Larry David in a scene from a season 11 episode...

Larry David in a scene from a season 11 episode of HBO's "Curb Your Enthusiasm." Credit: HBO

After 24 years, 12 seasons and 119 episodes, HBO's “Curb Your Enthusiasm” ends a run Sunday that changed comedy, the culture at large, and to an extent many of us. This was simply one of the most original comedy series in TV history — certainly one of the funniest — so how then to even possibly come up with a “Best of” list?

It's not possible, of course, so instead, here's our " 'Best of' Best Attempt” — those episodes, those guest stars, and those “Larryisms” that made these past 24 years such an unalloyed joy.

Yes, do feel free to disagree because a.) that's your right; and b.) in the spirit of Larry David, you probably should disagree (and why give a TV critic the last word anyway?).



“Beloved Aunt”

Larry and Jeff Greene (Jeff Garlin) write an obituary notice for Cheryl's (Cheryl Hines) beloved Aunt Louise in the local paper, which fails to catch an unfortunate typo. Larry is blamed, then blamed again for advising the boyfriend of Cheryl's sister Becky (Kaitlin Olson) on how to break up with her.


“The Doll”

Larry and Julia Louis-Dreyfus' efforts to pitch a new show hits a wall at ABC, after Larry is asked by the network development exec's 6-year-old daughter to trim her doll's hair. When the kid has a tantrum, Larry and Jeff replace the shorn doll-head with the fully-maned one of Jeff and Susie's (Susie Essman) daughter's doll. Directed by Robert Weide, who was behind so many great “Curbs,” this episode includes an especially memorable Suzie flaming of Larry and Jeff — the doll “has been decapitated because you two sickos took the head for God knows what reason — some voodoo [expletive] … You four-eyed [expletive], you fat piece of [expletive].” Oh, Susie …


“The Grand Opening”

A tough season for choices, because the third also includes “Krazee-Eyez Killa” (Larry becomes friends, sort of, with Wanda Sykes' rapper fiance, played so memorably by Chris Williams). The finale pulled into the lead when a chef — who has Tourette's Syndrome — disturbs the crowd on opening night at Larry's new restaurant with a profane outburst. Soon, the crowd has a profane outburst of its own.


“Opening Night”

The best of “Curb's”' 12 seasons was about the remake of “The Producers," and starred Mel Brooks, Ben Stiller, Cady Huffman and David Schwimmer. This season included classics like “The Car Pool Lane,” “The Survivor” and “The 5 Wood.” But “Opening Night” — with cameos from Jerry Seinfeld, Anne Bancroft and Stephen Colbert — scores because viewers finally learn why Brooks wanted Larry to star in the new “Producers” in the first place — so that it would bomb, and he'd be done with this albatross of a musical once and for all.


“Lewis Needs a Kidney”

The fifth season had a relatively simple through line (that kidney for the ailing Richard Lewis) with a few detours along the way (the Playboy mansion, a ski lift, a seder), but this midpoint episode was the high-water mark. Who should give a kidney to Lewis? Larry or Jeff? Marty Funkhouser (Bob Einstein) decides they should do eeny-meeny-miney-moe. Doesn't work out so well for Larry.

Larry David and J.B. Smoove go clothes shopping on HBO's...

Larry David and J.B. Smoove go clothes shopping on HBO's "Curb Your Enthusiasm."  Credit: HBO/John Johnson


“Meet the Blacks”

With the impending breakup of Larry and Cheryl's marriage, “Curb” sets off in a new direction — a riskier one, because race is that direction. Larry and Cheryl take in a Black family displaced by a hurricane whose members quickly settle into their new Brentwood abode. Loretta Black's (Vivica A. Fox) brother, Leon (J.B. Smoove) will not actually join the series until the next episode, when Leon becomes the single most important addition of these 12 seasons, re-energizing “Curb.”


