[This is a review for the Curb Your Enthusiasm season 9 premiere. There will be SPOILERS.]
Following a six-year hiatus, it's safe to say it's been hard for fans of Larry David to curb their enthusiasm for the landmark HBO series' return with an all-new season. While shows like Veep and Silicon Valley have at times struck a similar comedic nerve for the network during its absence, there's no doubt viewers have been missing the particular skewering of societal norms and the brilliant improvised banter that Curb Your Enthusiasm became known for after eight strong seasons.
So, what's changed after six years? Fortunately, as promotion for the show's new season suggested, not much. In the season 9 premiere, 'Foisted!', we see Larry is just as self-absorbed, impatient, neurotic, and abrasive as ever. He sends Richard (Richard Lewis) an inappropriate text after the death of Richard's beloved parakeet, manages to offend both partners of a lesbian couple by pre-judging their roles in the relationship based on their appearance and criticizes the name of Cheryl's (Cheryl Hines) nonprofit within a minute of seeing her. This is all within the brand of classic Curb comedy we've come to know and love, as the episode uses Larry's insensitive tendencies and narcissism to hilarious effect.
The structure and focus of the episode also keep with Curb traditions, as the main thread of the premiere centers on Larry adopting an unsavory social practice by "foisting" his incompetent assistant (Carrie Browstein) on an unwitting sucker. To his delight, this particular sucker turns out to be Susie (Susie Essman), but in typical Curb style, Larry's glee is short lived, as his underhanded actions come back to bite him (or rather, hit him smack dab in the face).
Considering popular culture and societal norms continue to shift and evolve, one might consider it odd that Curb Your Enthusiasm came back after so much time with essentially the same show, but it's actually quite refreshing that it did, as the approach stays true who Larry is (at least, the fictionalized version). While it's true that the world around him continues to change, the man remains the same. In fact, as he gets a little older, we would expect him to only become more stubborn, and therefore even more stuck in his ways and his view of the world.
And this is why the episode's subplot involving Larry's proposed play, "Fatwa!: The Musical", works so well. Only Larry would think such an idea would fly by unchallenged while remaining oblivious to any potential danger or backlash. That is, until he angers the real Iranian Ayatollah, who condemns Larry to death and kills the project in the process. Since Curb usually deals with Larry's rather innocuous, but often awkward or embarrassing social etiquette misdemeanors, it was fun to see the show actually dish out some serious consequences for his lack of judgement.
And for fans who simply wanted more of the same old Curb, it was also exciting to see plenty of familiar faces on the show after all of these years -- including Ted Danson, Larry's manager Jeff (Jeff Garlin) and Larry's housemate (and new assistant) Leon (JB Smoove). What's more, as season 9 rolls on, viewers will be introduced to several new big name guest stars -- including Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad), Nick Offerman (Parks and Recreation), Elizabeth Banks (Wet Hot American Summer) and a new love interest for Larry in the form of Lauren Graham (Gilmore Girls).
But even with new characters and reportedly longer episodes (you may have noticed the season 9 premiere ran about 40 minutes), on the whole, Curb Your Enthusiasm season 9 appears to be the same beloved show fans remember. So, we hope the rest of the season continues to be better than pretty, pretty, pretty good.
Curb Your Enthusiasm season 9 continues with 'The Pickle Gambit' next Sunday @10pm on HBO.