Spoiler alert! The following contains details from the Season 11 premiere of "Curb Your Enthusiasm," "The Five-Foot Fence."
The "spite store" has been replaced by the "plop" and the pandemic warrants a few Purell hoarder jokes.
But otherwise, the Season 11 premiere of HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm” (10:30 EDT/PDT Sundays on HBO and HBO Max) leaves the Season 10 storyline and the real world happenings since the show last aired in March 2020 in the rearview.
That means no more excitable Mocha Joe, whose coffee shop with the wobbly tables and dry scones prompted Larry David to open his adjacent spite store, Latte Larry’s. The two java joints were last seen engulfed in flames and Mocha Joe and his girlfriend, Larry’s former assistant Alice (who had accused Larry of sexual harassment), moved next door to Larry in a “spite house.”
But at the opening of the new season, Larry’s domicile is merely the scene of a burglary gone wrong. The would-be robber hits his head and drowns in Larry’s pool – an accident that could have been avoided if only Larry had installed the five-foot fence required by the city of Santa Monica.
David, his cantankerous neuroticism in overdrive, is still a master of the wince-laugh. But even by “Curb”’s labyrinthine standards, the premiere felt overstuffed.
Subplots involving a jeweler friend with early-onset dementia who still owes Larry $6,000 for a golfing trip, and a GoFundMe scam executed by Leon (J.B. Smoove) to take his girlfriend, Mary Ferguson, to Asia, are hopefully finished.
More promisingly, it appears the Season 11 arc will focus on Larry’s new show at Netflix, “Young Larry,” about his upbringing in Brooklyn and subsequent move to New York City with his uncle, in a nod to CBS' "Young Sheldon" and NBC's "Young Rock." The Netflix honcho, played by dashing "Veep" star Reid Scott, is named Don Winston Jr., prompting Larry to quip to business manager Jeff (Jeff Garlin), “Trump has really ruined it for all Don Jr.’s, hasn’t he?”
Larry soon runs into a casting dilemma when he’s extorted by Marco, a taqueria owner whose brother was the hapless burglar. To avoid litigation about the death and the pool fence, all Larry has to do is cast Marco’s daughter – Hispanic and not exactly a primo actress – in the Netflix show in the role of “a Jewish girl from Brooklyn who is an aspiring ballerina.” (Sharp-eyed viewers will recognize Marco as actor Marques Ray, who played the hotel clerk in the Season 10 “destination wedding” episode of “Curb”.)
In the midst of Larry formulating a new show, he’s dating Lucy Liu. Their three dates have gone well until the gang gathers for a dinner at Mary’s house. Susie (the inimitable Susie Essman) “plops” on the couch next to Larry, causing Larry’s glass of red wine to splash on the cushions. As an irritated Larry walks toward the dinner table outside, he walks into the sliding glass door and falls.
Lucy views the two mishaps as indications that Larry is becoming feeble and, as guest star Albert Brooks informs him, “once they see you in that way, there’s no sex anymore.”
Brooks' inclusion in the show – enjoyable as it is – feels like a replacement for “Curb” staple Richard Lewis, who will only appear in one episode this season because of health issues. (Brooks' brother, Bob Einstein, was a longtime "Curb" fixture as Marty Funkhouser; he died in 2019.)
Albert, meanwhile, is throwing himself a “live funeral,” which he watches on a video monitor in his bedroom.
“The idea that people get together and say wonderful things should be done to a person who can hear it. I can’t stand that all of this praise is going to somebody in a box,” Albert says in his wonderfully dry manner.
Among the guests at the funeral is Jon Hamm, who wholeheartedly embraces the spirit of the event.
“Why so sad?” Larry asks him.
“Too soon,” Jon replies, solemnly, about his not-dead friend.
“He’s upstairs!” Larry exclaims, annoyed at the stupidity of it all.
During the funeral at Albert’s home, Larry noses around looking for a bathroom and stumbles upon a closet stocked with toilet paper and Purell. Yes, Albert Brooks is a dreaded “COVID hoarder,” and is immediately ostracized by his friends.
Except Larry, of course, who later accompanies him to The Greek Theatre in Los Angeles for a classical concert with Luciano Michelini. The name is important because, as longtime "Curb" fans know, Michelini is the Italian composer of “Frolic,” the tuba-spurting jangle that is the show's ironically delightful opening theme.
Michelini strikes up the orchestra, which rolls into “Frolic” as Larry and Albert nod along in the audience, happily sharing a giant bottle of Purell, as the end credits roll.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'Curb Your Enthusiasm': Larry David returns with guest stars