It’s been nearly five years since the most recent episode of HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” in which Larry David triggered his usual self-wrought humiliation by accusing Michael J. Fox of exaggerating his Parkinson’s disease.
David’s “proof”: He’s convinced Fox purposely shook up a bottle of cola that exploded in David’s face (this came after David drew a Hitler mustache on a magazine cover photo of Fox’s father-in-law).
While fans have missed the show, Larry David, like that soda, has gone all over the place: His hilarious 2013 TV movie, “Clear History,” mixed a new take on his anti-social TV persona with a “Seinfeld”-like plot built upon coincidence and missed signals. He starred on Broadway in “A Fish in the Dark,” a gut-busting 2014 farce he wrote about family and death.
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And, of course, he spent more time on the “Saturday Night Live” stage this past season than some cast members, playing his vocal and physical doppelgänger Bernie Sanders – including starring in a clever mash-up called “Bern Your Enthusiasm” (Sanders blows the Iowa caucus by alienating individual voters over petty, David-style clashes).
Now there’s word that David will be back for a ninth season of “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” The news, to put it in Davidian terms, is better than pretty, pretty, pretty good – it’s pretty great.
The timing is pretty strong, too: His “SNL” appearances exposed his curmudgeonly charm to viewers too young to care that he co-created “Seinfeld” 27 years ago. Perhaps more significantly, David’s HBO comedy of bad manners can tap into a political-pop cultural zeitgeist where, for better or worse, some folks can’t seem to get enough of blunt-talking, older New York-reared guys without social filters.
David, in a press release, addressed his “Curb” comeback in typically sardonic fashion: “In the immortal words of Julius Caesar, ‘I left, I did nothing, I returned.’” But it’s a safe bet the co-creator of a classic sitcom about “nothing” has more big things to say about the trivial at a time when stakes are high all over.
The world’s changed since “Curb” debuted in 2000, beginning an on-and-off initial 11-year run that brought the abrasive sub-current of “Seinfeld” to the surface with plots unabashedly tackling death, pornography and unfortunate obituary typos.
David constructed season-long arcs around a meta “Seinfeld” reunion and putting himself on Broadway in “The Producers.” He took the yada-yada-yada of catchphrases to new levels with “the stop and chat” (unexpected sidewalk conversations he tries to avoid), “the chat and cut” (sneaking onto a line when you spot an acquaintance) and “upstreaming” (stealing someone’s cab by doing a run-and-hail).
The exaggerated version David plays of himself helped usher in a post-“Seinfeld” era of the comedy of the uncomfortable, as evidence by programs ranging from both versions of “The Office” to “Louie” to “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.”
There’s no word on exactly when the heavily improvised “Curb for Enthusiasm” will return. But it won’t be soon enough for fans, old-school and newly minted, waiting for Larry David to shake up TV again.
Jere Hester is Director of News Products and Projects at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is also the author of "Raising a Beatle Baby: How John, Paul, George and Ringo Helped us Come Together as a Family." Follow him on Twitter.