There is not a more infuriating and self-involved yet comically rich character on television than Larry David. He is an out-there kind of guy who tests the patience of everyone in his world, and his near-disdain for those outside his inner circle makes “Curb Your Enthusiasm” a hilarious blend of the bleak and the brilliant. Good as “Curb” has been, this 10-episode season should be the year it gets recognized as HBO’s finest comedy.
First episode finds David, who’s about as employed as Ozzie Nelson, and his manager Jeff, who better be getting his 10% from other clients, considering an investment in a restaurant with Michael York and Ted Danson. David arrives at a meeting and takes over with nonsensical ideas — no kabobs, butler bells on tables — and eventually extends it to the waiters’ uniforms. As he did on “Seinfeld” during that comedy’s strongest years, “Curb” is full of subplots, this time involving a shirt, a grieving widow and a painting that needs framing, plus a “Wizard of Oz”-themed birthday party. Opener ends in an assortment of social faux pas.
David’s often untenable behavior is a scream. He never lets up in his inability to accept social niceties, and in the second episode (airing Sept. 21), it’s a wonder he can maintain a friendship. Regular guest Richard Lewis returns, this time with a Christian Science girlfriend who’s allergic to peanuts, and nearly every chat between David and Lewis turns into a verbal brawl.
Cinema verite visuals are low-tech video — half the time “Curb” feels like a home movie chronicling David and Cheryl Hines’ continually impressive portrayal of his wife. Series has consistently had the finest closing moments in television and this year is no different, the third episode being the best when a befuddled David is caught between a woman accusing him of being a stalker and a stain being removed from Cheryl’s dress.