SOMETIMES IT'S TOUGH TO CURB ONE'S ENTHUSIASM FOR THIS AMUSINGLY CRUSTY GUY.
It's hard to tell if Larry David is either phoning it in or trying too hard in the first few episodes of his sixth season of "Curb Your Enthusiasm." His crazed, cranky sense of humor is still well on display, but plotting on his show seems to have spiraled well beyond the realm of logic.
Just one example, in tonight's premiere: One of the smoke detectors in Larry's house goes on the fritz, and it takes him an amusingly protracted amount of time to locate it. On TV, this doesn't seem that odd, but if you've ever had one in your own home start shrieking, you know it doesn't take you very long to figure out which one it is.
David still introduces a number of disparate subplots -- masturbation, the incompetence of dry-cleaners and the vanity of altruism inform episode two -- and manages to link them all together in quixotic fashion. But increasingly, David relies on epic stupidity, either from his character or one of Larry's friends or antagonists, to tie his story up into a tidily scabrous knot.
These contrivances are getting ever more ludicrous, practically dadaistic. To channel Anton Chekhov through Larry David, if a smoke detector is trashed in the first act, a conflagration must occur in the third. But how David reaches that point pretty much strains narrative credibility.
This season's through-line involves Larry's wife Cheryl (Cheryl Hines) convincing him to invite a family displaced by a hurricane into their home; said family veers from episode to episode from hostile and unappreciative to downright friendly, dissipating the attendant humor.
The jokes are still squarely in place; it's just that the behavior of "Curb Your Enthusiasm's" characters comes less from planet Earth and more from Bizarro World.
CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM - Three stars
>What: Sixth-season premiere of Larry David's crankily absurdist comedy.
>When: 10 tonight; also 9 p.m. Monday, 10:30 p.m. Tuesday, midnight Thursday, 10:30 p.m. Friday.
>In a nutshell: Still funny, but with plotting from Bizarro World.
Larry David returns for his sixth season as the cranky centerpiece of HBO's "Curb Your Enthusiasm."