Weeks before the eighth season of Curb Your Enthusiasm premiered on HBO, we were hearing that the season's third episode, "The Palestinian Chicken," where a Palestinian chicken restaurant moves in next door to a much-beloved Jewish deli in Westwood, was one of the show's best ever--"an instant classic," in the estimation of Variety's Brian Lowery.
If anything, that undersells the daring of the episode, which aired last night. As Hit Fix's Alan Sepinwall notes, the entire episode was "layed out as a parody of both Israeli/Palestinian tensions and the Ground Zero mosque kerfuffle." The episode's basic conceit, explains The AV Club's Meredith Blake, is that the Palestinian chicken restaurant turned "Larry’s ostensibly liberal friends...into conservative, pro-Israel reactionaries" whose arguments against the restaurant's location "sound a whole lot like those made by opponents of the 'Ground Zero Mosque' last year ('It’s insensitive. Can’t they open a few blocks uptown?')." Those aren't topics many television comedies strive to cover, and certainly not with the "'Did they really just go there?' element that Larry David's HBO sitcom thrives on," writes The Wrap's John Sellers. Sellers explains:
"Take, for instance, the following exchange, and imagine it being said by, say, two guests on "Nightline," or by co-workers at your office:
"'I like you,' says an Arab woman, flirting with a balding older man with a New York accent.
"'What's not to like?' he replies.
"Eh, you're a Jew.'
"Now put that in the context of an exchange between Larry David and a scorchingly hot, though extremely anti-Semitic, purveyor of addictive rotisserie chicken, and you have a stellar comedic moment."
Along with being breathtakingly funny, Blake argues, the episode made a persuasive argument for the David Doctrine in international relations. "There’s something kind of brilliant about Larry’s hedonistic approach to diplomacy," observes Blake. "[N]egotiations, sanctions and suicide bombs won’t get Palestine anywhere; great sex and delicious chicken will." That David had the confidence to go ahead with the episode, and make a chicken-and-sex-based approach to peace in the Middle East seem almost viable, is a testament to his unique position in American comedy. "Like his collaborator Jerry Seinfeld, David sees the world through a prism of potential-joking," explains Entertainment Weekly's Ken Tucker. "Neither of them is overtly political, nor do they seek to break taboos in a latterday Lenny Bruce sense. On Curb, jokes about religion and ethnicity are cast in terms of specific people in particular situations whose outrage, whether genuine or feigned, can be satirized merrily."