It’s been nearly two years since the last new episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm, as Larry David has lately been taking advantage of being on the same network as The Sopranos to take Sopranos-sized hiatuses. When we last saw Larry and the gang, it was at the end of season seven’s excellent Seinfeld reunion story arc, and Larry had finally won Cheryl back, only to instantly start fighting with her over coasters. We were left wondering, over the hiatus, whether these two stayed together, but my DVR answered that one for me a few weeks back when the episode title, “The Divorce,” popped up.
I’ve got to say, although some of Curb’s greatest moments have come from Larry playing off of Cheryl and they’ve been together for the bulk of the show’s run, I’m happy they seem to be splitting up for good. Larry David’s character re-entering the dating world has provided a lot of great material these past two seasons, and even the season four story arc that involved him having a Cheryl-approved one-time affair was a satisfying preview of what Larry as a single man would be like. David split up with his real-life wife back in 2007, and he introduced the divorce story arc on the show shortly thereafter. Curb is at its best when it’s mirroring Larry David’s real life, and, since the real Larry David’s been single, it’s nice to see him draw on these experiences for the fake Larry David. There’s still plenty to explore with Larry as a single guy, rather than repeating the well-worn “Cheryl gets frustrated with Larry” formula over and over.
We picked up right where we left off with last season with Larry and Cherly arguing over the coffee stain on the wood table while watching the Seinfeld reunion on TV, a scene which featured a nice callback to Jerry Seinfeld’s bit about the phrase “Having said that” from a previous episode of Curb. Cheryl realizes she doesn’t want to be with Larry and they both hire lawyers, with Larry hiring a seemingly-Jewish lawyer named Andrew Berg (played by podcaster extraordinaire Paul F. Tompkins). Oddly, the Berg storyline mirrors a couple of old Seinfeld episodes — the one where Jerry mistakenly thinks a woman named Donna Chang is Chinese and the one in which Jerry’s dentist Tim Whatley converts to Judaism just for the jokes. Even if a lot of the episode involved territory that Larry David’s previous series has tackled before, it was still nice to see Paul F. Tompkins and Larry David bounce off each other and come up with some pretty funny stuff. Given the way their professional relationship between Tompkins’s character and Larry David’s character ends, it doesn’t look like Tompkins will be back on the show in the future; but I can dream, can’t I?
It was sad to see Larry and Leon packing their belongings into boxes after Larry lost the house to Cheryl. The David house has been the show’s most frequently-used setting since early in its run, and Curb won’t be the same without it. But the big divorce wasn’t the only thing brewing on this episode, which weaves several disparate but hilarious plotlines together, in typical Curb fashion. The episode’s most outrageous scene involves Larry coaching a Girl Scout through her first period, but the parts I most enjoyed seeing were how Larry’s divorce caused a ripple through his group of friends, inspiring Marty Funkhouser to get divorced himself and Jeff to become increasingly jealous of his newly single friends.
The loss of the show’s main setting and the disintegration of the David and Funkhouser marriages weren’t the only changes afoot on Curb last night. Credit-readers surely noticed that Larry David shared story writing credit for the episode, the first time in the show’s history that this has happened. The story was credited to David, along with Alec Berg, David Mandel, and Jeff Schaffer, a writing trio who worked with David on Seinfeld, have produced and directed Curb episodes for years, and are amongst Sacha Baron Cohen’s most-used co-conspirators. While Curb is improvised, the show is densely plotted ahead of time, and it’s surprising to see David start sharing outlining duties after so many years carrying the load himself. Whether this was just a one-time thing or Larry David is changing the way he runs the show remains to be seen.
After going so long without new episodes of Curb, it was nice to see the bulk of the supporting cast make appearances here, including semi-regulars Susie Essman, Bob Einstein, and JB Smoove, who usually appear in only a handful of episodes each season. Richard Lewis and Ted Danson were the only ones missing, but if last season is any indication, those two seem to be ceding screentime to Leon lately. In addition to the recurring comedic actors who populate the Curb universe, using top-notch comedians as guest stars has always been a big part of the show, and this season is no exception. Larry David and company seem to have outdone themselves this time around. In addition to Paul F. Tompkins and Gary Cole, who were seen this episode, a cavalcade of comedy stars is set to pop up later this season. Future guest stars include Ricky Gervais, Michael J. Fox, Chris Parnell, Brett Gelman, Jon Glaser, Rosie O’Donnell, Michael McKean, Scott Aukerman, Cheyenne Jackson, and Ana Gasteyer, amongst others. On the strength of that roster alone, there’s a lot to look forward to this season.
Bradford Evans now knows how tampons work, thanks to this episode.