As a show about nothing, Curb Your Enthusiasm remains a worthy heir of Larry David's previous masterpiece, Seinfeld. This week's episode (Sunday, 9 p.m., HBO) obsesses over minutiae in the life of querulous L.A. Jews, such as a restaurant that serves absolutely irresistible chicken. "How happy are you right now?" Larry's friend Jeff (Jeff Garlin) asks him in mid-bite.
I laughed so hard at that line I almost fell out of my chair. I can't even explain why, but fellow Curb Your Enthusiasm fans will know what I mean. In a world of setbacks and irritations, delicious chicken takes on inordinate importance.
For a show about nothing, the episode is packed with incident. The restaurant is run by anti-Zionist Palestinians, and that gives the chicken a transgressive quality for Larry. He becomes involved with one of the waitresses, turned on by her hatred of him and his people. This satirical foray into Middle Eastern politics sheds more light on the Israeli-Palestinian problem than anything the Obama administration has done in the last three years.
But lest you think the episode too heavy, rest assured that it is chiefly concerned with an annoying sound someone makes when she takes a drink.
How happy am I right now? I'm ecstatic.
Sunday, 8 pm (CBS)
Socially redeeming value be damned - CBS has decided to greenlight a reality series in which third-tier celebrities change places with ordinary people who happen to share their names. Thus, in the pilot, David Hasselhoff goes to Texas to live with the family of another guy named David Hasselhoff. Meanwhile, the non-celebrity Hasselhoff goes to Hollywood to live in the Baywatch star's mansion for a few days.
The celebrity Hasselhoff makes a stab at explaining the show's concept and falls just short of clarity: "This was kind of an opportunity to say, 'Hey, this is who I am. We have the same name. Who are you?'"
At least the celebrity Hasselhoff has answered the question of "who am I?" He seems to be a guy who desperately needs a paycheck.
The Nail Files
Tuesday, 9 pm (TV Guide Network)
For better or worse, this reality series captures the crazy birdbrain intensity of an L.A. celebrity wannabe. Katie Cazoria came to the city from a small town and chose a nail salon as her path to fame and fortune.
Suppressing every human quality besides ambition, the wide-eyed blond has established the Painted Nail as a hangout for minor stars. Despite a prominent sign on the bulletin board that says "Keep Calm - Have a Cupcake," the Painted Nail is in full-blown 911 hurricane disaster mode at all times, mirroring Katie's soul. One minute she's laughing maniacally, the next blubbering in despair. She fights with her employees, wails over a weight gain of .7 ounces, and screams, "Holy shizballs, Debbie Gibson is in the Painted Nail!"
I need a cupcake.
Wednesday, 9 pm (SyFy)
In this bogus reality series, a hunky "expert in ancient symbols" named Ashley travels the world in search of the ark of the covenant, the holy grail, King Arthur's sword and other mythical relics. Everybody knows he's not going to find them - everybody except Ashley, who conducts his investigations with motormouth intensity.
Percussion and violins grind out feverishly dramatic music on the soundtrack, as if Ashley is about to hit paydirt right around the next corner. He doesn't, of course, but he's always convinced that the relics do exist just beyond some barrier he can't get through, such as a church floor or a stone wall. "It could be there!" he insists, with no evidence besides some half-baked clues he claims to have unearthed.
It Could Be There doesn't have the same ring as Legend Quest, but I think it'd be a more appropriate title for this series.
I Married a Mobster
Wednesday, 9:30 pm (Investigation Discovery)
This series tells real-life stories of women who fell in love with Mafia guys, often unaware of their crime connections. The narrator is Lorraine Bracco of The Sopranos, and her presence can't help make us think of Carmela Soprano. Many of these women are reminiscent of Carmela - attracted to the lavish lifestyle while remaining willfully ignorant about where the money came from. The husbands, for their part, are good at keeping secrets, both from their wives and from the cops. Their motto is "never say nothing," for fear of reprisals from the mob bosses.
Indeed, I'm reluctant even to give this program a critical appraisal. Better just to keep my mouth shut.