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Movies & TV

04th Oct 2017

What a character: Why Larry David from Curb Your Enthusiasm is a TV great

Six years later, it's great to have him back.

Conor Heneghan

Larry David

He’s prett-ay, prett-ay, prett-ay good.

Much to the delight of the show’s legion of fans, Curb Your Enthusiasm returned for a ninth season at the weekend, marking the comeback of surely the most socially awkward character in the history of television.

Not many shows could easily survive a six-year absence – and there is, of course, no guarantee that the latest season of Curb will be a success – but you get the feeling that Larry and company will have no problem picking things up where they left off.

The first episode of the new season, Foisted, didn’t begin where Season 8 ended – in Paris – but it did continue to prod at delicate subject matter that few other shows would dare to touch, particularly in this day and age.

Clip via EigenvectorSeven

Who else but Larry David would pitch something called ‘Fatwa: The Musical’ on Jimmy Kimmel Live?

Besides, re-energising a series should be less of an issue for Curb Your Enthusiasm than it could be for other shows.

Barring a couple of seasons dedicated to certain arcs – Larry’s role in The Producers in Season 4 and the Seinfeld reunion in Season 7, for example – it’s never been wedded to the type of long-running storylines that would require the show to explain what’s being going on for the last six years.

The beauty of Curb Your Enthusiasm lies in the fact that, like Seinfeld (which Larry David created with Jerry Seinfeld) before it, it is a show, essentially, about very little. It merely documents David’s fairly mundane existence and the first world problems he encounters – and obsesses over to the infuriation of others – every day.

What’s remarkable about the show is that considering the basic lack of plot, storyline and character development, it has managed to remain so funny for so long.

There are plenty of shows that rely on the type of awkward humour that Curb Your Enthusiasm has made into an art form, but it’s the type of comedy that can easily grow stale.

Clip via sakind4

Perhaps acutely aware of that, there were only 12 episodes (and two specials) made of the UK version of The Office, a show whose cult status owes plenty to its short shelf-life; much like Father Ted and Fawlty Towers, it was never given the chance to go stale like The Simpsons has been for far longer than it was the funniest thing on TV.

How long David will continue to make the show remains to be seen, but you get the feeling that going stale shouldn’t be an issue. A return after a six-year hiatus suggests that pressure from HBO isn’t a concern, nor is money, nor is the need, as flagged earlier, to tie up any loose ends on particular storylines.

Anyone who has been listening to the oral history of the show on the excellent Origins podcast with James Andrew Miller will have heard the likes of J.B. Smoove (Leon), Bob Einstein (Marty Funkhouser) and Susie Essman (Susie Greene) describe this season as one of the best yet, so if this is the end, it looks set to go out on a high.

Fingers crossed Larry’s not done just yet, mind; we’d miss him.

In three words he’s: Irritable, provocative, confrontational.

Trailers for the new season have identified Larry David as a sort of superhero, a trailblazer leading the fight against mildly irritating social habits that the rest of us are too polite to address.

Clip via HBO

Which is true to an extent, but that’s being very kind.

Occasionally, OK more than occasionally, Larry crosses the line, often deliberately and sometimes entirely unintentionally, leading to the type of personal confrontations that dominate his life with a frequency that is far from healthy.

While it is satisfying for an outsider to see somebody taken to task over coffee stains on a wood table or ignorant motorists unnecessarily taking up two parking spaces, debating the window of acceptable grief following the death of a parent or querying the intricacies of Parkinson’s Disease is not a done thing.

Clip via TheGuysTravel

One of Larry’s best qualities, as far as the show is concerned at least, is that he brings out not the best, but the worst, in almost everybody he encounters.

The foul-mouthed Susie Greene is his most obvious and long-suffering victim, but nearly every one of the many celebrities to have made cameo appearances on the show over the years have had reason to pick a bone with him, usually over an incredibly minor issue that Larry has managed to aggravate as only he can.

There’s a kindness and good-heartedness to Larry that is often picked up by the viewing audience, but, for a variety of reasons, it gets missed by everyone else.

And the show is all the better for it.

His best quote: “Prett-ay, Prett-ay, Prett-ay good.”

If we could put him in another show: He would have made quite the team with David Brent in The Office, but it would be so awkward as to be close to unwatchable.

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