With last night’s episode, “Safe House,” Curb Your Enthusiasm truly seems to have entered the post-Cheryl era. Although Larry and Cheryl’s marriage has been crumbling since Season 6 (and was pretty much doomed since before the series began), she’s been a large part of the show through that season and the following one. Larry’s actions have still revolved around his relationship with Cheryl since their initial split-up, with him either trying to move on or making grand efforts to win her back. But now, Cheryl seems forgotten (by both Larry and the series). Whether or not Cheryl will be returning in future episodes or will still be a big part of the show this season remains to be seen.
We pick up with Larry and current domestic partner Leon now living in a different house with very little explanation or referencing to the move. I was left a little confused that Larry and Leon’s change of location wasn’t really discussed, but this has never been a show where details like this mattered (Larry and Cheryl’s house changed several times early on). Larry and Leon’s neighbors are a safe house full of battered women who are seriously lacking in grocery store aisle blockage etiquette, which provides for two funny set pieces. I particular enjoyed the scene that opened the episode, which captures Larry’s struggles to maneuver around a weeping woman in the frozen food aisle to grab a container of ice cream.
Like any Curb episode, this one features a lot of tiny plotlines that weave in and out of each other in typical Davidian fashion. But this week, the various story threads feel a little more fragmented than usual. Things still come around nicely for an impressive and funny conclusion, but there doesn’t seem to be much narrative direction to the episode. We see Larry lecture a domestic violence victim about picking up after her dog, accidentally prompt Richard Lewis’s burlesque dancer girlfriend to seek a breast reduction, and become involved in two cases of mistaken identity with different sets of black men, but one of the funniest scenes involves Larry’s visit to a doctor’s office. In said scene, Larry assures his doctor that his housemate Leon wasn’t responsible for his face injury while Leon beats the living shit out of a vending machine in the background and Larry’s description of their home life makes Leon seem more and more like a violent stalker.
Despite the disjointed feel of the episode, it still offers up everything you’ve come to expect from Curb Your Enthusiasm: carefully-constructed, interweaving plotlines and underrated comic actors turning up in guest spots. This week, we see Jerry Minor as Larry’s neighbor who he asks to watch a stranger’s computer and Curtis Armstrong as the owner of the computer. Jerry Minor’s been around the comedy scene since the mid-90s but is somebody who I’ve always felt deserved greater fame and was never given a fair shake. After a stellar first season on SNL in 2000, he was let go (unfairly, I think), but he’s continued to do hilarious work elsewhere, playing minor recurring roles on two of the most beloved cult comedy series ever: Arrested Development and Mr. Show. Most recently, Minor appeared as Mighty Joe Jon: The Black Blonde, a regular character on the second season of the Adult Swim series, Delocated, and his Earwolf podcast Cyber Thug Radio was cut short with little explanation after a two-episode run (both episodes were hilarious and well-worth listening to, if you can find them). Even though fame keeps evading him, it’s great to see Jerry Minor continue to turn up in quality comedy series, and I’m hoping Larry David uses him again this season.
In addition to Jerry Minor, I like seeing Bob Einstein present in Larry David’s comic universe. With Cheryl gone, it seems like we’ve been getting a lot more Marty Funkhouser and Leon, and I couldn’t be happier. Funkhouser and Leon were very funny together in the previous episode, and judging by the preview, Funkhouser looks to be turning up again next week. For whatever reason, Larry David has avoided having a large regular cast for Curb, in spite of his deep bench of recurring guest stars, with himself, Jeff, and Cheryl serving as the only full-time cast members throughout the show’s run. The increased Funkhouser and Leon presence this season is welcome, as I’ve always thought both characters were very funny and could be used more. While it may just be a coincidence that these two have been popping up so much and they could have diminished roles later on this season, I like that Larry David is leaning on other actors to fill the Cheryl void.
It’s pretty late in the game for David to be making changes to his format, but he seems to be switching things up in more ways than one this season. As I mentioned last week, Larry David co-wrote that episode with Alec Berg, David Mandel, and Jeff Schaffer, a trio of Seinfeld alums and Sacha Baron Cohen underlings, making it the first episode of Curb that David didn’t write on his lonesome. Those three wrote “Safe House” with Larry David, as well, and it looks like he’s switching things up by constructing his story outlines with a team from now on, instead of carrying the entire weight of the show on his shoulders.
As of this episode, there hasn’t been much build-up to or any mention of the upcoming story arc that will see Larry and company traveling to New York; but with his amazing supporting actors receiving the proper utilization this time around, the rest of Curb’s eighth season should be a hell of a ride.
Bradford Evans is a writer living in Los Angeles.