What a difference two decades makes. During the latter stages of Larry David’s tenure running Seinfeld, Bryan Cranston memorably appeared as swinging dentist Tim Whatley, a man who most certainly was in breach of privacy boundaries between practitioner and patient. Now, in Curb Your Enthusiam’s ninth season, bridged by our collective memory of Cranston as curmudgeonly meth kingpin Walter White on Breaking Bad, he appears as a self-righteous therapist concerned with Larry’s violation of “patient-doctor confidentiality.”
As Larry correctly observes, Cranston’s Dr. Templeton has the principle somewhat backward. It’s fitting that, both now and in his Seinfeld role, Cranston’s presence in the larger David-ian atmosphere is flatly absurdist: Dr. “Don’t Call Me Lionel” Templeton is the kind of analyst who reveres professional distance yet casually encourages his wife’s — the infamous “Mrs. Templeton” — budding friendship with Cheryl, who is also a patient. He makes an off-the-clock confession to Larry about his and Mrs. Templeton’s truffle fixation, and then takes time out of their subsequent session to reprimand Larry for lacking discretion by sharing that trivial intel with Cheryl, who had purchased the good doctor a box of truffle oils. Finally, he confounds and contradicts by not only taking Larry up on his offer to go chair shopping, but presumptuously and happily accepting the overpriced office furniture as a gift.
Really, Cranston’s loopy guest spot is a means to an end, a way to set and sew up the episode’s common thread: Larry is obsessed with priority seating, or more accurately, the fact that his comfort is no one else’s priority. That goes for his visits to Dr. Templeton, whose patient accommodations left Larry feeling fidgety and distracted from his preoccupation with the fatwa; two-fold for Richard Lewis, who’s always outwitting him at lunch, resigning him to staring at walls with shitty art (in this case, Lewis’s self-aggrandizing self-portrait, which more closely resembles Richard Marx); and even at memorial services, despite paying off an usher to reserve him something close to the nearest exit, lest an Iranian bounty hunter come for his head.
Somehow, poor Marty Funkhouser pays the price for his pal’s escalating frustration at the futility of reserving chairs. Although Marty should have known better than to summon L.D. to a Funkhouser funeral, a scenario that Larry has been known to blaspheme. (See also: Season four’s “The Five Wood” and season six’s “The Ida Funkhouser Roadside Memorial.”) Just when Marty is eulogizing his dead, young nephew Kenny — who, not for nothing, died running the bulls in Pamplona while pursuing his love for a prostitute Larry and Marty had procured for him — Larry yells “fatwa” in a crowded house of worship, and all hell breaks loose. (The fact that it is merely a friend of someone in attendance in a Kufi and sling, as opposed to concealing a gun, is practically a given.)
It’s amazing that, amid sullying the memory of freshly buried Kenny, Larry doesn’t have a recurrence of his “short-fly” issues while stopping to pee. (Even more so that he didn’t track down Cheryl’s ex, Glenn the no-fly underwear magnate, with an idea for his next innovation.) After all, public bathrooms are the only places that give Larry and those in his path more grief than gatherings of mourners. Leon shines in a few short exchanges early on, following Larry’s initial struggle with penis-extrication, introducing him to the game-changing Tiddlywinks method (or, as Leon illustrates, insert an index finger and “press, pop up”). He also authors the unwritten rule that, when it comes to eavesdropping on Larry and Jeff’s private conversations, “Once I start laughing, I’m a part of this shit.” Which might well be how half the signers snuck their way onto the Declaration of Independence.
And, yes, Jeff’s ongoing affair with his real-estate agent is one among an endless roll call of wish-fulfillment fantasies commonplace to Seinfeld and Curb. But it’s also contained within a purposefully juvenile, broader hypothetical ideal — what if you could serially date some unapproachably hot woman without ever asking them out, and the affair were its own cover? — that’s teased out until an idiot gets his comeuppance. Next time Jeff takes Susie on a house tour guided by his mistress, he best give her a downward nod.
Apart From All That
• So much great L.D. grousing, especially about truffles: “I loathe them, they’re disgusting.”
• Leon Fashion Tip No. 1: “Why would they make a little fly in a country with big-ass dicks?”
• I’d describe Lewis’s look as more Hillary Clinton–meets–the Miz.
Time for Susie to have an affair, no?
• It’s hard to convey in writing how funny the “Mrs. Templeton” bit is.
• Is Larry disproportionately caustic this season, or is it just that he’s older and has even less time to waste?