SERIES "Curb Your Enthusiasm"
WHEN|WHERE Season 10 premiere: Sunday at 10:30 p.m. on HBO
"Curb Your Enthusiasm" launched 20 years ago, while the 10th season begins Sunday. Such unusual symmetry merits special attention, so in lieu of a review (HBO declined review screeners) let's do a list instead.
We all have our favorite "Curb" episodes. Here are mine, season by season. All nine seasons of "Curb" can be streamed on Hulu and HBO Now.
"Beloved Aunt," episode 8, Dec. 3, 2000:
Larry (Larry David) volunteers to write an obit for Cheryl's (Cheryl Hines) aunt, but her mom and dad (Julie Payne, Paul Dooley) are understandably horrified by an unfortunate typo that made the print edition. Many little touches stand out in this episode, notably Larry's befuddlement over how to wrap a gift.
"The Doll," episode 7, Nov. 4, 2001
The second season had "Trick or Treat" (Larry's a jerk on Halloween), and "The Car Salesman," whereby Larry attempts a sales career, prompting his pal Richard Lewis to observe, "What are you? [Expletive] Willie Loman?" But "The Doll" is my winner. In this Larry and Jeff (Jeff Garlin) steal the head of a doll so Larry can salvage an ABC pilot deal (long story, needless to say) "The Doll" clarified some of "Curb's" great themes, in particular Larry's enduring annoyance with children, and vice versa.
"Krazee-Eyez Killa" (Nov. 3, 2002).
Wanda Sykes has a new boyfriend, the rapper Killa (a nearly perfect Chris Williams) and naturally, Larry will mess things up between them. "Krazee-Eyez Killa" was one of those early season episodes that foretold the genius to come — the interlocking storyline; the Davidian attempts at restoring peace which invariably result in a profoundly opposite outcome; and "Curb's" idiosyncratic application of "Chekhov's gun" (which basically says that if a gun is seen in the first act, it had better be fired by the next act). A jacket would fill that role here.
"The Carpool Lane," episode 6 (Feb. 8, 2004)
Late to a Dodgers game, Larry hires a prostitute (Kym Whitley) to ride in his car so he can use the carpool lane. Meanwhile, Larry buys some pot from her to help with his dad's (Shelley Berman) glaucoma. The pot lands Marty Funkhouser (Bob Einstein) in jail. "Carpool" did brilliantly what "Curb" has done so masterfully over the years, the flawless cameo. But it also established (and not for the first time) the enduring "Curb" contributions of two brilliant comics, Berman and Einstein.
"The Ski Lift" episode 8 (Nov. 20, 2005)
Richard Lewis needs a kidney (the theme of the entire season) and Larry goes to considerable lengths to avoid donating his own, including the befriending of an Orthodox Jew who runs the kidney transplant consortium. Perhaps his new "friend" will move Lewis up the waiting list? Larry's attempt at Yiddishisms and pretense that he too is Orthodox lead to a ski lift, where he is stranded with the consortium chief's (also Orthodox) daughter. It becomes a problem for her when the sun begins to go down. Bottom line: Lewis doesn't get his kidney.
"Meet the Blacks," episode 1, Sept. 9, 2007.
Cheryl talks Larry into adopting a family displaced by a hurricane, while the B story is a "Curb" classic (Larry avoids Funkhouser's party by going a day later.) The A-story is simple enough, but a whole new world opens up for "Curb"as a result. While long-suffering Cheryl would leave Larry this season, J.B. Smoove would join in the next episode as the enduring house guest, Leon Black. In a comic masterstroke, "Curb" adds the perfect antithesis to Larry and the perfect complement, too.
"The Table Read" episode 9, Nov. 15, 2009
Be my guest. You try to pick a favorite from the " 'Seinfeld' Reunion'" season, which not only yielded the perfect "reunion" episode-within-an-episode, but also "Funkhouser's Crazy Sister" (with Catherine O'Hara") and "Officer Krupke" (and lots of others, too.) Yet scene for scene, line for line, pen for pen, "Read" is tough to beat. In this, Larry lends Jason Alexander his pen, and talks Leon into impersonating one Danny Duberstein to calm Michael Richards, who — like the real Duberstein, now deceased — is suffering from Groat's Disease.
"Palestinian Chicken," episode 3, July 24, 2011.
Jeff accurately labels Larry a "social assassin," who is unafraid to speak his mind and lose friends, while he and Jeff patronize a restaurant that serves good chicken. The complication: It's "Palestinian." Meanwhile, Funkhauser, who has "rededicated his life to Judaism" to overcome his midlife "shpilkes," decides to wear a yarmulke to the restaurant. More complications ensue. If there is such a thing as a "best 'Curb'" episode, this might be it.
"The Shucker," episode 9 (Nov. 26, 2017)
A shucker (Steven Weber) who is hired to shuck oysters at a dinner party overhears Larry confess that he fell asleep during "Hamilton." The complication: Larry and Lin-Manuel Miranda are collaborating on Larry's musical, "Fatwa!," and if Lin hears, well … The shucker of course blackmails Larry for a pair of tickets. What show has a six-year hiatus and can still come back with something as good as this?