“The Black Swan”

The “Seinfeld reunion season” had an episode just past the midway point about country club owner Mr. Takahashi's (Dana Lee) revered black swan, Kyoko, which unfolds on the golf course — the scene of so many of Larry's crimes and misdemeanors. After Larry yells at Norm (Paul Mazursky) to speed up his game, Norm later has a heart attack, for which LD is blamed. But after that poor bird of the title is dispatched by Larry (who thinks it's attacking him) he claims that the bird killed Norm.


J.B. Smoove, Jeff Garlin, Larry David and Bob Einstein in...

J.B. Smoove, Jeff Garlin, Larry David and Bob Einstein in the season 8 episode "The Divorce." Credit: HBO/Everett Collection

“Mister Softee”

Another impossible season for choices, because the ninth did include “Vow of Silence” and quite possibly “Curb's” all-time fan favorite, “Palestinian Chicken.” But let's go with “Softee” here, if only because Bill Buckner and his particularly memorable baseball act-of-absolution. In this season, the newly divorced Larry heads to New York, where he befriends the former Red Sox first baseman. By episode's end, Buckner makes up for perhaps the most infamous error in World Series history when he catches a baby tossed from a burning building.


“The Accidental Text on Purpose”

Arriving after a six-year break, the ninth again concerned Larry's ill-fated attempts at a return to show business.  He has come up with one especially ill-advised idea — a musical comedy called “Fatwa!,” with an assist from Lin-Manuel Miranda. As Larry promotes the show, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei orders a fatwa on him. In the sixth episode, Larry comes up with an idea to seek forgiveness from someone he's offended — by sending an “accidental text on purpose.” What could go wrong? What couldn't?


“Insufficient Praise”

The season of the “Spite Store” — Larry opens a coffee shop next to rival Mocha Joe's (Saverio Guerra) store — is also about “Curb's” take on the “Me Too” revolution, but this episode focuses on Clive Owen's emotional response to the insufficient praise he receives for a rather overheated stage performance. A professional “crier” (Isla Fisher) is hired to make him feel better.


Keyla Monterroso Mejia, Ted Danson and Cheryl Hines in a...

Keyla Monterroso Mejia, Ted Danson and Cheryl Hines in a scene from Season 11. Credit: HBO/John P. Johnson

“The Mini Bar”

Maria Sofia Estrada (Keyla Monterroso Mejia) gets her close-up when Cheryl attempts to put together a reel for Hulu, which has ordered “Young Larry” to series. (As you'll recall, Larry has been blackmailed into casting Maria Sofia.) Mejia is just another example of what “Curb” did so well so often — get especially memorable performances out of actors who were just passing through.


Susie Essman and Larry David in a memorable Season 12...

Susie Essman and Larry David in a memorable Season 12 scene. Credit: HBO/John Johnson


Bruce Springsteen comes to town for a concert but is promptly sidelined by Larry (who has given him COVID). This penultimate series episode sets up the finale nicely, by asking the question that has been asked so often over the course of “Curb”: Has Larry really ever learned anything? The title of Sunday's series' finale would appear to offer a clue: “No Lessons Learned.”

Larry David and the late Richard Lewis played heightened versions...

Larry David and the late Richard Lewis played heightened versions of themselves on "Curb Your Enthusiasm."  Credit: HBO/John Johnson

Alongside the classic regulars of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” — Jeff Garlin, Suzie Essman, J.B. Smoove, Richard Lewis, Cheryl Hines and Bob Einstein — this series was built on a constellation of stars who either played themselves (comically heightened versions) or played characters.

So who was best? To the lists:

11 best guest stars playing themselves

Best frenemies: Ted Danson and Larry David. 

Best frenemies: Ted Danson and Larry David.  Credit: HBO/John P. Johnson

1. Ted Danson — Larry's nemesis par excellence, who arrived early in Season 1, with wife Mary Steenburgen.

2. Wanda Sykes — Cheryl's acerbic and outspoken friend, who arrived in the second.

3. Mel Brooks — Brief but hugely memorable cameo in Season 4, as a Broadway superstar intent on leaving “The Producers'' in the dust.  Special bonus: Anne Bancroft in the season finale.

4,5. David Schwimmer/Ben Stiller — What is it about Larry that makes famous people hate him so much?

