Curb Your Enthusiasm: The Complete Fifth Season (2005)
Larry: You're nuts about this Jesus guy, aren't you?
Cheryl's father: I have a personal relationship with Christ.
Larry: Really? I can see worshipping Jesus if he were a girl. Like if God had a daughter...Jane. I'll worship a Jane.- (Larry David, Paul Dooley)
Stars: Larry David
Other Stars: Jeff Garlin, Cheryl Hines, Shelley Berman, Susie Essman, Ed O'Ross, Rosie O'Donnell, Mayim Bialik, Mekhi Phifer, Paul Dooley, Ashly Holloway, Lydia Cornell, Matt DeCaro, Ann Guilbert, Kevin Nealon, Bob Einstein, Richard Lewis, Kendra Wilkinson, Holly Madison, Richard Kind, Gary Player, Hugh Hefner, Stephen Tobolowsky, Bill Saluga, George Lopez, Iris Bahr, Stuart Pankin, Sascha Baron Cohen. Wanda Sykes, Bobbi Sue Luther, Frank Whaley, Mindy Kaling, Lobo Sebastian, Lydia Blanco, Julie Payne
Director: Robert B. Weide, Larry Charles, David Steinberg, Bryan Gordon
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (language, brief nudity, sexuality)
Run Time: 05h:50m:00s
Release Date: 2006-08-01
DVD ReviewLarry David is the original "say the wrong thing guy", and in this fifth season of HBO's Curb Your Enthusiasm much of the comedic conflict comes from his incessant non-PC prodding of a particular subject, but this time around there seems to be have more instances of his attempts to legitimately do the right thing blow up horribly in his face. And it's that subtle shift in tone that either reveals a series running out of ideas or one that feels the need to reinvent itself, because over the arc of the 10 episodes gathered here there is a perfect opportunity for the show to bow out gracefully, something that is especially evident in the season ender appropriately entitled The End.
In the Curb universe, Larry plays himself—the man who created Seinfeld—and lives in Los Angeles where his caustically inquisitive personality has him constantly at odds with just about everyone he encounters through a steady onslaught of poorly placed comments and all-around selfishness. The regular supporting cast is still her, with Cheryl Hines as his perpetually exasperated wife Cheryl, Jeff Garlin as his manager/friend Jeff, and Susie Essman as Jeff's foul-mouthed (at least when it concerns Larry) wife Susie. Familiar faces like Paul Dooley, Shelley Berman, Bob Einstein and Richard Lewis (as himself) reprise their roles throughout the fifth season as story arcs intertwine and play off each other.
Season Five begins with a near-death drowning experience for Larry, prompting him to question his purpose in life, and then a near-death utterance from his father Nat (Shelley Berman) indicates he may be adopted. Larry enlists the services of bow-tied private investigator (Mekhi Phifer) to find his real parents, and as the 10 eps unfold this storyline pops up occasionally, blended with another recurring subplot about Richard Lewis needing a kidney transplant. The overlap builds to wonderful crescendo in the season ending episode, involving a few bizarre guest stars and great set of flashbacks that could serve as a fitting series ender.
The rest of the season has Larry dealing with his racist dog (according to a great rant by Wanda Sykes, who only appears here in one ep), a sandwich named in his honor, squeaky orthopedic shoes, becoming "friend to the lesbians", a very friendly sex offender, pretending to be an Orthodox Jew, a big vagina, accusing a Korean of eating Jeff's missing dog, dishonoring a Kamikaze soldier, and trading smoking jackets with Hugh Hefner. The show is built on Larry's ability to generally say or do the wrong thing, which he does in abundance here, but one of the shifts in the structure for this season is how often his actions are well-intended, but misconstrued by the rest of the world. It's still funny, just perhaps a bit less based on Larry's lack of proper social skills.
It's the little things like these that give Season Five a different feel, and out of the box I was a little put off by the way Cheryl Hines' character had morphed into a rather shrill harpie, far less understanding and now more of an unrealistic caricature of the disapproving wife. The good news is that while Hines character seems rather unlikable, the f-word-loving Susie is constant comedic joy, and her ability to string an obscenity-laced rip at Larry (which is used to great effect throughout this season) really acts like a shot of adrenaline when the storylines start to wander a bit.
I'm not breaking bad on Curb, because it's still a very funny series, even if this isn't the strongest season of the show's run. It far exceeds the usual sitcom fare by light years, and at its weakest it can still come through with the funny.
Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A-
|Aspect Ratio||1.33:1 - Full Frame|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: All 10 episodes are presented in their original 1.33:1 aspect ratio. Grain is a recurring issue throughout, black levels get a bit muddy at times, with color levels somewhat inconsistent across the season, and the overall presentation is average, if nothing else. This isn't an especially eye-catching set of transfers, but it's certainly workable.
Image Transfer Grade: B-
|DS 2.0||English, French||yes|
Audio Transfer Review: Following tradition for season five, the audio is delivered in a suitably plain 2.0 mix, the strongest part being the HBO logo sequence that precedes each episode. Dialogue is consistently clear, anchored firmly in the center channel, with minimal directional movement.
A French language 2.0 track is also included.
Audio Transfer Grade: B
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 60 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
Extras Review: Packaging matches the other seasons, with the foldout case featuring that weird pull tab/slide-out-drawer thingy. Each episode gets 6 chapter breaks and an option to play a preview, and also include subtitles in English, French or Spanish.
Prior sets haven't had any extras to speak of, and here we get a pair of behind-the-scenes looks at the origins, entitled The History of Curb...So Far (29m:33s) and The History of Curb...Even Further (24m:12s). Both of these are kind of meandering, sometimes getting a bit too heavy on the backslapping, but Larry David contributes quite frequently and since the guy is a hoot that's never a bad thing. Not necessarily revealing pieces of history, and it seems like one could have covered the history adequately, but considering how empty the extras have been other Curb season sets I guess I shouldn't complain too loudly.
Extras Grade: B-
Final CommentsThere's a subtle and weird shift with the tone for this fifth season—thankfully still laugh-out-loud funny—but perhaps too wobbly when it comes to character actions. Fans of Curb will jump right in for this, but if you're a newcomer this isn't the strongest set of episodes in the series' run.
Still, I laughed often and I like when that happens.
Rich Rosell 2006-08-10