Earlier this month, Curb Your Enthusiasm celebrated 21 years on the air, making it the longest-running scripted HBO series. Over the course of 100 episodes and ten seasons, Larry David’s series has been one of the most beloved comedies in HBO’s lineup, and has somehow remained consistently great. Curb Your Enthusiasm has done this by keeping certain elements consistent throughout – notably David’s complete disregard for social norms – and yet remained completely unexpected.
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, showrunner Jeff Schaffer said when people ask him how they still come up with ideas, he says, “Well, until society reaches a place where you can walk outside and not be annoyed by your fellow man, I think we’re good.” After 21 years, Curb Your Enthusiasm continues to make this simple idea an effective building block for a great series, and Curb shows no signs of slowing down with “The Five-Foot Fence,” not only proving that this is still a concept ripe for a series, but that Curb is still one of the best comedies on television, two decades running.
Yet even though Curb isn’t showing its age, the first episode of Season 11, “The Five-Foot Fence,” certainly seems concerned with death and aging. The episode begins with Larry discovering that someone has broken into his house, tried to flee the scene, fell, and hit their head, and now Larry has a dead body floating in his pool, almost like a cringe comedy take on Sunset Blvd.
But this theme of growing older continues through the episode, especially during a dinner party, when Susie (Susie Essman) plops down on the couch next to Larry, causing him to spill wine all over a couch. Moments later, Larry walks right into a glass door, to the shock of Larry’s date, Lucy Liu (playing herself). Leon (JB Smoove) is quick to mention that doing two feeble things in a row could get Larry’s ass sent to the nursing home.
If that’s not enough, Larry runs into Dennis (John Pirruccello), who owes him $6,000, and has early onset dementia, which makes Larry think that he needs to get that money before Dennis forgets his debt. Even Albert Brooks (also playing himself) decides to throw a funeral for himself, so he can see all the kind things his friends will say about him when he’s gone.
Even Larry is looking back on his life, as he and Jeff (Jeff Garlin) pitch a show to Netflix called Young Larry, in which a mid-20s Larry David moves to New York with his Uncle Moe, as he tries to start his standup career, while also trying to cause premature death in his uncle, so he can inherit the money that will be left to him when he dies. Much like the musical Fatwa! Larry wrote in Season 9, and the “spite store” that Larry started in Season 10, this certainly seems like the creation of this new show for Netflix is set to be the through line for Season 11.
But again, even though it’s hilarious to watch how Larry reacts to how the world around him treats him (one rant in which Larry claims that he’s not “a bad guy,” but instead “a very good guy” would fit into pretty much any episode), it’s how Curb Your Enthusiasm subverts expectations that makes it still one of the most brilliant comedies on television.
For example, it seems like writing a season of Curb Your Enthusiasm during COVID would pretty much write itself. The pandemic would’ve given Larry an opportunity to avoid human contact as much as possible, cancel all plans, and validate many of his feelings about society in general. But “The Five-Foot Fence” avoids any predictable COVID story, instead, having Larry discover during Albert Brooks’ faux funeral that Brooks is a COVID supply hoarder, leaving everyone wishing that Brooks was actually dead. It’s unusual to see an angry group of people in Curb for once that isn’t focusing their disgust towards Larry.
While the friendship between Larry and Leon has become one of the greatest additions to this show late in the game, “The Five-Foot Fence” seems to imply that this season might actually give JB Smoove his own separate story. After breaking up with his girlfriend after the two raised money through a GoFundMe for a vacation to Asia, Leon starts auditioning fake replacement girlfriends to take on his trip. If any character on the show deserves their own B-plot alongside Larry’s story, it’s absolutely Leon.
But like with every season, Curb is already setting up several threads in “The Five-Foot Fence” that will surely tie this entire season together into one extremely satisfying narrative. Already, we’re shown how the brother of the dead criminal in Larry’s pool is affecting Larry’s Netflix show, as the brother demands Larry cast his daughter Maria Sofia (Keyla Monterroso Mejia) as one of the stars of Young Larry, or he will consider legal action against Larry. Already, the show has connected these two seemingly unconnected stories, and only a few minutes after Young Larry has been greenlit, it seems to be already doomed.
The most recent seasons of Curb Your Enthusiasm have been about building the threads of the season towards an epic conclusion, and if there’s any flaw with “The Five-Foot Fence,” it’s that it feels like a lot of setup for down the line, without too many major laugh-out-loud moments within this particular episode. Larry’s scenes with Susie and Leon always work beautifully, and Larry’s “feeble” moments lead to some of the episode’s biggest laughs, but especially with the Dennis scenes and the casting of the Young Larry show, the wheels are simply moving for bigger moments later on in the season.
Yet at this point, Curb Your Enthusiasm is a well-oiled machine that knows how to tell effective and ingenious stories on an episodic level, while also building to the culmination of an entire season. “The Five-Foot Fence” gets Season 11 started on the right track with a season that is still surprising, engaging, and hysterical after all these years. At this point, Curb Your Enthusiasm isn’t just prettay prettay good, it’s prettay prettay damn near flawless.
Curb Your Enthusiasm premieres October 24 on HBO, with new episodes airing on Sundays.
KEEP READING: ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ Season 11 Trailer Shows Larry David Hates People Individually, But Loves Mankind