5-8. Jerry Seinfeld, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jason Alexander, Michael Richards — That very special reunion season. 

9. Rosie O'Donnell — In one episode, she and Larry fought for the affection of a bisexual woman; in another, the Commack native beat up Larry.

10. Michael J. Fox — Larry's upstairs neighbor in Manhattan.

11. Elizabeth Banks — Kudos for her one big appearance in Season 8, when she attempted to walk back from a disaster involving a police car.

13 best guest actors playing characters

Tracy Ullman guest-starred as a very reluctant love interest of...

Tracy Ullman guest-starred as a very reluctant love interest of Larry's in Seasons 11 and 12. Credit: HBO/John P. Johnson

1. Dana Lee (Mr. Takahashi) — What would “Curb” be without Mr. T?

2. Vivica A. Fox (Loretta Black) — Larry's love interest in Season 6 who wraps LD around her pinkie.

3. Richard Kind (Andy) — Larry's titanically annoying cousin Andy.

4. Kym Whitley (Monena) — Prostitute who was Larry's unintentional date to the Dodgers game.

5. Bill Hader (Igor/Gregor/Timor) — Hader plays three crazy guys, possibly brothers, with vaguely Eastern European accents.

6. Tracey Ullman (Irma Kostroski) — Councilwoman who drives Larry crazy — but it's worth it!

7. Vince Vaughn (Freddie Funkhouser) — Funkman's half brother arrived late in the series' run but became indispensable.

8. Catherine O'Hara (Bam Bam) — Marty Funkhouser's troubled sister.

9. Cheri Oteri (Martine) — One brief hilarious episode, as the Nanny from Hell, in Season 3.

10. Gina Gershon (Anna) — Dry cleaning lady and briefly LD love interest who teaches him a thing or two about Hasidic customs.

11. Philip Baker Hall (Dr. Morrison) — LD's doctor who channels the winning personality of library cop Mr. Bookman from “Seinfeld.”

12. Saverio Guerra (Mocha Joe) — Larry's coffee rival. He makes another appearance as his lawyer this season.

13. Paul Dooley (Cheryl's father) — The father-in-law who tolerates the intolerable son-in-law.

10 best 'Larryisms'

Larry David has coined many notable expressions during the 12...

Larry David has coined many notable expressions during the 12 seasons of "Curb Your Enthusiasm."  Credit: HBO/John P. Johnson

1. Pretty good — Usually rendered as, “prettay prettay good.”

2. Pig Parker — Someone who parks a car over the lines.

3. Stop & Chat — The dreaded stopping and chatting with someone, which Larry refuses to do.

4. Chat & Cut — Not to be confused with “stop & chat,” this is when someone stops by someone else on line, proceeds to chat with him and then cuts in line.

5. Social Assassin — Someone who is paid to get someone else to stop their truly irritating habits.

6. Sorry Window — How long condolences can be expressed.

7. Foisted — When something or someone unpleasant or inept is passed on to another person.

8. Sample Abuser — Someone who tries to sample too many flavors of ice cream without buying.

9. Double Goodbye — Saying goodbye at the same party twice; to be avoided at all costs.

10. Medium Talk — Better than small talk.

4 best baseball references

Sandy Koufax of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitching in the 1966...

Sandy Koufax of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitching in the 1966 World Series. Credit: AP Photo

1. Joe Pepitone (1960s Yankees first baseman and LD's favorite player. Larry owned Pepitone's baseball jersey — #25 — which was snatched at the dry cleaners, later snatched back by Leon.

 2. Groat's disease, or Groat's syndrome — A disease that Larry made up, named for Dick Groat, the follicly challenged shortstop of the 1950s-60s Pittsburgh Pirates. 

 3. Mickey Mantle — The last name of Larry's lawyer this season. 

 4. “Koufaxing” — Using the Jewish High Holy Days as an excuse to avoid doing something. Named for Dodgers great Sandy Koufax, who didn't pitch in the first game of the 1965 World Series because it fell on Yom Kippur.

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