'Curb Your Enthusiasm' review: As alleged finale nears, no less funny, no less edgy

One of the many things I've come to love about the “Curb Your Enthusiasm” Universe, or CYEU as nobody calls it, is how some famous series regulars and guest stars play exaggerated versions of themselves, while others portray totally fictional characters. To wit, Ted Danson, Mary Steenburgen, David Schwimmer, Richard Lewis, Ben Stiller, Lin-Manuel Miranda, F. Murray Abraham, Jon Hamm, Rosie O'Donnell, John McEnroe and the cast of “Seinfeld” have played heightened and sometimes hilariously terrible doppelgangers of themselves, while Vince Vaughn, Mekhi Phifer, Vivica A. Fox, Gina Gershon, Michael McKean, Catherine O'Hara, Elisabeth Shue, Bryan Cranston, Isla Fisher, Timothy Olyphant and Julie Bowen were cast as fictional characters.

It's fantastically weird and it's a clear indication that during a legendary run of 12 seasons spaced out over the course of some 24 years, Larry David is doing a lot more than just playing an extra-curmudgeonly version of Larry David on “Curb.”

We admire and applaud the series for the laughs and the cringe-inducing confrontations and the bold and often politically incorrect storylines (“Palestinian Chicken,” anyone?), but we might have a tendency to gloss over the brilliant acting, whether it's David as a generous and hilarious screen partner, JB Smoove creating one of the best supporting characters of all time in Leon Black, or the likes of Hamm, Miranda and Jason Alexander going all-in on playing not particularly admirable versions of themselves.

'Curb Your Enthusiasm'

So it goes with Season 12 of “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” which we're told is the curtain call for the show, but I wouldn't be stunned if David gets so annoyed by the way of the world in, say, 2027, that he decides to return just so he can vent.

If this indeed is the finale, I'm pleased to report “Curb” remains as borderline offensive and edgy and hilarious as ever. (Nine of the 10 episodes of Season 12 were made available to critics.) We're going to step nimbly here so as not to give away any of the surprises, but I will say that the tradition of celebs playing themselves continues, including sublime work from two actors who demonstrate a level of comedic skill (and a willingness to poke fun at themselves) we haven't seen in either of their careers to this point.

(There's also a meta running joke about this being the last season of “Curb,” ie, people keep reminding Larry that he left “Seinfeld” after the seventh season but returned two years later to write the much-maligned series finale. It's almost as if Larry is prepping us to be let down by the final episode of “Curb.”)

Season 12 finds Larry characteristically irritable, whether he's dealing with a server at the golf club who informs him he's missed the cutoff for brunch, a returning character with a large head who tries on Larry's glasses and stretches them out, or a fellow party guest who chastises him for calling her “Brookie” instead of “Brook” because he's just met her and he hasn't earned that right.

He's still hanging with the same crowd, including his best friend and manager Jeff (Jeff Garlin); Jeff's loud and obnoxious wife, Susie (Susie Essman); his ex, Cheryl (Cheryl Hines), who is still with Ted Danson, and his sidekick in mischief, the one and only Leon Black (JB Smoove). Tracey Ullman's Irma is back, as is the scene-stealing Keyla Monterroso Mejia as Maria Sofia, but we'll chorus from getting into their respective story arcs.

Susie Essman returns as Larry's nemesis, who is married to his best friend.

Susie Essman returns as Larry's nemesis, who is married to his best friend.

A trip to Atlanta to be a paid guest at a birthday party for a rich client (Sharlto Copley) goes sideways in more ways than one, with consequences that will resonate throughout the final series. We also spend a lot of time — maybe too much time — at the country club, with Larry coming close to bringing out his welcome (once again) and managing to make new enemies, including Oscar winner Troy Kotsur as himself. (Larry declines to yell “Fore!” to Kotsur after hitting a long drive because Larry figures the deaf Kotsur can't hear him anyway.)

As usual, Larry displays a unique gift for offending people he's only recently met, eg, when he offers unsolicited advice to a gay couple (Sean Hayes and Dan Levy) about which of their last names should be given to their soon-to-arrive baby. Leave it to Susie to sum it up best when she exclaims, “You're a walking f—ing virus, Larry!”

A virus we're going to miss terribly.

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Written by ezzeddif

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