Grumpy Old Man: New 'Curb' Exceeds Expectations

By now, everybody knows what to expect from Larry David -- the fictional Larry David, that is -- when he shows up in a deli, an office, a store of any kind or some rich guy’s house.

Since 2000, through 110 episodes in 11 seasons, the “Curb Your Enthusiasm” version of Larry has complained, promoted misunderstandings and picked countless arguments.

In the premiere episode of the show’s 12th and final season last night on HBO, however, when he does these things at the mansion of an Atlanta gazillionaire who has invited him to make a paid, celebrity appearance at a birthday party, the gazillionaire refuses to pay him because Larry picked fights with everyone he met. 



When I saw the rich guy become angry over the way Larry behaved at his birthday party, I thought: This is the fictional Larry David’s act. What did the rich guy think he was paying for when he invited him? 

Actually, I think it would be a riot to invite the real Larry David to a party to perform in character and just let him loose on everybody. But alas, I can’t afford it.

Where the return of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” after two-plus years away is concerned, it is tempting when thinking about this run of 10 new episodes to say to oneself, “What, again?”

But then, when I got to the actual experience of watching it, the question was not “What, again?” but “What took you so long?”

Sure, it is predictable that in every given encounter, Larry is going to fly off the handle in some way.

In the premiere episode of the new season (which I watched last week, thanks to the “Curb” publicity team), Larry’s frustration boils over in encounters with Siri when it (she?) misinterprets a simple order for directions and a hotel chambermaid who refuses to straighten up his room because it’s too messy.

At the rich guy’s birthday party, Larry has peevish arguments with various guests, while sidekick Leon (the always-superlative J.B. Smoove) wanders into the kitchen and when no one is looking, helps himself to a big slice of a birthday cake that has not yet been served -- like Curly in an old Three Stooges movie.

As in past seasons, the scenes featuring only Larry and J.B. Smoove having their usual, improvised conversations are unmatched highlights of Episode One, Season 12.

Leon accompanies Larry to Atlanta for the simple reason that Leon’s aunt lives there, and the free trip offered by the gazillionaire presents an opportunity for him to visit her. Naturally, Larry has it out with her too.

In addition to railing against ubiquitous technology that doesn’t work, Larry goes after dog owners who dote on their pets and insist that they be allowed to take them anywhere.

“Curb Your Enthusiasm” is 24 years old. When it began as a one-off special on HBO in October 1999, Larry was 52 years old. 

Even at that age, fictional Larry was already a grumpy old man. Now, at age 76, he is a grumpier old man -- an authentic old codger sitting on his front porch shaking his fist at the world.

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