Why the return of Curb Your Enthusiasm is such a big deal
After six years off the air, our appetite is as big as ever for Larry David's cringe-inducing comedy which inspired so many others, spawned its own meme and still pulls in the biggest names on TV
While resuscitating long-dead TV shows is nothing new these days, it takes a special kind of series to hold a fan's attention during half-decade-long gaps between episodes. Like Will and Grace and the upcoming series of Roseanne, Curb Your Enthusiasm will return this October after six years away to much fanfare from a large and devoted fanbase: not bad for one grumpy comedian's follow-up to the most successful sitcom of all time.
A lot has happened since Larry David last had a good whinge on our screens, but, as the promo for the new season suggests, not much will have changed when we pick things up again. Those hoping for a political spin are likely to be disappointed – Larry's battle, as it has always been, is with the minute irritations of daily life, and that's just the way we like it.
For those new to the show, and fans just looking for a refresher, here is everything we know and love about Curb Your Enthusiasm's past, present and future.
What's the deal with Curb Your Enthusiasm?
Curb Your Enthusiasm, which debuted in 1999 as a one-off special for HBO, is the brainchild of Larry David, a misanthropic comedian turned misanthropic millionaire who co-created Seinfeld. It is a semi-autobiographical sitcom based on his life as a semi-retired TV writer in the wake of Seinfeld's success. Aside from David himself – who, from what we've seen in interviews, isn't a million miles from the characterisation in the show – much of Curb is fictionalised. His wife Cheryl ( Cheryl Hines), his manager Jeff ( fellow actor-comedian Jeff Garlin) and, in later seasons, his friend Leon (JB Smoove) are all thrown into the mix as soundboards for Larry's ongoing frustrations with day to day life.
Each episode is lightly scripted, with outlines for each scene drawn out by David and his team of writers – most of the dialogue is improvised. It's all relatively formulaic: David's protagonist typically steps out of line while griping about some element of social etiquette that he feels is not being upheld, and ultimately winds up regretting it as it comes back to bite him in the ass in the final scene. Yet, even though we know it's coming, it doesn't take the sting out of the joke.
The Curb Your Enthusiasm effect
Larry David's effect on comedy TV has been monumental, and Curb plays just as much of a role in this as Seinfeld.
The show was a massive influence on Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant's forays into socially-awkward telly with The Office and Extras (Gervais is a huge Larry David fan, who made a documentary devoted to them meeting up and appeared as himself in Curb season eight). And offbeat comedy shows such as It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia and Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon's The Trip – which similarly rely on improvisational dialogue and larger-than-life versions of its stars – would not exist without it.
But perhaps the greatest indication of the show's cultural clout is the Curb Your Enthusiasm Meme.
The show's now iconic theme song Frolic, by Italian composer Luciano Michelini, has become an alarm bell of awkwardness. In Curb itself, it rings in the end of an episode, usually as Larry is caught in an embarrassing situation. But now it's being added to videos of real-life cringe-inducing 'fails', such as the Moonlight/La La Land best picture mix-up at the Oscars earlier this year.
Check out the picks of the bunch below.
Why is Bryan Cranston starring in a comedy about the creator of Seinfeld?
In early seasons, David made great use of his famous friends in the show – comedians Richard Lewis, Jerry Seinfeld, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jason Alexander and Ted Danson all appeared. But as the show's reputation grew, he started to pull in incredible cameos from all across the board, including Shaquille O'Neal, Martin Scorsese, Joan Rivers, Alanis Morissette, Ben Stiller, David Schwimmer, Melissa McCarthy, Hugh Hefner, Dustin Hoffman, Sacha Baron Cohen, John Legend, Steve Coogan, Meg Ryan, Christian Slater, Ricky Gervais, Michael J Fox, yada yada yada. There appears to be a long list of stars lining up to take part in the show, and the upcoming season will be no exception.
Often the stars play lightly fictionalised versions of themselves a la Gervais's Extras. Check out a few of the most memorable appearances below.
Do I need to watch all eight seasons before the new episodes begin?
Not at all. While the show follows a loose linear narrative, the only notable advancement the series has made in its run has been in Larry's relationship with his (now ex) wife Cheryl, with whom he separated in season six.
A couple of episodes for a taste – or a refresher – should do the trick before delving into Larry's world on Monday 2nd October. We recommend season four's The Car Pool Lane, season eight's Larry vs Michael J Fox and season one's The Doll. All episodes are available on Sky Box Sets.
What can I expect from the new season?
HBO are keeping their cards very close to their chest in the wake of recent leaks, and have not shared any episodes with the press in advance of the premiere. But we do know that the show will be set six years after the season eight finale, which saw Larry and Leon exiled in Paris, after the mayor of New York booted him out for offending Back to the Future star Michael J Fox.
Larry will be back in Los Angeles and on the promotional trail after completing a big new project, and striking up a romance with an NBC censor played by Gilmore Girls star Lauren Graham. On top of this, there will be guest appearances from Bryan Cranston, Elizabeth Banks, Jimmy Kimmel, Carrie Brownstein, Nick Offerman and Judge Judy.
The trailer suggests the formula will remain the same. Check it out below.
Will season nine be the last?
Nope. David confirmed to USA Today that he will begin work on a tenth season right after he finishes editing the episodes that are about to go out.
"It won't be six years until the next one", he said. Pretty, pretty good news.
Curb Your Enthusiasm season nine begins Monday 2nd October on Sky Atlantic at 10pm