The SmarK DVD Rant for TV on DVD – Curb Your Enthusiasm, Family Guy, Life After People

I get a lot of DVDs sent to me for review.  Like more than can I probably deal with in any kind of reasonable timeframe.  It makes me feel bad because I’ve had a very hectic couple of months and haven’t had a chance to give them any kind of fair review.  Basically we’ve been in the process of buying our first house and pretty much everything that could have possibly gone wrong did so.  But it’s all good and now we’re all moved in and I’ve got a new Blu Ray player and plasma TV in my man cave.  But I’ve still got a pile of DVDs that have gone unreviewed, so here’s quick reviews of as many as I can squeeze into 1000 words or so.  No connecting thread this time, I just want to try to work through my writer’s block and get back on the horse again.

Curb Your Enthusiasm – The Complete Seventh Season

“Everyone knows that there’s only two ways to injure your neck, and she wasn’t in a car accident!”

I’ve been told that the sixth season of Curb was kind of weak (I never had the opportunity to watch it here in Canada), but this one had the secret weapon that no other sitcom could lay claim to:  A Seinfeld reunion.  And although it really only directly figures into three of the episodes of the 10-episode season, the build to the reunion in the finale dominates the entire show.  Picking up with Larry divorced from long-suffering wife Cheryl and living with a family of hurricane survivors, the seventh season is really about Larry’s quest to reconcile with his former wife.  But of course it wouldn’t be Larry David unless he got overly obsessed with the minutia of human interaction and screwed everything up.  More than that, however, this season is really, really funny.  This is a show that takes full advantage of HBO’s uncensored forum (especially Larry’s new roommate Leon, played by JB Smoove).  Everyone already knows that George Costanza is loosely based on Larry David, and truly this is like George allowed to run amok with millions of dollars in his bank account and no regard for the niceties of social etiquette.  Basically the formula is to have Larry say or do something incredibly selfish and thoughtless, and then spend the rest of the episode lying about it.  The exception actually proves to be the season finale, but even then he can’t resist the temptation to gloat about it instead of listening to the little voice in his head that would normally tell him to shut up.  If you’re a fan of Seinfeld who is looking for the spiritual sequel to that show (without the language restrictions!), this is actually a great place to jump onto Curb.  Plus you get the reunion in the season finale, and Larry playing George!  Strongly recommended.

Family Guy – Volume Eight

I’m really getting sick of the “volume” approach to releasing this show on DVD, as they’re really overpriced for 15 episodes and you’re getting half of one season and then half of another.  I still love the show, but the writing has gotten incredibly lazy and really American Dad kills it week after week.  There’s definitely some signs of life on display here, like the surprisingly strong anthology episode “Three Kings.”  But the departure of Cleveland Brown for his own mediocre show is sorely felt by the halfway point of this volume, and recently the writers have even been complaining through the meta-jokes on the show about how much he’s needed again.  Having said that (Curb reference!), cutaway gags like “Shoving Buddies” and Fred Flintstone on World’s Wildest Police Chases are truly inspired stuff.  But can you remember which episodes they came from?  In fact, I had trouble remembering much of anything from this volume (season?), particularly stuff like “Jerome is the New Black” and “Dog Gone,” which I barely remember seeing on TV in the first place.  Commentaries are also getting sparse here, too, with only about half of the episodes represented and the rest just presented as is.  One thing that was appreciated, however, was the “singalong” versions of pretty much every song from the show’s history, because I honestly never tire of “Shipoopi.”  The rest is definitely starting to fall into “Fans only” territory.  Mildly recommended for collectors only.

Life After People – Season Two

This was a show on the History Channel that looked interesting enough to request for review, and it ended up being a mixed bag for me.  The concept is neat (human beings disappear and we get CGI recreations of what would happen to the world) and the science seems sound.  Basically it’s disaster porn for nerds.  Each episode is themed according to what’s getting wiped out (religious artifacts, holiday traditions, chemical stores, etc), and it’s a very interesting idea.  Unfortunately the producers try to “TV” it up too much, inserting over-the-top dramatic music cues and having the narrator veer into “Isn’t this horrible?” melodrama.  Like during the “religion” episode, the narrator dramatically tells us about how the snakes will RULE THE WORLD.  I guess it’s a hazard of stretching a two-hour concept into an entire season.  Still, I found the show really interesting despite itself and would probably watch it on TV, although three discs of it at one time is a bit much to take.  One thing that does bug here is that the DVD version is 4×3 full screen, and then letterboxed to widescreen. C’mon, it’s 2010!  It looks good for what it is, but it really should have been actual anamorphic widescreen.  It doesn’t really detract from the show any more than watching it on regular SD television would, but I was disappointed to not get true widescreen on DVD.  Plus there’s no extras.  Still, for pretty reasonable price, it’s a very interesting concept and utterly different from anything else out there on TV right now, and it’s worth a look.   Recommended.

The winner this time: Curb Your Enthusiasm.

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