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Recaps: Curb Your Enthusiasm and The Venture Bros.

October 28, 2009
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By Nat

Curb Your Enthusiasm

“The Bare Midriff”

curbMy favorite episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm sympathize with Larry, and hint that it’s not him who’s insane; it’s the rest of the world that’s nuts.

“The Bare Midriff” is in that vein, which touches off with Larry not unreasonably asking his assistant Maureen (Jillian Bell) to refrain from sporting tops that allow her belly to spill out all over everywhere. Shudder.

Maureen promptly quits, which sends her mother (Marianne Muellerleile) into a suicidal depression, which forces Larry to apologize and take her back, which leads to the mother noticing the resemblance between Larry and her first husband, which leads to a hilarious flashback of his demise in a road-rage incident. If for nothing else, the episode’s worth watching to see Larry David drive while smoking a cigarette.

Jerry Seinfeld returns as well, and just watching the two go back and forth is as fun as any of Seinfeld’s best Jerry/George moments. And caught in the middle is poor Richard Lewis, who gets sidelined during a lunch date with the two while they discuss where he should sit.

Add to that a delightfully offensive incident involving the splashback of Larry’s furious stream of urine and an image of Christ, and you have a nice return to form, especially given the erratic construction of last week’s episode.

This isn’t among the best of Curb, but it’s a stepping stone on the series’ way back to the top. And special praise for the casting of Bell’s stomach, which toes the fine line between the funny and the disgustingly creepy.

7/10

The Venture Bros.

“Handsome Ransom”

handsomeThe Venture Bros. has parodied so many obscure pop-culture icons, that tackling Batman seems like an afterthought.

In tonight’s episode, the Monarch’s once again captured Hank and Dean, and in an uncharacteristic move, he chooses to ransom the two instead of using them as bait for some lame attempt to kill Dr. Venture.

While Dr. Venture and the Monarch haggle over price (and Dr. Venture entertains the idea of just getting his favorite son Dean back), things get worse with the arrival of Captain Sunshine (voiced by Batman: The Animated Series’ Kevin Conray), who “rescues” Dean with the intention of making him his new sidekick, the supple Wonderboy. (The old one was dispatched by the Monarch’s goons way back in Season 1.)

The problem with this episode is that satirizing the eerily homoerotic relationship of Batman and Robin isn’t especially groundbreaking or original. Show creators Jackson Publick and Doc Hammer have a flair for darkly reimagining beloved comic/cartoon icons (their take on the Fantastic Four recasts Mr. Fantastic as a pretentious science guru; the Invisible Woman as his unloved and needy wife; and the Thing as an exhibitionistic idiot man-child), but Captain Sunshine isn’t very inspired. We can expect more from the guys who gave us the Scooby Doo gang as infamous serial killers.

Likewise, Captain Sunshine’s thinly veiled references to pedophilia aren’t funny themselves because they’re just there, expecting you to laugh at them. In contrast to Sergeant Hatred, the show’s other sexual deviant, they’re funny because of Hatred’s constant struggle against his urges.

But of course there are some good moments. The Monarch is back in full force and bat-shit insane as ever. For once he seems to have some semblance of a rational plan to destroy his Dr. Venture by slowly draining his bank account instead of outright killing him, but as soon as he’s drawn into conflict with Captain Sunshine he relapses, and in the episodes best scene, dons the Wonderboy outfit to taunt Sunshine with the prospect of [bleep]ing both his sidekick and his nemesis in one fell [bleep].

Still, this seems likely to be a one-shot episode, so hopefully it’ll be back on track next week. At least we get some delightful new characters (including Sunshine’s team, featuring the laugh-out-loud superheroine “Barbie-Q”—a flaming doll).

6/10

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2 Responses to “ Recaps: Curb Your Enthusiasm and The Venture Bros. ”

  1. pancake on October 28, 2009 at 8:10 am

    Outstanding – I have a lot of Curb to catch up on and I can’t wait to give Venture a try!

  2. Nat on October 28, 2009 at 8:37 am

    Whoops! That should have been “Kevin Conroy”!

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