Larry David’s HBO sitcom Curb Your Enthusiasm, in which the Seinfeld co-creator plays a fictionalized version of himself who can’t seem to avoid offending people and ruining every social occasion, is one of the most popular and acclaimed comedies on the air right now.
It was also pretty groundbreaking, since it did away with the multi-camera sitcom and ushered in an era of improvisation. While the dialogue is ad-libbed, the plots are rigorously outlined by David, and the seasons all follow a rigid story arc: some great, some not-so-great. So, fans of HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm, here is Every Season’s Story Arc, Ranked.
9 Season 1 – Meet Larry
There was no discernible story arc in the first season of Curb, since its focus was on setting up the characters and their relationships (as well as the curious style of improvised dialogue in outlined plots, which was a crazy new idea back then). The season has some terrific standalone episodes with self-contained narratives, but still, it would’ve been nice to see some interconnectivity between them.
For example, Cheryl gets cast in a production of The Vagina Monologues in the season finale, but this could’ve been stretched out over a few episodes before culminating in the finale – that way, the twist that a woman from the incest survivors’ group that Larry attended to support his ex was the director of the play would’ve had more impact.
8 Season 5 – Richard Lewis needs a kidney
There are two story arcs in the fifth season of Curb Your Enthusiasm, but they both feel a little too outlandish to fit into the grounded tone of Curb. One sees Larry hiring a private investigator to figure out if he’s adopted and the other sees Richard Lewis asking him for a kidney transplant.
While the stories have emotional weight, with philosophical musings on religion and loyalty and family and self-identity, that’s not what we come to Curb for. We come for cringe comedy, social faux pas, and Larry David being Larry David, and on those counts, this season unfortunately falls a little short; it’s just a little too weird and surreal to be classic Curb.
7 Season 8 – Larry moves to New York
In the eighth season of Curb, Larry told a director friend that he was going to New York for three months to avoid some charity work, and since he kept bumping into the guy in L.A., he ended up actually having to go to New York. Jeff and Susie were already headed out there because Sammi was going to college in the city and Leon wasn’t too far behind in Larry’s Prius.
So, essentially, season 8 just took Curb from one coast to another, but it was the same show and there wasn’t much of a driving narrative arc. It was a fantastic season, culminating in Larry’s epic battle of wits with Michael J. Fox, but it just wasn’t a great story arc (but then, to its credit, it wasn’t really trying to be – it was a setting change, not an arc).
6 Season 9 – Larry is sentenced to death by the Ayatollah
Although Curb’s belated ninth season was a little up and down, and spotty in places, its season arc was a doozy. In the first episode, we find a Larry David who, like his real-life counterpart, has taken some time off to write a play. The difference here is that the play is about Salman Rushdie’s fatwa and it offends the sitting Ayatollah, leading him to sentence Larry himself to death. The arc develops as Larry adopts his Buck Dancer persona and moves into a hotel before trying to clear his name and meeting with Rushdie himself (learning from him the joys of “fatwa sex”).
The fatwa is removed for a trivial reason – Larry fighting for a Muslim man’s right to not queue for his second helping at an all-you-can-eat buffet – and the play moves forward. Everything crumbles spectacularly in the season finale, as it always does, when Larry shoots his star with a paintball gun and a guy who didn’t get the memo about the fatwa being cleared chases him through the streets of Los Angeles.
5 Season 2 – Larry pitches a new sitcom
The second season of Curb capitalized on the fact that the then-relatively new show appealed mainly to Seinfeld fans with a story arc about Larry developing a new sitcom, first with Jason Alexander and then with Julia Louis-Dreyfus.
The arc is pretty tight while still having a bunch of terrific episodes that stand on their own, as it allowed for each episode to see Larry alienate a different network head and bring the new show closer to being completely abandoned. The season’s timeless individual installments include “The Doll” and “Shaq,” while the long-running arc is always present in the backdrop, with Larry consistently dooming his own project.
4 Season 6 – The Blacks move into Larry’s house
In season 6 of Curb, Larry and Cheryl took in a family whose home was destroyed in a Katrina-style hurricane, much to the curmudgeonly Larry’s chagrin. A couple of days later, Leon showed up. He was actually living in L.A., but decided to move in with Larry when the rest of his family did anyway (and ended up staying with him long after they left).
What makes this arc really great is that halfway through the season, Cheryl leaves Larry and gets her own place on the beach, leaving him alone with the family that she invited in and he didn’t really want there in the first place. Over the course of the season, he comes to love this family – even Leon – and makes a connection with all of them.
3 Season 3 – Larry invests in a restaurant
A lot of season arcs of Curb Your Enthusiasm revolve around show business, because that’s Larry’s line of work and also most of the supporting cast’s line of work – and it’s a great way to bring in guest stars – but the third season went for something a little bit different. It saw Larry, Jeff, and Ted Danson all invest in a new high-end restaurant.
Of course, with Larry around, it was doomed from day one, with police investigations and disgruntled employees holding up the whole process. Then, there was the matter of Larry breaking the top critic’s thumbs in a game of dodgeball and firing the chef just before opening night for wearing a toupee. The restaurant business is an incredibly tough one, which is why it made great material for Larry David’s antics.
2 Season 7 – Larry spearheads a Seinfeld reunion show
Very few people would deny that Larry David is a genius. He knows that reunion shows never work out – the actors are older, the writing never lives up to expectations, and it just doesn’t feel the same – but he also knows that Seinfeld fans are dying to see that cast back together again.
So, he made a season of Curb about his own failed attempt to make a Seinfeld reunion show, with the cast back together on-screen again, albeit playing themselves instead of their characters, in a ploy to win Cheryl back. With every Seinfeld actor characterized in the way you’d expect (Jason Alexander as a pretentious artist type, Jerry Seinfeld as the arrogant voice of reason etc.), this was a season of Curb to remember.
1 Season 4 – Larry stars in The Producers
In the fourth season of Curb, there are two ongoing story threads: 1) Larry is cast in Mel Brooks’ Broadway musical version of The Producers, and 2) Cheryl’s anniversary gift to Larry is the chance to sleep with another woman, with the ultimatum running out on their anniversary (which also happens to be opening night of the play).
Both of these storylines provided the meat for many a Larry David faux pas, all of them combining to drive Ben Stiller to quit the play, and they were also masterfully interwoven by David’s typically brilliant storytelling, as Larry set his sights on his female co-star in the play. And to top it all off, the season culminated in one of the show’s most satisfying season finales to date.