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CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM: SEASON SEVEN (HBO)
(Sundays at 9:00/8:00c beginning September 20)
The network's description: "HBO's hit comedy series CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM, executive produced by and starring Larry David, kicks off its ten-episode seventh season SUNDAY, SEPT. 20 (9:00-9:30 p.m. ET/PT), followed by the debut of the new comedy series "Bored to Death." CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM stars "Seinfeld" co-creator David as himself in an unsparing but tongue-in-cheek depiction of his life. Featuring real-life celebrities playing themselves, the episodes are improvised by the actors. The series also stars Cheryl Hines as David's wife Cheryl, Jeff Garlin as David's manager Jeff and Susie Essman as Jeff's wife Susie. The new season finds Larry continuing to cope with the aftermath of Cheryl's departure, even as his life remain intertwined with the Black family. Guest stars this season include series veterans Ted Danson, Bob Einstein, Vivica A. Fox, Richard Lewis, Rosie O'Donnell, J.B. Smoove and Mary Steenburgen, plus Sharon Lawrence, Catherine O'Hara, Meg Ryan, Elisabeth Shue, Christian Slater, Sherry Stringfield and the stars of "Seinfeld" - Jerry Seinfeld, Jason Alexander, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Michael Richards."
What did they leave out? The "Seinfeld" reunion storyline doesn't start until week three.
The plot in a nutshell: Horrified by the notion of having to care for girlfriend Loretta (Vivica A. Fox) should her cancer biopsy turn out to be positive, Larry struggles to find the most socially acceptable way to break up with her. Equally as terrifying: Loretta's doctor breaking the social rule of helping yourself to a stranger's refrigerator without asking. That and why you can't ask who's going to a dinner party you're invited to. And the overhyped value of fish as pets. Yes, Larry is most definitely back. Also on Larry's begrudging plate: the consequences of saying empty gestures like, "if there's anything I can do, let me know." Week two sees Larry once again offending Richard Lewis's latest girlfriend while a scheme to get a tough-talking doctor (Sharon Lawrence) to tell Loretta to dump him doesn't exactly go according to plan. And if that wasn't enough, Larry inadvertently exposes an affair between Leon (J.B. Smoove) and his friend's wife, a gift from Jeff (Jeff Garlin) and Susie (Susie Essman) proves to be impossible to open and an old neighbor sends him a bill after a mutual accident. Finally, "The Reunion" on October 4 sees Larry attempting just that with the "Seinfeld" clan after discovering his ex-wife Cheryl (Cheryl Hines) is acting again and could use a breakout role. And while everyone is more or less game, it's after they say yes that his real problems begin - whether it be trying to split a check with Jason Alexander, calling Julia Louis-Dreyfus out on a lie she said about her daughter or discovering Jerry Seinfeld has other ideas for the role Larry has in mind for Cheryl. In the end, Larry is well... Larry and we wouldn't have it any other way.
What works: Even with its long absence (season six started in September... 2007), "Curb" feels as fresh as ever. And while the show is frequently praised for its improvisation, David's talent for tying together even the most peripheral of storylines from a plot standpoint is borderline awe-inspiring. Each episode is almost a flesh and blood Mad Lib: plots involving vehicular fellatio, exacto knife, extramarital affair, cancer and break-up all improbably tie together in hilarious and surprising ways. That coupled with Larry's just-when-you-think-he-can't-go-any-further-he-does narcissism (among this season's highlights: feeling he's not thanked enough for diagnosing Susie's Lyme disease) makes "Curb" a truly unique, and much-missed comic experience. As for the much-ballyhooed "Seinfeld" reunion, I was pleasantly surprised how organically it manages to rise out of the Larry's neuroses. Sure the meta aspect of it - everybody is more than willing to dismiss it as a horrible idea for all the obvious reasons - is a lot of fun, but the fact that it's just the first step in Larry's overall scheme to win Cheryl back makes me feel like there's even greater comic genius on the horizon.
What doesn't: I honestly assumed the early episodes would be filler leading up to the reunion. Boy was I wrong - "Funkhouser's Crazy Sister" and "Vehicular Fellatio" are highlights in their own right, not just because they lay some fun groundwork for the reunion but because they stand on their own. I would even go so far as to say they're actually funnier than "The Reunion." While said installment is mostly a bunch of set pieces with each of the "Seinfeld" cast, the initial pair go one step further by having everything tie together in wonderfully uproarious ways, maximizing their comedic effect.
The bottom line: You shouldn't miss an episode.