July 6 (Bloomberg) -- How does Larry David top the wonderful “Seinfeld” reunion season of “Curb Your Enthusiasm?” Judging from three new episodes, he doesn’t.
So curb your expectations, even though the HBO comedy about the misanthropic comic is still one of the better arguments for premium cable.
Season Eight, which premieres Sunday, finds Larry confronting bachelorhood. The hinted-at reconnection with wife Cheryl at the end of Season Seven didn’t stick (mirroring the real David’s life).
This summer’s first episode is called “The Divorce.” Beyond the title, I can’t comment on the debut. The three episodes available for review, at David’s request, are the third, fifth and ninth installments of the 10-episode season.
A prevention against spoilers, or cherry-picking for quality? Hard to say. The episodes are consistently amusing -- probably funnier in spots than anything you’ll watch on TV this summer -- but they’re unexceptional by the show’s highest standards.
The only discernible multiepisode arc, beginning by week six, is Larry’s temporary relocation to New York.
“Palestinian Chicken,” the season’s third show, hits that sweet spot of mundane and absurd that’s missing in Episode Nine, which features a burning high-rise, a dangling baby and baseball’s butterfingered Bill Buckner.
In the chicken episode, Larry and manager/pal Jeff (Jeff Garlin) are hooked on the scrumptious dish served at a Palestinian restaurant with a decidedly anti-Israel ambience.
Spotting a beautiful woman at the next table, Larry offers a typically perverse, “She not only doesn’t want you, she doesn’t even acknowledge your right to exist.... That’s a turn-on.”
The tangle of plots throughout the episode involve a golf tournament, the newfound religiosity of a yarmulke-wearing Marty Funkhouser (Bob Einstein), an extramarital affair and the annoying lip-smacking “aah” sound made by Jeff’s wife Susie (Susie Essman) after each sip of a beverage.
Yes, that’s the same habit that irritated Elaine in an episode of “Seinfeld.” But if you’re still watching “Curb” after seven seasons you’ve long since accepted David’s recycling. His obsessions, like his show, die hard.
“Curb Your Enthusiasm” airs Sunday on HBO at 10 p.m. New York time. Rating: ***
“Torchwood: Miracle Day”
An unrepentant child murderer survives what should be a lethal injection. A suicide bomber, near-headless and charred to a crispy stain, opens his eyes.
Death has taken a holiday on “Torchwood: Miracle Day,” that goofy, sci-fi spinoff of BBC hit “Doctor Who” that’s crossing the Atlantic after three seasons in the U.K.
Teaming an American cast with three U.K. holdovers, the retooled show about alien hunters has the casual smarts of the old “X Files,” blowing away more recent homegrown efforts like “The Event” and “Falling Skies.”
Subtitled “Miracle Day,” the 10-episode series on Starz plays out like an action-heavy game of What If. Humans, even decapitated ones, have suddenly stopped dying. The ramifications are endless, dire and surprising.
Mostly, though, the threat of overpopulation, starvation, disease and unending pain loom, along with the question, What, or who, did this to us? And who’s going to pay for health care?
Among the should-be-dead: CIA agent Rex Matheson, played by Mekhi Phifer (“ER”), investigating the mystery despite a gaping hole in his chest.
Also on the case are CIA underling Esther Drummond (Alexa Havins) and two agents from the defunct, supernaturally inclined Torchwood Institute of Wales: Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman), a dashing, bisexual immortal, and Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles), the sole human survivor of the decimated Torchwood.
New viewers needn’t concern themselves with the Torchwood backstory. “Miracle Day” is self-contained.
Written by series creator Russell T. Davies, the debut episode lays all the necessary groundwork and introduces two terrific villains, deliciously portrayed: the execution-defying pedophile (Bill Pullman), who becomes a prophet for the nightmare age, and a cheerfully devious pharmaceutical rep (Lauren Ambrose) who knows an opportunity when she sees one.
Suicide bombers who can’t die need lots of painkillers.
“Torchwood: Miracle Day” airs Friday on Starz at 10 p.m. New York time. Rating: ***1/2
What the Stars Mean: **** Excellent *** Good ** Average * Poor (No stars) Worthless
(Greg Evans is a critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are his own.)
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