So what’s the deal with Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm? Both are great sitcoms. Both have big fanbases. Both were created by Larry David (and one co-created by Jerry Seinfeld). But what are the pros and cons of each? What makes them different? And which overall is the better show? Let’s take a look.
Let’s start with the characters. Each show has a fun cast of quirky, neurotic characters who aren’t particularly good people. But while Seinfeld was a series that eventually became close to an ensemble, Curb has also essentially been “The Larry David Show.” Yes, there is a supporting cast. But their main purpose is to interact with Larry. And the Curb version of Larry David is a pretty hysterical character. But the problem is that it’s always just him (often getting into similar situations each time).
But with Seinfeld, having four central characters gives the show more variety. And with each of them usually getting close to equal amounts of screen time, there’s more of an opportunity for them to interact with one another, making for all different kinds of storylines. And they can often take on a lot of different roles. Sometimes Jerry is the straight man to George or Kramer. Sometimes Elaine is the straight man to Jerry (or the other way around). Occasionally George is the straight man. There are some many possibilities. With Curb, it usually just Larry annoying and/or offending someone. Sometimes he’s right. Sometimes he’s wrong. But he pretty much never handles situations well. So this is one area where I’d say Seinfeld has an advantage.
However, Curb’s singular focus on Larry does give it a more unique storytelling method. Now, if you’ve ever seen Seinfeld, you know that most episodes will feature four different plots. Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer each get a story. And a couple of the plots will often come together at the end in an extremely clever way. Curb does something similar, but perhaps a little better.
As I said, Curb is all about the fictionalized Larry David. Like Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm has multiple plots each episode. But the difference is that Larry is at the centre of each of them. And also like with Seinfeld, at least a couple of the plots will cleverly connect by the end.
What’s so great about this is how much it mirrors real life in a way most sitcoms don’t. Larry doesn’t just have a single problem in his life to deal with at a time. He has several. That’s just what happens in real life. What other sitcom has done that before? None that I can think of.
So if you know anything about the making of Curb Your Enthusiasm, you know that the actors improvise all the dialogue. This is the complete opposite of Seinfeld, which had a very tight script. In fact, according to Jason Alexander (George Costanza), Larry David would get mad if the actors changed a single word of the script.
And honestly, Seinfeld is overall a funnier series. That’s not too say Curb isn’t a humorous show. The situations that David gets into get a lot of laughs. And the actors come up with tons of witty dialogue. But I would say the tighter, more planned out writing of Seinfeld works a little better. The stories, dialogue and characters traits on Seinfeld are hilarious 90% of the time. Curb just doesn’t have as many laughs per minute.
Having said that, the improvisation style works well for what Curb tries to do. And I’m not sure if it would be any better if they scripted the dialogue. It’s just that Seinfeld does its style of humor better than Curb does.
It seems that a lot of people in my generation tend to prefer Curb Your Enthusiasm to Seinfeld. So why is that the case? Well, I think one reason is that Curb is a show that gets away with a lot more. Being on HBO, it can deal with a more dark and sensitive subject matter.
But here’s the thing, considering when it came out, and considering the network, Seinfeld was just as provocative. How many sitcoms at the time we’re doing lighthearted episodes about topics like abortion, suicide or nazis? And it’s not like they didn’t try to get away with as much as they could. There was even an episode they weren’t allowed to do where Elaine buys a gun. If you think about it, both shows are equally edgy as far as what they were able to do. So on that front, neither is better than the other.
Whether it’s a good thing or not, you can’t deny that a lot of people out there relate to the characters on both of these two shows. So why is that? Well, neither of these series relied on stock sitcom clichéd plots. Larry David and the rest of the writers got many of the story ideas from their own lives. But here’s the thing, with Curb Your Enthusiasm, this isn’t as much the case as it was with Seinfeld. With Seinfeld, they based so many episodes on real-life situations that happened to Larry, Jerry or the other writers. Even some of the most bizarre moments aren’t entirely fictional, for example, there actually was a “Soup Nazi”.
But with Curb, it seems like most episodes are about things that simply could happen. Larry David has said multiple times in interviews that this isn’t how he acts. Instead, it’s more just how he wishes he could act. However, this does admittedly allow Curb to get more creative with its storylines, which is commendable. But when it comes to relatability, Seinfeld is the winner. If you watch the show enough, you’ll often react by thinking things like “I’ve been in that situation,” “I’ve had that conversation,” and “I’ve thought about that too.” Does that mean Curb doesn’t have any of this element? Of course not. I’m sure we’ve all felt like Larry at some point in our lives. But overall, Seinfeld is the show that feels more true to life.
So overall, Seinfeld is the better of the two sitcoms. It’s funnier, more realistic and just felt like it had more effort put into it. Curb is still a really good series. There’s a lot to appreciate about it. And there are elements it does better than Seinfeld. Can I see why people prefer Curb? Sure. But for me, Seinfeld is the superior sitcom.