Virus in back seat

Published date02 November 2021
Publication titleSignal
AFTER the 10th season of Curb Your Enthusiasm debuted in January 2020, it seemed like all anyone could talk about was Larry David’s deployment of a red MAGA cap as a tool to conveniently repel people in liberal Los Angeles. Surely season 11, the first of the Covid era, would feature a spin on pandemic life no-one could see coming, right? Well, there’s never been anything about this show that’s been predictable; you can practically hear Larry David shrug an “eh” at the thought of tackling such an obvious issue.

Which isn’t to say the season premiere, airing 21 years after the series premiered as an hour-long HBO special, won’t be considered an instant classic to many. Indeed, we now live in a world where Jon Hamm has spoken Yiddish on television, a true hallelujah moment for an admittedly small percentage of the world’s population, but a gift wrapped in a bow to Larry David’s most dedicated core.

The three mamaloshen terms were beshert (meaning “meant to be”, often as a descriptor of a loved one), tsuris (meaning “troubles”) and shanda (which is a good way to describe someone who gives tsuris to your beshert.)

Hamm (oy, Hamm of all names?) accuses Albert Brooks of being a shanda when an embarrassing secret is discovered at the end of the episode, one of the only references to Covid. David’s decision to largely put the pandemic in the rearview fits perfectly with the tone of the series, which has always shoved aside life’s bigger and more realistic problems and focused on the frustrating aggravations of minutiae.

As ever, season 11’s first episode sees David and his band of wandering Jews roaming from lunch to dinner to the occasional business meeting, the swirl of a consequence-free life devoted to screaming at one another about how to properly sit down on a sofa or whether it’s right to bug a guy with early onset dementia over a forgotten payment. Even though tension, conflict, loud voices and fury erupt from the screen, this display holds, for some (and I count myself in this group, so help me), a great catharsis, even comfort. The exaggerated wealth in Larry’s circle brings no joy, but excludes no worry. It’s like the old joke: I’ve been poor and I’ve been rich. Rich is better.

This season’s premise is bit less absurd than the last one’s “spite store” (Larry opening a coffee shop next door to one that has wobbly tables and squishy scones) and feels like an expansion of one of the better arcs from Seinfeld. Larry sells a pitch to Netflix to create a new...

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