Larry David, Juan Catalan, and one fateful Dodgers game.
As the new, long-awaited season of Curb Your Enthusiasm returns, there will be much discussion about its place in pop culture and probably some nostalgia for the early aughts. Jacob LaMendola’s Netflix documentary Long Shot adds another layer to the discussion.
The doc focuses on Juan Catalan, who was arrested in August 2003 for the May 2003 murder of 16-year-old Martha Puebla. We see the soft-spoken Catalan present day, and see him in court in 2003. We hear audio of his interrogation by two LAPD officers. Catalan maintains his innocence, but things appear grim. He’s been identified in a lineup by a witness, and detectives seem to be satisfied with that.
Until this point Long Shot is a fairly routine true-crime doc but it finds it groove when Catalan picks up high-profile lawyer Todd Melnik, and they try to back up his alibi: He was at a Dodgers game with his daughter the night of the murder.
And so Long Shot goes to the tape and starts breaking down the extraordinary circumstances of the game: HBO was shooting an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm on that same night, and LaMendola heightens the tension by drawing out the big reveal.
In season 4 episode “The Carpool Lane,” series creator and star Larry David picks up a sex worker so he can use the carpool lane and get to a Dodgers game on time. David and his crew were randomly placed in Catalan’s section that day, and LaMendola’s interviews with production assistants, David, and cast members helps the film zoom in, quite literally. The moment Catalan and his daughter are spotted will make you jump out of your seat, or at least utter a “holy shit.”
Long Shot is just under 40 minutes, so it’s a compact ride. Catalan received money from the city after filing a lawsuit, but there’s no discussion of the bigger issue of wrongful convictions, and only a mention at the end of the LAPD’s sloppy detective work. There’s not a thorough look at Catalan’s life in the present, so we don’t get a very clear picture of who he is now, just how his life became defined by David, who quips that the story is one he tells at parties every once in awhile.
Catalan’s life was upended in one of the worst ways possible and David saved him by filming a scene in which he’s mad about his seats at a Dodgers game; something inconsequential became almost comically consequential. In a way, it’s the purest episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm yet.