7 Moments That Helped Define 'Curb Your Enthusiasm'

8:00 AM 9/3/2016

by Eli Flesch

Larry David is set to return for a ninth season of his beloved HBO series, which aired its last original episode in September 2011.

Larry David on 'Curb Your Enthusiasm'
Larry David on 'Curb Your Enthusiasm'

When it returns for its ninth season, HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm will have already secured its reputation as one of the most idiosyncratic shows on television. After eight seasons of chronicling the faux-pas existence of Seinfeld creator Larry David, the series isn’t short on bits and episodes (80 in total) that have made it something of a classic among viewers.

David delighted fans when he announced his comeback in June. While HBO has yet to set a premiere date, returning executive producer Jeff Schaffer told The Hollywood Reporter that the gang will be returning for 10 episodes soon, saying: "Geologically speaking, it’ll be a blink of an eye." 

Curb is considered, among other things, a guide to modern Jewish neurosis, a weathervane on changing social norms and, depending on the kind of person you are, an argument for bluntly speaking your mind — there’s no predicting which category any one episode might fall into. The actors largely improvise their dialogue, which results in some of the show’s finest moments being made off-hand and unplanned. From a Jerry Seinfeld riff on David’s place in TV history to a candid assessment Jeff Garlin makes of his friend, a well-placed phrase in this show can be as effective as a carefully constructed plotline. 

Here, The Hollywood Reporter looks back on some of the moments that have best defined Curb Your Enthusiasm and are worth re-living during the wait for next season.

  • "Trick or Treat"

    Season 2, Episode 3

    This episode brought the consequences of Larry David’s “unwritten rules of society” to a (bald) head. After refusing to give candy to two obviously older and uncostumed girls on Halloween, David found the trees of his house strewn with toilet paper, and his door spray painted, unpretentiously, with the words: “bald asshole.” David declares it a hate crime — though not as hateful as when the girl’s father earlier accused the actor of being a self-hating Jew for whistling Richard Wagner, one of Adolf Hitler’s favorite composers. The final scene, in which David puts on a midnight Wagner concert for this man, ranks as one of this show’s greatest instances of poetic justice. 

  • "The Special Section"

    Season 3, Episode 6

    David made the most of his mother’s death in this episode by using the tragedy as an excuse to get out of social arrangements. Shameless? Yes. Surprising? Not quite. It comes as a bigger shock that David found out about his mother’s passing after the funeral — the result of her not wanting to interrupt his Martin Scorsese gangster flick in New York. But the coup de grace comes when David discovers his mother has been buried in “a special section” of the cemetery, reserved for the tainted, because she had a tattoo on her buttocks. David’s midnight attempt to rebury her in the cemetery proper somewhat redeems him. But that doesn’t prevent him from being arrested when it’s discovered the money he used to pay off the cemetery caretaker is counterfeit — leftover from the Scorsese movie.

    Bryan Gordon won a Directors Guild of America award for his work on this episode.  

  • "The Carpool Lane"

    Season 4, Episode 6

    David has a knack for trying to resolve everyday problems by going to rather extreme lengths. Here, he hired a prostitute for the explicit purpose of being able to use the carpool lane to make it to an important Dodgers game in time. That move, in addition to buying marijuana for his glaucoma-afflicted father, puts David in the awkward situation of driving around Los Angeles and being potentially seen by his peers. David might seem a stretch as a hero for the everyman, but the actions he takes for something so simple as a carpool lane would be the envy of any busy commuter.

    Outtakes of this episode were also responsible for clearing a L.A. man, Juan Catalan, of murder, by showing that he was at the Dodgers game during the time of the crime.  

  • "The Survivor"

    Season 4, Episode 9

    Disastrous dinners on television have existed as long as the medium itself. Skyler White sitting down at the table with her husband’s partner in producing meth (Breaking Bad) and Bart Simpson throwing Lisa’s Thanksgiving cornucopia in the fire (The Simpsons) — the dining room table can be a symbol for discord. But when David invites a Holocaust survivor to accompany what he thinks is another survivor (but is actually Colby Donaldson from Survivor: The Australian Outback), his own type of chaos erupts. For the extremity of the ensuing scene, in which the reality star argues that his show was more difficult than Auschwitz), Curb showed that it could make comedy from the darkest reaches of Jewish history. As for the audience’s impression of David after arranging this ill-fated meeting? Forgiving. The mix-up was so unpredictable on a sheer who-could-have-thought-that-up level, that David can only be excused for his mistake. 

  • "The N-Word"

    Season 6, Episode 8

    Sometimes Curb spins conflict out of something as innocuous as whether to engage in a “stop-and-chat,” but not in this racially charged episode. David’s complaints of discrimination as a bald man seem petty compared to the furor he instigates (twice) when a black man overhears him quoting another man he heard using the racial slur in the bathroom. Of course, no one really gives him the time to hear his explanation out. But in that way, his usage of the word — and whether it was appropriate given the context — is a question left to the audience. David made full use of HBO’s cable-given freedom to effectively push the button on an issue that remains prescient to this day. Other episodes dealing with his racial foibles, like his tendency to lock a car door right as an African-American passes, don’t come close to the intensity of this one.

  • "Seinfeld Reunion"

    Season 7, Episode 10

    The season seven finale played with the frustration of fans who may have been disappointed by what was considered a generally lackluster Seinfeld series finale. Here, David worries that his plan to win wife Cheryl [Hines] back, by casting her as George Costanza’s love interest in a Seinfeld reunion show, will be foiled by an increasingly charming Jason Alexander. Nevermind that David inspired Costanza’s neurotic character — he’s still what Jerry Seinfeld calls a TV "no-con" (as opposed to "icon") for suggesting he could play George when a frustrated Jason quits after David changes the script so George doesn’t wind up getting with Cheryl’s character. One can’t help recall the Annie Hall scene in which Woody Allen’s character employs a similar technique after being rejected by his love interest. Like that film, this episode helped cement Curb as one of TV’s finest self-referential send-ups of the entertainment industry. 

  • "Palestinian Chicken"

    Season 8, Episode 3

    This much-celebrated episode featured David infuriating his friends by taking a neutral stance in a feud between a Jewish deli and a Palestinian chicken restaurant. And though any of this show’s moments could be considered defining, it’s Jeff’s characterization as a “social assassin” that seems to best encapsulate Larry’s role as an almost-willful transgressor of social norms. That Larry’s friends recognize this role, and ask him to use it on their behalf (in one poorly timed case to call out Susie [Essman] on making an annoying sipping noise), shows an understanding on their part of his vocal nature. But recognition doesn’t mean appreciation, and, in an iconic scene where David finds himself between the picket lines of each restaurant, both sides don’t hesitate to scream at him. 

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