REVIEW: “I’m not the bad guy.”
It’s the constant refrain of Larry David, as the new series of his long-running comedy Curb Your Enthusiasm (now streaming on Neon and debuting on SoHo at 9.05pm tonight) begins.
Let’s be honest though, it’s been the mantra of grudge-holding, petty, vindictive, socially awkward, mishap-prone misanthrope “fictionalised” version of the writer and stand-up comedian since the very beginning of this now 11-season, 21-year show.
Like his more famous co-creation Seinfeld, it takes potshots at modern mores and cleverly crafts heightened conundrums based around day-to-day encounters, which often end in catastrophic results. Only this has a cadre of myopic and self-obsessed Hollywood players and not eclectic New Yorkers as its anti-heroes.
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It’s frequently laugh-out-loud funny, full of situations and behaviour that will make you cringe and most certainly an acquired taste. But, at its best, and 47 Emmy nominations attest to its quality, it is awfully hard to beat when it comes to compelling, binge-worthy comedy.
This latest instalment of 10 episodes opens with Larry on a roll. He’s gone out on two successful dates with Lucy Liu and a pitch to Netflix for a New York-based period comedy – Young Larry – results in a sale within minutes.
However, as always, his buoyant mood doesn’t last long. An attempt to remind a golfing buddy that he still hasn’t paid him back for a trip six months ago turns into a public shouting match and the death of a burglar on his property after he trips, hits his head and falls in Larry’s unfenced pool takes an unexpected turn when somebody decides to use that knowledge to their advantage.
Worse still, at least in Larry’s eyes, an evening with houseguest Leon (J.B. Smoove), his partner Mary Ferguson and friends goes awry after Larry’s red wine stains a couch in controversial circumstances and he then walks into a window.
“That’s two feeble things in a row, one more, and I’m going to drop his ass off at a nursing home,” Leon notes. For Larry though, it’s Lucy’s reaction that has him most dismayed and confused.
While not quite classic Curb, where seemingly disparate sub-plots come together for a killer punchline, fans should be more than satisfied with this opening salvo. Larry’s disdain for Albert Brooks’ proposed live funeral offers some hilarious moments, while Young Larry’s somewhat chaotic pre-production is clearly going to be this season’s larger focus, which should elicit plenty of pithy observations about making television in today’s multi-platformed environment.
We can also clearly expect plenty more celebrity cameos, with, along with Brooks and Liu, Jon Hamm returning here to deliver the results of his efforts to closely study Larry in order to play him in a movie based on his life.
This might not be a vintage start, a few scenes seemingly go nowhere and not all the jokes land, but it still offers a masterclass in high-wire hilarity, balancing and spinning various identifiable social interactions, while delivering memorable moments of both physical and verbal comedy.
Season 11 of Curb Your Enthusiasm is now streaming on Neon and debuts on SoHo at 9.05pm tonight, October 28.