Episode Recap: "The Benadryl Brownie"
Curb Your Enthusiasm
This episode touches on a few different everyman topics. Things like cell phone etiquette, the proliferation of remote controls, drugging friends for their own good and busting the stereotype that all women can bake. It's all wrapped up in an episode of Curb called "The Benadryl Brownie."
The Proliferation of Remotes
The episode starts with Larry and Cheryl frustratedly discussing their television set-up that neither one of them is able to operate properly. Larry asks it, and I echo: why CAN'T you only have one remote?! You know, when the remote control was invented it was a culture changing moment. No longer would American children have to act as a human slave, getting up to change the channel at the whim of a parental figure (No? Just me?). But then EVERYTHING got a remote--- the TV, the cable box, the VCR, the DVR, the light switch and the UNIVERSAL remote that was supposed to control them all... but never did. Soon we all had coffee tables literred with black plastic candy bars. A new thing to turn the couch upside down for rather than walk the 6 feet to manually push a button.
As the volume of remotes increased, our grasp on technology decreased. Somewhere, somehow we started getting lost when the "input" button made its grand entrance. Gone were the days of a snowy screen and the sound of white noise to tell you something was wrong. Now we all had the maddening silence of a black or blue screen with a cryptic word like "Video 1" or "SAT" to taunt our futile efforts to "makey the talkey box makey the pretty pictures."
The ineptness trancends generations so that even the most skilled techies are thrown when outside their comfort zone. Just try housesitting for any of your friends without them talking you through how to operate their entertainment set-up and you'll find a web of deceit and dead ends that leads you to taking up the ancient art of —ahem- 'reading.' -Shudder.
Larry is just as frustrated with his home set-up and has hired 'a guy' to come and 'fix' it numerous times. It's gotten to the point where he's ready to fire 'the guy' but is hesitant to do so because he's black.
Richard has a new girlfriend (what happened to the movie theater woman from Season 2?) who happens to be a Christian Scientist. What this means for the plot of the episode is that she won't take any medication, instead relying on the power of prayer to heal herself.
Cell Phone Etiquette
Larry gets a new cell phone and invites Richard and his lady over for dinner. While telling Cheryl this on his new cell phone, he mentions toward the end of the call that Richard's girlfriend is allergic to peanuts. Due to cell phone dropout, Cheryl never hears the peanut allergy thing. It's a plot point that I'm surprised more TV, movie and, heck, even 'real life' (what's that?) doesn't encounter more. In many a film, the cell phone goes one of two ways (I'm generalizing for the sake of space): either the phone and service works flawlessly, or terribly. What you don't see very often is the cell working half/half. Larry and Cheryl had a conversation and then it dropped out at the end. It just so happened that the most important part of the call (the peanut allergy) was what dropped out.
As for etiquette, later in the episode, Larry is pulled into a prayer circle at Richard's girlfriend's mom's house (that's a lot of possessives, hope you followed). He's squirming when his cell phone rings (the ring is the Jewish wedding staple 'Hava Nagila') and he answers. There's so much wrong going on here I don't know where to begin. He could have had the phone on vibrate! Many would argue that the phone was brand new, so he probably didn't know how to do that. To which I counter with: well he managed to change the ringtone to 'Have Nagila' you'd think he would have found the silent setting. Plus, is it kosher (ha!) to take a call in a prayer circle?
So if you haven't already figured out, Richard's girlfriend eats food with peanuts in it because Cheryl never got that part of the message, and blows up like a balloon. Again, I have to credit Larry David for making the choice to never show what she looks like. All it takes is actor's reactions and descriptions to sell it and we audience members come up with a mental picture that trumps any make-up job the crew could have pulled off. Comments such as Richard Lewis's "You know what would match her head? A dress made of turnips and blood." That...that is comedy.
Drugging Friends for Their Own Good
The title of the episode pertains to Larry and Richard's plot to trick Richard's girlfriend into eating Benadryl-laden brownies so that she'll be miraculously healed in order to go to the Emmy Awards with Richard. Hey, it worked for The A-Team every time they had to go somewhwere on a plane and had to drug the aerophobic B.A. Baracus (played by the legendary Mr. T). But Larry is no Hannibal and Richard is no Face.
First they head to Susie's to get the recipe for her brownies, which she won't give up. She says it's a secret family recipe from her grandmother, and she won't tell them what it is. Larry yells at her, "It's not the Manhattan Project! It's just a little recipe!" Should she have given it up in your opinion? Any secret family recipes that have been passed along in your family? (I'm not looking for ingredients, just dish names.) My grandmother used to have the absolute best tomato sauce in the world. Before she passed on I asked her what the recipe was. Her answer? "Ragu."
So the boys retreat back to Cheryl and convince her to make a box of brownies including the Benadryl. Here's the twist: Cheryl can't cook. Not even a mix out of a box. So, the brownies are inedible, the Benadryl is not administered and Richard winds up taking his bloated girlfriend to the Emmys as-is. All is fine until they meet up with Joan Rivers who stops in her tracks and says on national television, "I've seen better faces on hemmorhoid. When E.T. phoned home, did you pick up? How are things on Loch Ness?" ---which is where they cut to black. In the words of Meat Loaf: "Two out of three ain't bad." Even for a show that aired 8 years ago, that E.T. joke is older than you, Joan...