The Quarantine Stream: 'Curb Your Enthusiasm' Is A Pretty, Pretty, Pretty Good Distraction In Troubled Times

(Welcome to The Quarantine Stream, a new series where the /Film team shares what they've been watching while social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.)

The Series: Curb Your Enthusiasm

Where You Can Stream It: HBO Go/HBO Now

The Pitch: Television writer Larry David, playing a fictionalized version of himself, bumbles his way through modern day Los Angeles, hanging out with his wife (Cheryl Hines) and manager (Jeff Garlin) and often letting his bristling personality get him into ludicrous (and hilarious) situations. It's basically HBO's version of Seinfeld, but about a real-life George Costanza. Oh, and there's a seemingly endless parade of recognizable faces (a young Melissa McCarthy! Ted Danson! Martin Scorsese!) and most of the dialogue is improv'd within a loose outline for each episode.

Why It's Essential Viewing: I'm incredibly late to the party on this show – twenty years late, in fact. Curb is currently in its 10th season (it took some long breaks between seasons), but my wife and I have just started to catch up with it over the past couple of months and have found that, at least in the early seasons, it's been an incredibly helpful distraction from [flails arms, Larry David-style] all of this.

Seinfeld is a perennial favorite, a familiar classic which we'll almost always watch if we're mindlessly flipping through the channels. (Don't be surprised to see that series show up in a future edition of this column). So it feels like a true gift that A) a spiritual sibling to Seinfeld exists, and B) there are so many seasons of it for us to savor before we're all caught up. We don't binge-watch Curb: we watch one or two episodes at a time, and almost always put a few days between viewings. I'm not arguing against binging in all cases across the board – it's definitely beneficial for certain shows – but for something like this, which has loose seasonal arcs but mostly self-contained episodes, I prefer to take small bites instead of inhaling it all in one sitting.

There's an old-school feeling to the structure of the episodes as they check familiar boxes: set-ups, payoffs, and callbacks abound. There's a circular nature to the plotting, where everything is connected and it all seems to overlap; you can usually predict how an episode is going to end a few minutes before it happens. But that's not a knock against it – paradoxically, it often makes the ending work even better.

The show isn't particularly deep or nuanced, and it doesn't even have any particularly intelligent statements to make: it's just plain funny, and I need as much laughter as I can get right now. And since practically every episode is about Larry becoming frustrated or flustered by some ridiculously small piece of social minutiae – the "cut-off" time for calling someone at night, or the appropriate distance it's acceptable to sit in the back seat of someone's car if they're giving you a ride – it also serves as a look back at a different, simpler time. If only those were the worst of our problems now...