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Television Recaps: Curb Your Enthusiasm and The Venture Bros.

November 10, 2009
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officer krupkeCurb Your Enthusiasm: “Officer Krupke”

I may not be the only person who’s never wondered what Larry David in panties would look like, but I know I’m not the only person who didn’t really care.

Some forced humor in an otherwise pretty funny episode conspires to have Larry don some frillies when Susie discovers the undergarments of Jeff’s latest extramarital in his glove compartment. Jeff maintains they’re Larry’s because (here it comes), “I’m Larry David. I happen to enjoy wearing women’s panties.”

Fortunately, he also enjoys traumatizing small children by telling them their lemonade sucks. And he also loves West Side Story, so naturally he’s delighted to meet a real-life officer of the law named “Krupke,” whom he meets during a fire drill at the Banana Republic…where he’s buying new pants…which he wears, security tags and all, throughout the episode when the Banana Republic loses his old pants and refuses to compensate Larry for their loss. Oh! And he also suspects Cheryl of engaging in a three-way.

Some good moments, mostly due to Larry’s awkward rendition of West Side Story, but Curb’s formula felt especially predictable this week. The minute one of the lemonade-stand-kids’ mother threatens to call the cops if she ever catches Larry around the children again, you know how the episode’s going to end.

Curb always seems to walk that fine line between great character-driven moments and making sure that all the separate plot lines converge, and this episode felt like it was aiming for the latter. You can appreciate the skill with which everything’s all tied up, but too often is the humor sacrificed for a tidy story. Larry’s always going to have those delightful moments along the way, but even he can get old. I preferred last week’s episode, which saw the triumphant return of Larry’s father Nat (and not just because he has an excellent name) and a series-standout confrontation between Andy and the darker side of Marty Funkhauser (Andy’s stalling the group’s tee-time with his painfully slow eating, prompting Funkhauser solemn request, “Would you please finish shoveling that shit in your fucking face?”)

The verdict: Panties—not funny; cursing out kids—pretty funny; Larry singing—damn good—but it’s not quite enough to save it.

6/10

return to maliceThe Venture Bros.: “Return to Malice”

Venture Bros. is one of those shows that frequently challenges my initial reactions. When an episode comes off as scattered and confusing, I find, on repeated viewings, that everything does, in fact, fall into place. Take for example the Season 2 episode “Fallen Arches,” which has about five different stories going on and only 20-some minutes to introduce, develop, and resolve them. When I first saw it, I had no idea what the Hell was happening or why the Hell anyone was doing what they were where they were and how. The second time I saw it, I not only got it, I really enjoyed it.

I have a feeling “Return to Malice” is such an episode. This week we get the story behind Henchman 21’s recent transformation from a pudgy incompetent to a slightly less pudgy, slightly competent ruthless killing machine; we get to see the Monarch deal with a disfiguring food allergy; and we also get a glimpse of Sgt. Hatred’s further descent into the hole of unending turmoil.

21, still grieving from the death of his hench-partner and only friend, Henchman 24, sets out to discover the murder(or ers) responsible, placing at the top of his list the Venture twins, and in a rare showing of capability, he storms the Venture compound, abducts the two, and subjects them to a lackluster form of Chinese water torture. Hatred discovers the boys’ disappearance, immediately suspects The Monarch, and calls him up, getting Dr. Mrs. The Monarch to inform her that the kidnapping is in violation of the supervillainy Guild’s protocol. Dr. Mrs. The Monarch then takes it upon herself to resolve the situation while her husband frets over his allergic reaction to his fancy dinner.

This episode has some nice Venture-esque bizarrities, not the least of which is each of the three main character parading around in their skivvies (the furiously curvaceous Dr. Mrs. The Monarch was a treat for the Deviant Art fanboys), but also notable is the distinct lack of action in an episode that features both The Monarch and Sergeant Hatred. In fact, the only actiony sequence in the entire episode oddly belongs to 21.

Instead, it’s more of a themey “thinky” episode that addresses the inner spite that drives each character: 21’s disdain for reality, Sgt. Hatred’s sexually frustrated angst, and, of course, The Monarch’s malice toward all. We’ve been over all this before, but two out of three times, regarding 21 and The Monarch, there’s still something there, but I’m getting tired of Sgt. Hatred’s one-trick pony—and he still has yet to say or do anything so funny as his real-life origin story.

7/10

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