Two years ago, it seemed as if we had seen the last of Curb Your Enthusiasm and Larry David’s unique blend of comedic fact and fiction. Finitely titled “The End,” last season’s 40-minute closer depicted Larry in the afterlife arguing with his heavenly guides (Dustin Hoffman and Sacha Baron Cohen) over using the proper “system” when watching DVDs—a dispute which abruptly landed Larry back in the physical world and back for another season of the HBO comedy series. In the show’s sixth season opener, the Davids take in an African-American family displaced by a recent hurricane, and the family’s surname, Black, naturally fuels Larry’s innate observational skills. “That’s like if my last name was Jew,” he tells them. “‘Cause I’m Jewish.” Of course, this brand of awkward humor has always been at the show’s center but the Blacks offer a new obstacle in Larry’s quest to maneuver around political correctness.
It’s not long before Larry finds himself answering for his many misdeeds both to his wife, Cheryl (Cheryl Hinds), and Loretta Black (Vivica A. Fox), who has no problem overstepping her bounds by smoking in the David home. Unlike other supporting characters in the show, the Blacks don’t pop in and out, but remain fixtures in the cast (at least in the first few episodes). Adding an extended family to the show is an unusual ploy for a series that’s never really relied on sitcom contrivances when looking for a plotline, but the Black family subplot adds some unique overtones to the comedy series. There are the obvious race gags (Larry plays “ghost” with the Black family children, chasing them around the house wearing a white sheet until he’s confused for a KKK member by the children’s grandmother), but there is also the politically-charged Katrina subtext as well as the question of just how far someone has to go to be a good host. When Loretta invites her brother, Leon (a hilarious J.B. Smoove), to stay with the family, the Davids are perplexed since the man lives in Los Angeles, and yet they don’t say a word about it.
Curb Your Enthusiasm‘s harping on Larry’s hyper-realized worldview and his general “outsider” relationship to humanity still surprises, and the new season’s first three episodes also contain a good sampling of Larry’s quintessential quips and quirks about all things inconsequential—among them, his views on proper sampling etiquette in stores and the unwritten law of dry-cleaning. (Look for a surprisingly funny appearance by California Senator Barbara Boxer in an episode that pits Larry against Jeff Garlin and Ted Danson and involves anonymous donations of all sorts.) Once again, rumors are spinning that this season will be the series’s last. If that’s the case, the show has already succeeded in producing some of the most original comedy on television. Truth is, a show so focused on the amusing minutia of everyday life, and whose well of creativity seems so bottomless, could conceivably go on until Larry and crew were permanently housed in an assisted living community.