that political correctness is not helping the debate; neither is it causing any positive change. Similarly, appropriating the cultural norms just make us all dumb, and make us lose our individuality. Throughout the show, Larry has questioned the individuality of a person and the collective conscious that tries to guide us. Perhaps such criticism, and praise at the same time, is the real success of Curb Your Enthusiasm. Rarely does any show make you laugh in discomfort and then question the whole set of principles that you have held dear so far.
The show stars its writer, creator Larry David in a fictionalised version of self. Other regular cast members include Jeff Garlin as Larry’s Manager and long time friend Jeff Greene, Cheryl Hines plays the character of Larry’s wife, Cheryl. Other recurring cast members include J. B. Smoove as Leon (Larry’s another complicated friend), and Susie Essman as Susie Greene, Jeff’s short-tempered wife. This series is nothing but a big “what if?” question for creators and audiences alike. What if Larry David was the person we see in the show? This brings in a lot of Larry David’s old friends as guest stars in the show. Emmy nominee Ted Danson (The Good Place), the entire cast of his previous show, Seinfeld, and many stars from television and cinema landscape have played as themselves on the show.
Another curious thing to know about the show is that since its premiere in 2000 on HBO, it has seen a run of 10 seasons and 11th is on the way. In an interview, an HBO executive had mentioned that ‘Larry David has a free hand to make his show the way he wants. Whenever he wants to make it, we will be there.’ This is indeed a rare example of network backing its most polarising show.
Larry David has been an influential figure in the American Television landscape for more than 30 years now. With Seinfeld (1989 - 1999) and Curb Your Enthusiasm (2000 - now), he has made us – laugh, cringe, shake our heads in disbelief and made us feel an entire buffet of emotions through his shows. These two are culturally and, perhaps historically most significant shows to be on American television. These shows have changed the landscape of sitcom as we know. The show has received universal accolades, including 47 Emmy nominations and five Golden Globe nominations and, few wins in both over its course of 10 seasons.
Larry David once said, “There is a Larry in all of us. We just don’t want him to come out. We get uncomfortable when we encounter him, as he doesn’t bother himself with the social norms that one might not actually like, but has to deal with. We don’t like that discomfort.”
And just like that... you know what he is doing through all these years in this brilliant show. You will either love it tremendously or hate it absolutely. The beauty of this show is exactly this. It never stayed anywhere in between of extreme and tried to please anyone... or just casually nudge someone. Whatever it did, it was always pushing the envelope than staring at it.
This is the final article in the Emmy Awards series. Do like and follow CinemaAnd facebook page for their regular cinema coverage.