Jonathan Storm: Funny, yes, but a bizarre crib of 'Curb'

In an episode of "The Paul Reiser Show," Paul Reiser's character Paul (left) schedules a meeting with "Curb Your Enthusiasm's" feckless Larry David character, played by Larry David. Reiser's copycat is better than most TV sitcoms, but it doesn't rise to others' level of cracked originality.
In an episode of "The Paul Reiser Show," Paul Reiser's character Paul (left) schedules a meeting with "Curb Your Enthusiasm's" feckless Larry David character, played by Larry David. Reiser's copycat is better than most TV sitcoms, but it doesn't rise to others' level of cracked originality.
Posted: April 14, 2011

Paul Reiser is no coward. His new Paul Reiser Show is an almost-bizarre, low-toned clone of Larry David's hilariously dangerous descent into neurosis, Curb Your Enthusiasm, right down to the ironic, lighthearted theme music. It takes guts to copy so blatantly.

In Thursday's first episode at 8:30 p.m. on NBC10, Reiser, who plays a feckless character named Paul Reiser, contemplates taking a job as a game-show host. Word on the street is that David also has been asked to take a crack at the job.

So Reiser schedules a meeting with Curb's feckless Larry David character, played by Larry David, to see if the rumor is true. It is. Forget the game-show idea, David, the character who's always looking for an edge, advises. "You should be doing a show like what I have . . . because you are so much worse than I am."

Reiser, who basically took the decade off after Mad About You closed in 1999, is doing a show like David's. And he is worse. He obviously knows it and doesn't care, and he also seems to know that a Curb version focused on a half-baked, neurotic, bored showbiz guy - as opposed to David's truly hateful, narcissist showbiz guy - is better than most TV sitcoms. So, ladies and gentlemen, he says without coming right out and saying it, here it is.

Reiser's offbeat friends are all fellow fathers, bound together because their sons are in the same class at school. Reiser has wrangled a rainbow crew of cohorts - a WASP, an African American, an Iranian, and a Jew - and all of them come with at least a touch of stereotype.

Habib is the most fun, proprietor of a salvage company with a huge warehouse of junk that he ships off in deeply discounted lots to wherever they'll sell: a 99-cent store in L.A. or some emporium in Bolivia, where slightly modified surplus bobbleheads of now-retired all-star relief pitcher Trevor Hoffman can be foisted off as statuettes of Jesus.

One of the fathers needs some model Amish cart wheels so his son can do a class project on Pennsylvania. Habib's got 'em in bulk, but the dad complains that he needs only six. "The whole bag is 85 cents," Habib says.

Next week, Paul has a run-in with another parent at the school, a guy named Henry, who is played by the scary-looking former punk rocker Henry Rollins, whose white supremacist gangster A.J. Weston in Sons of Anarchy was one of the more chilling characters in the recent TV lineup. Henry, up for a part in a movie, thinks Paul told the producer Henry wasn't funny.

Not true, Paul says. "I said, 'I didn't know how funny he is.' I didn't say he was not funny." Sounds almost like it was lifted from Curb Your Enthusiasm, or David's other show, a little thing called Seinfeld.

That one was on when Thursday on NBC was the pinnacle of TV comedy. Now, it's a ratings backwater of offbeat laughers, including some of TV's best. I'm not saying the copycat comedy of The Paul Reiser Show isn't funny, but it doesn't compare favorably to the cracked originality of Community or 30 Rock.


Jonathan Storm:

Television

The Paul Reiser Show

8:30 p.m. Thursday on NBC10


Contact television critic Jonathan Storm at 215-854-5618 or jstorm@phillynews.com.

Read his recent work at http://go.philly.com/jonath

anstorm.

 

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