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'Curb Your Enthusiasm: The Second Season'

Cover for the DVD collection <i>Curb Your Enthusiasm: The Complete Second Season</i> (Warner Home Video 2004)
Cover for the DVD collection Curb Your Enthusiasm: The Complete Second Season (Warner Home Video 2004)

It is Hollywood legend that the character of George Costanza on the long-running sitcom Seinfeld was the alter ego of the show's co-creator, Larry David.

As played by Jason Alexander, George -- bald, built like a fireplug, and with few career prospects -- seethed at his low rung on the social totem pole and lost himself in endless, pointless dissections of the most meaningless things in life.

David returned to television a few years ago with an odd and iconoclastic HBO sitcom, Curb Your Enthusiasm -- a domestic half-hour quasi-reality show in which David himself stars as... himself, living the high life in Hollywood.

George/Larry still has the same banal concerns. The joke is that he's now worth close to nine figures and thus privileged to walk benignly through the social minefields that once disturbed his dreams. The show is David's mordant appreciation of this punchline to his life.

The second season has just been released on DVD. Here, David and his brain trust of Seinfeld cronies -- Larry Charles and Gavin Polone among them -- honed the show's elegant structure. In each episode, beneath an ostensible conventional story arc -- David pitching a new show to HBO, for example -- lies a crisis over some innocuous social nicety, as for example under what condition one should "stop and chat" with a casual acquaintance one bumps into on the street.

In all of these, David takes what he thinks is a principled position -- and in a regular, O. Henry-esque coda, ends up paying the price one pays when social niceties are violated.

But David still has his millions, his house in Malibu and his comely wife to fall back on. It is one of his show's most subtle points that as long as he has those things, Hollywood will continue to tolerate him.

What's Included: The second-season DVD is a nice package and a must-have for fans of the show, but it is probably overpriced ($27.99 on Amazon.com for just 10 half-hour episodes), and lacks even the most rudimentary supporting material. Cheap-seeming packages like this are the sort of thing David himself would rail against on his show.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Wyman
As the assistant managing editor overseeing NPR News’ arts coverage, Bill Wyman and his staff offer listeners thoughtful and in-depth reporting on film, the fine arts, the performing arts, media, Internet culture, and digital technology. Wyman joined NPR in 2003.