TV Review: CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM, 8.3 - "Palestinian Chicken"

The third episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm's eight season is so slick, so seemingly effortless, so funny, and so brilliantly realised, that the whole experience leaves barely any room for negative criticism.

rating: 5

The third episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm's eight season is so slick, so seemingly effortless, so funny, and so brilliantly realised, that the whole experience leaves barely any room for negative criticism. Said plainly, it's half an hour of modern television to savour and enjoy. "Palestinian Chicken" is exactly what we've come to expect after a decade of Larry David's antics. Funny in every way the show has ever managed, it's also absurdly topical, ridiculous, consistently hilarious, and crammed full of Curb staples - all without giving it that bloated feeling the occasional episode embodies. "Palestinian Chicken" is deliciously intricate in its formation, which makes it difficult to describe without giving away the jokes. To lay it out simply, the main plot-lines are as follows: Larry, Jeff, Marty, and two other friends, Eddie and Ron, are involved in a golf competition. They've made it to the last round, which will take place at a later date. They're psyched, to say the least. Then there's the new Palestinian restaurant that's opened in town, Al Abbas, to which Larry and Jeff take a curious visit and find themselves ecstatic about the chicken. Larry comments that it would be a great place for Jews to cheat on their spouses, a remark that later returns to bite him in the ass (When will he learn?). There's also Marty Funkhouser's recently revived (and devout) Judaism, conveniently suited to coincide with the events of this episode. Larry's visit to the Palestinian restaurant brings him into contact with its owner, the beautiful Shara, a confident, highly-sexed women who he believes would never have anything to do with him - he's Jewish, after all, and she owns a very anti-semitic Palestinian establishment. But he insists that the notion of her disgust makes the possibility of a hook-up all the more enticing, because the odds really are that unbelievably low. Her eventual attractive to Larry is played to perfection. Another of the episode's highlights involves a different plot strand: Larry's overt bluntness is recognised (for the first time) by another character in a positive light. Ron is, at first, shocked by Larry's tendency to spill his guts with truthful observations, but soon becomes envious of the Seinfeld creator's power to simply say it like it is. Awed, he hires Larry to tell his wife something he hasn't got the guts to do himself (to stop saying "LOL" as a substitute for laughter). After the incident, Jeff dubs Larry a "social assassin", and the episode follows up the premise brilliantly. Why this idea hasn't been worked on before is perplexing. If comedy had never been such a huge part of Larry's life, social assassination would have been an ideal fit. Sammy, making a memorable return as a teenager, also proves she really is her mother's daughter ("Now get out of my driveway, you bald prick"), and Larry takes part in one of the most ruthlessly comic sex scenes ever put on television ("I'm going to fuck the Jew out of you!"). It's interesting to what extent Larry brushes off his own Judaism here, but there's proof in the 72 episodes previous to "Palestinian Chicken" that he's not a man of much consistency or tact. The restaurant owner is gorgeous, and if she doesn't like Jews, so what? Does that mean Larry can't sleep with her? That he should miss the best sexual experience of his life? He certainly doesn't think so. The pieces of "Palestinian Chicken" meld together seamlessly, giving us a textbook example of Curb's multiple story tangents gelling so well. In fact, you hardly notice that they're even there because the episode moves with such confidence. The result is a sitcom episode with near flawless construction - some of the finest we've ever seen on the show, in fact. That goes, too, for the performances here (Susie Essman, a gift to the show, never puts a foot wrong). Two (very meandering) points: Firstly, there seems to have been a minor shift in the way the show has gone from clear improvisation to more focused dialogue segments. That's not necessarily a negative shift. The plots remain strong, and the quotable lines keep on coming. Second point: The ending was the weakest part of the episode. It wasn't terrible by any means, it just followed 29 minutes of perfection. "Palestinian Chicken" is an indisputable classic, and the best episode of the season so far. New York is still to make an appearance. If Larry's misadventures in the Big Apple prove as entertaining as those witnessed here, then we're in for one of the show's most delightful seasons ever. Curb Your Enthusiasm returns next Sunday on HBO in the US and is coming soon to Sky Atlantic in the UK.
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All-round pop culture obsessive.