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Curb Your Enthusiasm Season 10 Review: Larry David’s Opus (Mostly) Returns to Form

Heading into its third decade on television, HBO’s longest running comedy remains surprisingly sharp in its tenth season.

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Larry David and Cheryl Hines on 'Curb Your Enthusiasm'

Curb Your Enthusiasm, Larry David’s much-loved HBO comedy series, is probably the only series in the history of television to air ten seasons in 20 years. Due to a unique arrangement between David and the network that allows him to, essentially, produce a new season whenever he feels like it, new seasons of Curb have tended to arrive sporadically in recent years. In fact, Curb had a six-year hiatus between 2011 and its return for season 9 in 2017, while season 10 arrived after a comparatively swift three-year layoff. 

Even if Curb Your Enthusiasm isn’t as much of a fit with today’s times, it managed to produce its best season in a decade, showing that David’s acerbic style of comedy still has a lot in the tank. 

One would think that Curb‘s premise- Seinfeld co-creator Larry David mines comedy from the little indignities of life, while occasionally interacting with old friends of various levels of celebrity- would have a certain timelessness to it. 

However, especially in the fitfully funny ninth season, something pretty significant got in the way of the show’s style of comedy: The realization that an older white guy, especially one with immense wealth, being rude to waiters and other service workers has a very different connotation now than it did during the early days of the show’s run. “Punching down” is a lot more frowned upon now than it was, say, in 2005. 

There were times during the tenth season that Curb undoubtedly was hurt by this problem. But the show was so funny, and gained so much momentum as the year went on, that it was able to overcome it. 

Yes its an ironic problem to have, for the guy who has done an uncanny impression of Bernie Sanders on Saturday Night Live in recent years. But Larry David, the character, often behaves like the sort of rich jerk who’s often on the wrong side of embarrassing viral videos. 

When the new season of Curb launched, there were indications that the show still had a punching-down problem, especially with the season-long arc about Larry opening a “spite store” in order to prevail in his feud with coffee shop owner Mocha Joe. 

The early part of the season also included an unfortunate, though quickly (mostly) abandoned story arc in which Larry was accused of sexual harassment, and two different storylines throughout the season ended with a female character dispatched by an unfortunate accident. Probably the only good that came out of the #MeToo subplot was that multiple people mistook Jeff Greene for Harvey Weinstein, which would be funny even if Jeff Garlin hadn’t played a Weinstein stand-in in the 2002 Steven Soderbergh movie Full Frontal. 

Furthermore, the real Larry David, from the Seinfeld syndication deals alone, is likely worth somewhere in the mid-hundreds of millions of dollars, but the early seasons of Curb had him living a lifestyle of a guy who’s more upper-middle-class, starting with his seeming refusal to ever wear nice clothes. The newer seasons seem to have dropped that pretense, especially the episode this year with such relatable plot points as Larry complaining about who’s paying how much for a chartered jet, and about having too small a room at a luxury hotel. There were also plots this season about Larry giving one character a house and another character a car.

Curb Your Enthusiasm

Flaunting of wealth notwithstanding, in season 10, the episodes got funnier as the season went on, with even the Mocha Joe arc picking up steam and having an outstanding payoff. And the season wrapped up well, not only bringing together the different plot threads the way classic Seinfeld used to, but also delivering Larry a comeuppance. 

However, the best thing about Curb Your Enthusiasm remains Larry’s one-on-one banter with the returning regulars, from J.B. Smoove to Susie Essman to Jeff Darlin to Ted Danson – and particularly, Richard Lewis. The veteran comedian, who doesn’t have much of a career these days aside from this show, is just a scream every time he’s appears on Curb

I’m just wondering why the show didn’t find a way incorporate the death of Bob Einstein’s Marty Funkhouser character, following Einstein’s passing last year. The show instead explained his absence by explaining that Marty was “in China,” while also introducing several new characters who were billed as relatives of his, played by the likes of Vince Vaughn and Chaz Bono. This was especially a missed opportunity since the show had done different arcs over the years about Larry disrupting the funerals or memorials of Marty’s mother, father and nephew. 

Curb Your Enthusiasm

The series also did a better job with guest stars than in the previous season – particularly in “Elizabeth, Margaret And Larry”, in which Jon Hamm played an actor “shadowing” Larry to play him in a movie. 

The season’s other great moment was in the premiere, when Larry starting wearing a MAGA hat around Los Angeles in order to get people to not talk to him- and the president of the United States, not getting the joke, tweeted in support of it

And finally, the season wrapped up with a fantastic finale, which paid off the uneven “spite store” arc and also included the rare near-miracle of getting guest star Sean Penn to have a sense of humor about himself. 

Even if Curb Your Enthusiasm isn’t as much of a fit with today’s times, it managed to produce its best season in a decade, showing that David’s acerbic style of comedy still has a lot in the tank.

Stephen Silver is a journalist and film critic based in the Philadelphia area. He is the co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle and a Rotten Tomatoes-listed critic since 2008, and his work has appeared in New York Press, Philly Voice, The Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Tablet, The Times of Israel, and RogerEbert.com. In 2009, he became the first American journalist to interview both a sitting FCC chairman and a sitting host of "Jeopardy" on the same day.

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