Saturday, June 6, 2009

PWR2 Spring Webby Winner: Curb Your Enthusiasm: Reality/Fiction Mashup

Curb Your Enthusiasm has, since its debut, intertwined reality and fiction in a strange whorl. The show is written by, directed by, produced by, and stars Larry David as himself – he envelopes the show, sandwiching it on both sides: production and acting. The show is highly improvised. David usually writes about seven pages of material, which provides a plot outline, but the dialogue is left unscripted. Larry David characterizes his portrayal as a fictionalized version of himself, but a version without the appropriate social reservations that the real-David has. He is the co-creator of Seinfeld in real-life as well as on the show. The character of his wife is based on his real wife. The plot of the show, in which they are divorced at the end of season six, even mirrors David’s real-life divorce. Perhaps the greatest difference between real-David and show-David is that show-David is not producing, writing, and starring in a show about himself – and this is probably a good thing lest the audience be trapped in an even stranger recursive reality: show within show within show ad infinitum.

Previously, Curb has depicted David as acting, as in season three where David is cast in a Martin Scorsese film (Scorsese, of course, played himself on the show). Season four is even stranger. Mel Brooks (playing himself) casts David as Max Bialystock in a Broadway run of The Producers. Staying true to the theme of warped reality, it turns out that Brooks is carrying out the same plot as Bialystock does in the play. Humor me: David casts Brooks in Curb who casts David in The Producers as Bialystock but it turns out that Brooks is the ‘real’ Bialystock (in the show’s reality), and strangely, David must have cast him this way to begin with. From a bird’s eye view of the season, it looks like Brooks casted David as Bialystock and the other way around. Certainly part of David’s humor can only be fully appreciated by considering the production of the show itself. The full picture of Curb includes reality.

Season seven is currently in production and slated for premiere in fall 2009, and if rumors are to be believed, we are in for a far more interesting interplay of reality and fiction than we have seen yet. So far, all the projects in the show, including the Scorsese film and The Producers have been fictional. Recently, Larry David starred in Woody Allen’s latest film, Whatever Works, which premiered in April and will start limited screenings in June. It has been speculated (and let me emphasize that this is only speculation) that Woody Allen may appear as a guest in the upcoming season of Curb, as himself, directing Whatever Works. If this were the case, then the show would be like a documentary of the production of Whatever Works. One begins to wonder what exactly “fictionalized” means.

In this scenario, there may be a two-way influence between the reality of the show and reality itself: a show about the production of a movie whose production was intended from the start to be the content of the show. This seems a natural progression in David’s ongoing experiment, but perhaps an unlikely one given that season seven is confirmed to have the entire cast of Seinfeld appearing in a multi-episode subplot (the first time all will appear together since Seinfeld’s end). It is hard to imagine that there is enough time in one season for the cast of Seinfeld and Allen. Also, reference to this rumor has been edited out of the Curb Wikipedia page where it appeared for most of the 2008 summer. The originating site,, seems to have eradicated it as well.

Whether these rumors pan out, Curb will continue to involve reality in creative ways somewhere in the nebulous area between documentary, mockumentary, and sitcom. The show has affected reality before. In 2003, Juan Catalan, suspected of premeditated murder, was cleared of all charges when cut-out footage of the “Carpool Lane” episode in season four proved that he and his daughter were attending a Dodgers game 20 miles away from the crime scene. This effect was unintentional of course, but quite suitable to the show’s spirit. We should, however, expect to see David intentionally involving reality in his comedic concoction in stranger ways still.

Clayton Mellina

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