Fine, so I'm slow.
It's taken me three years to come to an obvious conclusion: Larry David still makes the funniest comedy on TV, and his 'Curb Your Enthusiasm' is the best reason to consider coughing up the extra bucks for HBO's comedy channel. The show is in reruns there on most weeknights.
But it's not just me. David, who created 'Seinfeld' after a miserable year as a 'Saturday Night Live' writer who couldn't land a single one of his sketches on the show, nabbed a Golden Globe in January for best comedy series. ('It's a sad day for the Golden Globes,' he said during his acceptance speech, 'but a very good day for Larry David.')
It was a good day for the shrinking world of TV sitcoms, too. Not to mention for all those pining for the resurrection of 'Seinfeld' and 'The Larry Sanders Show.' 'Curb Your Enthusiasm' has their familiar zing of self-absorbed characters whose most prominent enemies are themselves and their neuroses.
David, of course, plays himself Ñ a TV producer who, in the tradition of Ozzie Nelson, doesn't seem to work a whole lot. But he does find himself mired in one or two self-inflicted crises per episode. He's rich. His friends are rich. And he seems to be all the poorer for it as he tries to extricate himself from the mess that's always there. He's a guy who occasionally smiles but seemingly finds no pleasure in it.
The dialogue, delivered without a laugh track, often appears extemporaneous Ñ because it is. And just when you think that this show could be inserted into NBC's Thursday-night lineup, here comes political incorrectness and language approaching double-digits on the Richter scale.
In one memorable episode Ñ with Julia Louis-Dreyfus guest starring as herself Ñ David is involved in a pitch session with HBO executives (for a new Dreyfus show) when he uses a word that wouldn't make it past the censors for 'The Sopranos.' Naturally, everyone is horrified, bringing the meeting and David's immediate life to a crashing halt.
Much of the action Ñ though it's mainly verbal Ñ is shot on location in and around Los Angeles. That in itself gives 'Curb Your Enthusiasm' an edge over run-of-the-mill studio-set sitcoms. The episode titles themselves Ñ 'The Shrimp Incident,' 'The Corpse-Sniffing Dog' and 'Aamco,' to name a few Ñ confirm that strange new ground is being broken here.
As with any successful sitcom, the supporting cast is integral. Cheryl Hines as David's wife and Jeff Garlin as his manager are so vivid in their portrayals that I often think they must be his wife and manager in real life. They aren't.
We'll have to wait for next fall for any more original episodes. But the reruns are worth the laughs.