What is TV going to be like, without the promise of another season of Curb Your Enthusiasm lurking in the shadows? It’s not an idea we’ve had to consider for the last 24 years, as creator/star Larry David has been delivering new seasons skewering social norms since 2000, albeit on an… irregular schedule. Yet, with Season 12 officially declared to be the last, and the premiere made available in advance for critics, it’s time to embrace that reality — and appreciate what we’ll be losing, with the show’s conclusion.
Without getting into spoilers, Season 12 opens as pretty much a direct continuation of Season 11 — for example, the premiere includes an appearance by Tracey Ullman as Irma Kostroski, Larry’s less-than-beloved love interest from last year, as well as a reminder of why Larry has to continue to date her. (For the sake of this writer’s sanity, any reference to “Larry” is a reference to the character being played on screen, while “David” is a reference to the real-life creator behind the scenes.)
The saga of Larry’s new show Young Larry continues as well, as we check in with actress Maria Sofia Estrada (Keyla Monterroso Mejia), who remains a thorn in Larry’s side. Yet even with new elements like Maria Sofia, the classic Curb traditions are in play, especially thanks to David’s talent for epitomizing the awkward moments of everyday life: As weird and niche as some of Larry’s complaints might be in the show, there are still plenty of universal scenarios which prove to be fruitful sources of humor.
In fact, it’s honestly fascinating to see Larry contend with moments of physical comedy that wouldn’t have felt out of place in the silent film era. In the premiere, there’s an extended sequence in which he bumbles with a pair of glasses that don’t fit right, and no words are necessary to deliver a killer punchline.
Larry’s words do still get him into trouble, repeatedly, unlocking what remains so satisfying about the series — the way that Larry, as portrayed on the show, really is all of our worst impulses unleashed without the restrictions of social cues. If there’s something that doesn’t makes sense to him, like a weird rule or restriction, it doesn’t matter if it’s trivial; he won’t let it go. It’s one of the ways Larry will never change, and in fact has not changed since 2000, and it’s also one of the reasons why there’s something so cathartic about watching him navigate the world in his own peculiar way, and why we’ll miss it.
Curb has never had the most certain of futures, with there being multiple points during its run where the assumption was it was ending — such as the Seinfeld reunion season, or that six year gap between Seasons 8 and 9. Even the Season 5 finale was literally entitled “The End”! But then Season 6 introduced J.B. Smooth as Leon Black, a character who probably contributed more to the later-day longevity of Curb than any other person, because as good as David is on his own as a comedian, he’s at his best when bouncing his neuroses off someone like Leon, or Susie (Susie Essman), or, yes, Maria Sofia.
In fact, the Season 12 premiere, “Atlanta,” once again pairs up Larry and Maria Sofia for multiple scenes, which brings us to the one specific reason to be disappointed by the show ending this year: Mejia’s quickly become a breakout star thanks to projects like Curb and Abbott Elementary, and her character’s very specific brand of youthful anarchy adds a fresh dynamic to the series, one that almost makes it feel brand new.
It was a bit surprising that David declared this to be the last season, because of a story It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia creator Rob McElhenney told press in 2019:
“McElhenney said that he recently met [David] at an event, and David had some advice for him. “He said, ‘uh, don’t be an idiot.’ He’s like, ‘never stop. Just keep doing it. One, because it’s the greatest job you could ever want, and two, because if you do a final episode, they’ll just destroy you for it.’”
David’s second point had to do with the harsh reception faced by the Seinfeld series finale, though in the years that have passed, it appears that for him, the benefits of saying goodbye outweigh knowing that final episode is coming. Maybe the Curb series finale will offer David some catharsis. Hopefully, it doesn’t compound it, though at this point what we know is that even the worst series finale can’t totally torpedo the legacy of a great show. After all, people still rewatch and enjoy Seinfeld to this day. No matter what happens with the Curb finale, they’ll undoubtedly do the same.
Curb Your Enthusiasm premieres Sunday, February 4th on HBO.