It's been nearly two years since we've had a new episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm, and for any other show two years would be a dangerously long time to remain dark. That's more than enough time for an audience to lose interest, for narratives to become stale, for humor (or drama) to be lost, and for strong characters to fade. But Curb Your Enthusiasm doesn't seem to have any of those problems. As evidenced by last night's season 6 premiere, Curb Your Enthusiasm is the same as it ever was: Larry (Larry David) is still able to find new social situations to bungle, Cheryl (Cheryl Hines) is still both consistently annoyed and annoying, the plots are still intricately layered and self-contained, and the show is still funny, even if it does have a tendency to run a joke into the ground (as with the lame, "I thought your party was tonight" kicker courtesy of Ted Danson in last night's episode).
The show is also, of course, still somewhat predictable. "Meet The Blacks" opened with Larry silencing an eager smoke detector with a baseball bat–an action that could only mean that the house will catch fire at some point in the episode. But to quote awful inspirational posters everywhere, Curb Your Enthusiasm, like life, is about the journey not the destination. In "Meet The Blacks," that journey involved two awkward "I thought your party was tonight" parties, the image of Jeff Garlin dressed up like a little Dutch girl, Larry and Cheryl hosting a family of hurricane refugees, a chocolate penis cake, and multiple utterances of the word "schmo-hog" before we finally saw Larry and Cheryl on the lawn of their smoldering house.
The audience may have correctly guessed that Larry and Cheryl's house would eventually catch fire, but no one would have ever surmised that the house would be set aflame by an improperly extinguished cigarette placed in a piece of chocolate penis cake by the angry mother (Vivica A. Fox) of an African-American family displaced by a hurricane that Larry was forced to adopt in order to please Cheryl, whom he pissed off during a round of The Newlywed Game that they played at an impromptu gathering at Marty Funkhouser (Bob Einstein)'s house which Larry precipitated by trying to avoid a party there the night before.
In short, even when it's predictable, Curb is still surprising. And while some of the plot-point gags seem forced (How can anyone, even someone as oblivious as Larry David, not know that they're in an erotic bakery?), many of the throwaway lines along the way ("That would be like if my name were Larry Jew.") are laugh-out-loud funny. The means more than make up for knowing the end–at least in this episode.
--Maybe it's just me looking for evidence of Larry David's real-life marital difficulties in his TV-life marriage, but has Cheryl gotten more annoying? She certainly seemed less tolerant of Larry in last night's episode.
--Can Vivica A. Fox be funny outside of Booty Call? Only time, and Curb Your Enthusiasm, will tell.
--Picturing Jeff Garlin dressed as a little Dutch girl is funny, but picturing Richard Lewis playing golf, or engaging in physical activity of any sort, at a health club with Jeff Garlin and Larry David might be funnier.
--Larry David angrily yelling "Dum-Dum!" = most entertaining example of road rage to date.