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I am super-late putting together my Best of 2017 lists — sorry about that!  I’ve been so busy that I wanted a chance to see a few more 2017 shows and movies, and indeed in the past few weeks I have been able to catch up with some terrific entertainment that wound up making it onto my lists.  But as we’ve gotten deeper into January I’ve had to accept that there is way more great stuff than I’ll ever have time to get to, and I didn’t want to wait any longer to get these lists out into the world.

And so, buckle up!  Let’s begin with my Favorite Episodes of TV of 2017!

When I began making these lists, I did this as a Top Ten.  But in today’s era of Peak TV, this has ballooned to a Top Twenty-Five!!  Wowsers!  My apologies!  Is this indulgent?  Well, yes, but there is so much great TV out there that this could have easily been a Top Fifty!!  I tried to limit myself to just one episode from every TV show I loved — though there are a few shows for which I couldn’t resist including two episodes.

Even with a list this long, there were other shows that I quite enjoyed this year that didn’t make the cut, including: Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later, Vice Principals, Orange is the New Black, and American Gods.  I have loved Seth Myers’ “A Closer Look” segments this year, and I wish I’d had a spot to highlight those.  And if this had been a Top Twenty-Six, that slot would have gone to the Star Wars Rebels episode “Twin Suns” (season three, episode twenty, aired on 3/18/17), in which the show visited Tatooine and a pre-Star Wars, in-hiding Obi-Wan Kenobi for an emotional final confrontation with Darth Maul (a character who had been resurrected and surprisingly well-developed by the previous animated Clone Wars series).  It’s an essential piece of the larger Star Wars story that also, stunningly, puts a fascinating new spin on all of that “Chosen One” nonsense from the Prequels.

Reading this lengthy list, you might think that I watched a lot of TV in 2017 — and you’d be right!  But in this era of Peak TV, there are still a LOT of interesting-looking shows that I did not get to this year (and that I hope to catch up with eventually!), including The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (which I am actually watching now, and loving), The Handmaid’s Tale, The Leftovers, Halt and Catch Fire, Mindhunters, Fargo season 3, Bojack Horseman, Rick and Morty, Review, Glow, Veep, and I am sure there are lots more … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Curb Your Enthusiasm: Season Nine!

I thought for sure that we’d seen the end of Curb Your Enthusiasm, but after a hiatus of six years, the longest break in the series’ history (and the longest break I can think of in between series of a show that was not officially cancelled), lo and behold, we got a ninth season of Curb this year!

I thought seasons seven (which gave us a Seinfeld reunion) and eight (with such all-time classics as “Palestinian Chicken”) were among the show’s best.  Sadly I can’t say the same about season nine.  I know some critics have really trashed this season, which I don’t think is warranted.  I still got a lot of enjoyment out of watching each episode of the misanthropic Larry David’s misadventures.  But things were noticeably uneven this year.

Each episode was jammed full of a TON of wonderful ideas.  It’s as if Larry David had been keeping an enormous notebook of ideas for all the years the show was away, and decided to pack several seasons’ worth of ideas into this one season.  But the problem this created was that most episodes felt overstuffed, with great ideas that weren’t given the room to breathe and so were then tossed away too quickly, without having the time needed to build to a proper comedic punchline.

This season’s episodes were, mostly, longer than usual.  Most clocked in at around 35 minutes in length.  But I still felt that the episodes were overstuffed and, at that length, started to feel shaggy.  In a connected problem, for the most part the multiple storylines in each episode didn’t all tie together at the end, as had long been the hallmark of this show (and Seinfeld before it).  And so lots of great jokes or bits would up feeling like throw-away ideas that went nowhere, rather than the way all of the show’s comedic ideas used to weave together by the end of an episode.

Still, this season was packed with so many classic comedic ideas: The “accidental text on purpose”; Larry’s representing himself in court (and “yoo-hoo”ing a judge); “patient-doctor confidentiality”; Larry’s offending an Uber driver having a catastrophic effect on his uber rating (not to mention the whole idea of ranking one’s datability by an Uber-style rating); Larry’s refusal to say “thank you for your service” to a veteran like everyone else automatically does; pants with a short fly; a deep analysis of the face made by a restaurant chef after a patron requests a change to the way a dish is prepared; men’s obsession with opening jars; Larry’s advising a prostitute on her wardrobe; “foisting” a terrible employee on an unsuspecting friend; Larry’s distaste at public displays of affection… and … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Larry David’s Clear History

September 20th, 2013
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I don’t know why I didn’t watch Larry David’s HBO film Clear History the second it first aired on HBO.  Maybe the generic ads, or the even more generic title, neither of which gave me any idea of what the film was actually about?  But I knew I couldn’t resist a new project from Larry David — and many of the key creative minds he partners with on Curb Your Enthusiasm, including Alec Berg, David Mandel, and Jeff Schaffer — for long!

In Clear History, Mr. David stars as Nathan Flomm, a happy, shaggy-haired marketing wiz who works for an up-and-coming electric car company run by Will Haney (Jon Hamm).  When Nathan objects to the name Will chooses for their new car — the Howard — they get in a fight and Will leaves the company, agreeing to sell back all his shares in the company.  When the Howard proves to be an enormous success, Nathan realizes that he has lost out on a fortune.  Humiliated, he changes his name to Rolly DaVore and creates a new, modest life for himself on Martha’s Vineyard, where he works as the aide to an old woman.  For ten years he is happy there, until Will and his new young wife Rhonda (Kate Hudson) buy a house on the Vineyard.  Nathan feels he has to leave his life on the Vineyard and move somewhere else, but when he realizes in a chance encounter with Will that his former boss and partner doesn’t recognize him (now shorn of his long hair and beard and looking like, well, like Larry David), Nathan decides to stay and plot revenge against his nemesis.

Mr. David has recruited a top-notch cast to work with him on this HBO movie.  Jon Hamm is a great straight-man, and there is something magical about the pairing of this handsome, very not-Jewish leading-man with Larry David’s crabby, irascible, very-Jewish persona.  I only wish the film’s plot didn’t necessitate the two men for being almost entirely separated from one another after the events of the prologue!  The biggest shock to me in the cast was an almost unrecognizable Michael Keaton, who plays the testy demolitions-expert who Nathan hires to blow up Will’s new house.  Under an elaborate make-up job and sporting a thick crusty seaman accent, Mr. Keaton is a revelation, absolutely hilarious in every scene he is in.  Danny McBride is great as Rolly’s jovial best-friend in his new life on the Vineyard, though I wish Mr. McBride had a larger role in the story.  After a few promising early scenes, he is pretty much sidelined.  Also featured in the film are Liev Schreiber, Philip Baker Hall (Seinfeld’s Library Investigator … [continued]