Once again, Larry David does the impossible. He makes a hero out of Bill Buckner.
Red Sox fans have never forgiven the long-retired first baseman for letting the ball scoot through his legs, costing Boston their first World Series in 70 years. It’s been 25 years and two Series titles later but still the man is hated and despised.
All is forgiven in “Mister Softee,” one of three hilarious Curb Your Enthusiasm episodes sent to critics in advance of Sunday’s 8th season premiere (10 p.m. ET/MT on HBO and HBO Canada).
Buckner is one of several guest stars this season, including Michael J. Fox, Ana Gasteyer (a scream as Larry’s car-ridin’ girlfriend), Ricky Gervais, Harry Hamlin, Larry Miller, Robert Smigel, Aida Turturro and Jo Anne Worley. David Steinberg directs Sunday’s season premiere.
An even funnier episode airs July 24: “Palestinian Chicken” finds Larry and his weasel-y agent/pal Jeff Garlin discovering the best chicken they’ve ever tasted at a new Palestinian restaurant. This doesn’t sit well with some of Larry’s more orthodox friends, especially Bob Einstein, laugh-out-loud funny after a new rabbi has turned him into a “Super Jew.” Then when a second Palestinian restaurant opens right next to Greenblat’s deli—oy vey.
David is a master at threading various situations along a firecracker chain that explodes at the end of each episode. He did it as a writer producer on Seinfeld and he takes it to ridiculous new heights on Enthusiasm.
Semi regulars Richard Lewis, Einstein, Wanda Sykes and Rosie O’Donnell add to the fun. Susie Essman is a standout as Garlin’s prickly wife who has a constant hate on for Larry. Garlin is a scream, endlessly tolerant of David’s selfishness because that’s what agents do.
David has become awfully good at playing David and this season he really shines. It was hard to imagine topping last season with all those delightful Seinfeld reunion story lines but David wisely takes his time, comes back only when inspiration hits and then just for 10 episodes.
If playing a narcissistic jerk sounds easy, witness the utter failure of Bad Dog, Ken Finkleman’s lazy attempt to rip off David the same way he retyped Larry Sanders scripts and called it The Newsroom. Not just derivative, Bad Dog is depressing and supremely unfunny. David’s show builds to joy and laughter.
The Buckner episode (not till Sept. 4) and others shift to New York City with Larry fleeing Los Angeles for three months to avoid a simple charity request. His character continues to set new lows as the most narcissistic being on the planet. Yet Buckner’s redemption is one of the most generous, unselfish acts in the history of show-business—unless you see it as a Yankee fan having the last laugh by once again finding the nerve and bunting it between the legs. That is, after all, what David does best.