It’s been three years since the previous season of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” (HBO), so Larry David and his writers had plenty of absurdities from the real world to turn into absurdities on the show. Suffice it to say Larry gets into a lot of trouble in Season 10, which recently wrapped a 10-episode run that’s a nice mix of political correctness inanities and everyday annoyances that only “Curb” would latch onto.
For a show with few discernible boundaries, “Curb” does a good job of tackling hot-button issues without offending anyone but the most thin-skinned. After getting mileage out of the notion that wearing a Make America Great Again cap will get people to leave Larry alone, Season 10 digs into the #MeToo movement.
David’s colleagues are game for being made fun of as much as Larry himself is. I love the idea of Jeff Greene (Jeff Garlin) being regularly mistaken for Harvey Weinstein. But for all the easy laughs, #MeToo is still a delicate topic, and “Curb” deftly navigates it while commenting on how it has made people overly sensitive, leading to strange behavior. Larry’s awkward but harmless actions, such as cleaning his glasses on a flap of the blouse of secretary Alice (Megan Ferguson), lead to a sexual harassment lawsuit.
Most of this thread is hilarious, but one scene is notably bland: On a first date with Rita (Teri Polo), Larry asks her in advance if each of his moves is OK. So it turns out PC culture might have not only killed the mood but also the humor. Along with the lack of laughs from Larry’s handicapped friend Wally (Fred Armisen) moving too slowly, it’s a rare gag that whiffs.
Season 10 gets rather dark around its midpoint when Cheryl (Cheryl Hines) sleeps with ex-husband Larry. Ted Danson finds out and proceeds to hate Larry’s guts. It’s uncomfortable to watch friends fighting. On the other hand, it’s nice that Jeff “will never say anything bad about Larry” (even though he declines to do favors once he’s in his sweatpants).
As the sexual harassment suit simmers, Season 10’s main thread becomes something more timeless. Disappointed with the cold coffee, moist scones, wobbly tables and rude service at Mocha Joe’s, Larry opens up a “spite store” next door called Latte Larry’s. I love the montage of other spite stores – opened by various actors playing “themselves” – in the finale.
As smoothly as “Curb” breaks down the issues of the day, it’s also imaginative with its home-grown material. Latte Larry’s has what seem to be genuinely good ideas, such as electronic cup warmers. Also, before the spite store is up and running, Larry and Leon (J.B. Smoove) hit upon a great gig-economy idea: Their Gotta Go app allows workers who can’t normally take a bathroom break (such as magazine-stand cashiers or toll-booth operators) to pay someone to watch their post — $1 per minute, $5 minimum.
We get a mix of David’s friends playing “themselves” or fictional characters; it’s a little strange that Vince Vaughn is essentially playing himself but he’s technically mattress salesman Freddy Funkhauser. The best guest turn is from Jon Hamm, who shadows Larry as research for a role. Before long, Hamm adopts Larry’s view of the world, noticing minutiae such as the fact that saying “I’d really appreciate it” gets people to do anything.
“Curb” goes a little further into bathroom and genitalia humor than usual, but to fine effect. The season’s standout episode, “The Ugly Section” – which also gets mileage out of the pains of being a Jets fan – questions whether people actually like restroom attendants standing there, hearing them doing their business. Later, licorice causes stomach problems for Larry, Leon and – in a particularly inopportune moment – Richard Lewis. Meanwhile, transgender Joey Funkhauser (Chaz Bono) can’t handle his large penis yet.
It’s quite apparent that Larry and his friends don’t live like regular folks. As Jeff points out when Larry frets about asking out an attractive woman, Larry is rich, so doesn’t matter that he’s old and bald. (Jeff is correct. Larry bats 1.000 this season in asking women out, and Richard doesn’t do too badly either, even though he’s “200 years old” in Larry’s estimation.) Larry gives away a house and a car, and opens a small business purely out of spite, all while facing a potentially huge loss in the lawsuit.
That said, some annoyances transcend class – from a hotel not having a supply of toothbrushes to a waitress announcing her diarrhea as she delivers the food. Larry David may be old and bald and – according to one restaurant – ugly. But he remains sharp and funny 20 years after “Curb Your Enthusiasm” premiered.