Billed as a sort of This Is Spinal Tap meets Seinfeld,
Seinfeld co-creator Larry David's new Home Box Office special, Larry David: Curb
Your Enthusiasm, isn't quite about nothing.
And despite a very promising premise, for the most part,
it's also nothing special.
The show is a fictional behind-the-scenes look at the Seinfeld
executive producer's quest to return to the stand-up stage for the first time in a
decade with, ironically enough, an HBO special.
Although shot on videotape -- and without the trademark
music -- the special bears all of the stylistic trappings of your typical Seinfeld episode:
long, smartly worded conversations about everyday topics and social malapropos; quick cuts
to shots of David on stage delivering his stand-up routines; and a very dark sense of
humor. But it lacks the flair that made David's sitcom such a treat to watch.
Watching the dry David deliver his lines is like watching
Steven Wright or Ben Stein playing George Costanza (the character David is said to have
provided the real-life inspiration for).
And documentary-style cuts to scenes of Jason Alexander
(one of several pals, including Jerry, who make cameos) serve only as a reminder of the
manic energy Alexander brought to the part of the self-obsessed neurotic. David's persona
is just too laid back to make the humor work.
Not that there wasn't any potential humor in the
predicaments in which David finds himself. A phone call to a Warner Bros. executive on
behalf of a former Seinfeld assistant turns ugly when the Warner vice president
admits he didn't like the sitcom -- David gets angry, and the assistant winds up working
HBO desk security.
There's also a scene involving comedienne Caroline Rhea
where he mispronounces her name and fails to say goodbye, incurring her wrath for those
social faux pas.
These ideas are clever, but unlike Seinfeld, they
fail to pay off with big laughs. Perhaps because the special's much closer to real life,
David doesn't have the same type of outsized personality as Jerry and pals, so the
scenarios seem more mundane.
Where David does shine is during the clips of his various
on-stage performances at comedy clubs. Even in a scene when he's supposed to be bombing,
he draws laughs with the line, "It looks like I ran out of nothing."
Or maybe he just left it back at Jerry's place.
Larry David: Curb Your Enthusiasm premieres on HBO
Sunday, Oct. 17.