The hit comedy has returned for a ninth season, but under Trump the landscape has changed and so too have audiences attitudes to political correctness
America’s enthusiasm for Larry David appears to be wearing fairly, pretty thin. The yield of his long-running comedy Curb Your Enthusiasm earlier this month met with a mixed reception. Some commentators praised the show’s taboo-breaking approach. Others lamented its refuse. Writing in the Guardian, Phil Harrison said Curb was beginning to resemble a” fourth-rate Benny Hill “.
At the heart of the debate is whether a show about the travails of a privileged white man who operates without a filter has lost its plea in America in 2017, a place where, in the words of New Yorker,” it seems as if all of public life is its own grim various kinds of wince slapstick “.
David took six years old to consider whether to revive Curb, a project that started as an inventive stand-up special for HBO in 1999 and blossomed into a second hit for the man who found success as the co-creator of Seinfeld. It was the controversial aiming of that testify which committed him interrupt about reanimating Curb for a ninth season.
” I get so much heartache from the Seinfeld finale, which a lot of people intensely detested, that I no longer feel a need to wrap things up ,” he said in a 2014 Grantland interview.” I wouldn’t say I’m mad about it, but it taught me a lesson that if I ever did another see, I wasn’t gonna wrapper it up .”
But he did decide to come back, and this season’s tale arc- in which David receives a fatality menace from the ayatollah after writing a musical called Fatwa- has been called a” throwback in a bad way “.
Ratings have been good but not startling. Curb controlled 1.54 million viewers in the US on its debut, a plunge of around 25% on the season eight finale. That’s quite a way off the mainstream entreaty of Modern Family( which draws in around 7 million viewers) but perceptibly better than Emmys favourite Veep( 580,000 ).
It has not all been bad for David. Many have praised his decision to keep the prove controversial and to include a diverse cast which does not attempt to talk down to its audience but instead usurps it’s in on the joke.
Kenny Herzog, a Tv critic who recaps Curb for New York magazine’s Vulture, said here reception of the ninth season disclosed more about the contemporary debate around political correctness than David’s comedy itself.
” It is inevitable that the yield of the show wasn’t going to have the luxury of standing on its legacy and its merits ,” he said.” It was going to have to rise to a new criterion that a lot of people have about being delicate towards certain themes and people, even when you’re being funny.
” If you over-think it you’re going to end up making a show that doesn’t resonate with people because it doesn’t have anything to say and it doesn’t have any projectiles .”
The problem may be what the show is saying. Larry’s relationship with Leon Black – his layabout housemate, give full play to JB Smoove- has become a focal point for commentators. Some say a lazy black character repetitions racist stereotypes. Others say the character is knowingly cartoonish and has endeared David to black America.
There is an argument that it’s not David who has changed, but his audience. In the time Curb has been off screen there has been a change in public opinion about political correctness. Vocal, student-led motions and social groups such as Black Lives Matter now challenge how influence works in all parts of American civilization, including comedy.
David’s long-time collaborator Jerry Seinfeld has been one of the loudest voices shouting down opponents of offensive gags and comedy.
In 2015, asked by ESPN why some comics no longer perform on university campuses, he said:” They just want to use these terms:’ That’s racist ‘;’ That’s sexist ‘;’ That’s prejudice ‘. They don’t even know what the fuck they’re talking about.
” I have no those who are interested in gender or race or anything like that. But everybody else is kind of, with their calculating- is this the exact right combination? I think that to me it’s anti-comedy. It’s more about PC-nonsense .”
Herzog is of the view that societal change- on what is deemed funny and what is wantonly offensive- as the core of the debate around Curb’s lost appeal.
” There might be people first coming to the show just based on its reputation having ever seen it, and they may be in their 20 s or late teens and have come of age in an era of self-conscious political correctness ,” he said.” They can be surprised at how confrontational the show is .”
The other major change has come in the White House, where Donald Trump’s presidency has ushered in an age where, as the New Yorker threw it:” Unbridled egotism and rampant hairsplitting rule the airwaves; the unrivalled callousness of a rich, old, out-of-touch white-hot person is a daily fixture .”
That landscape has stirred the show’s proposition more difficult to swallow for some, but Herzog points out “that its” people like Trump that the show is lampooning.
” You’ve got to pick your friends and pick your adversaries and I don’t think Larry David is actually on the wrong side ,” he said.” They’re on the right side of progressivism and you’ve got to have a sense of humour. If you find any of the new serial offensive that means you need to go back and find the entire show offensive .”