Curb Your Enthusiasm showrunner offers 11 hints for season 11
Larry David is coming out of the pandemic the same way he entered it: Intractable, irascible, having learned nothing, and wanting nothing to do with anyone. Season 11 of HBO's cunning curmudgeon comedy Curb Your Enthusiasm will find Larry with a little less money (thanks to lawsuits in the wake of his spite-store debacle) and more problems (thanks to, well, karma). We asked showrunner/executive producer Jeff Schaffer to properly prep us for what's in store for the gang, especially after the world-disrupting events of 2020-21. "The pandemic and the time spent either in apartments alone or with family prompted a lot of introspection among a lot of people," sums up Schaffer. "Larry is not one of those people."
And real-life Larry is one of those people who hates spoilers, teases, hints, previews, or pretty much any other indication of his show's upcoming action. "If you ever gotten a stomach bug where one minute you're fine and the next minute you're about to be in The Exorcist," starts Schaffer, "that's how Larry wants the season to appear: instantly, with no warning, like a bad bout of food poisoning. 'Here it is. Deal with it.'" Still, maybe if we ask nice and neurotically, Schaffer will kind enough to give us a few — or even 11 — hints about season 11, which premieres Sunday.
1. The new season takes place in a post-pandemic world.
David and Schaffer began plotting season 11 back in January 2020, two month before the pandemic hit. When life changed during the spread of COVID-19, "we had to throw out stuff, like, 'Oh, that's not going to work,'" says Schaffer. "We were writing remotely, which was an interesting way to do it for us. We were used to putting stuff up on the dry erase board together. So it was just Larry and I on FaceTime, and every session started the same way, with Larry looking around on the ground for an outlet and complaining, 'Why aren't there shoulder-level outlets?'"
The duo soon found themselves trying to figure out how much of the real world to reflect in theirs. "We had to make a choice: 'What's the weather going to look like in a year and a half?' Because we knew [season 11] would be coming out this fall," the showrunner explains. "And the best way to think about the choice was: 'Hey, do you want extras wearing masks in every scene? Or do you not?' Optimists that we are, we decided to write this season in a world where COVID has happened, but we're through the other side. Masks are gone, life is normal, but amazingly enough, people are still rude, selfish, and problematic."
Also factoring into their creative calculus was the notion that fans had already imagined scenes of germophobe Larry — who really was the original social distancer — using the pandemic as an excuse to remove himself from most obligations. "If everyone and their grandmother is saying things like, 'I can't wait to see Larry David wearing a mask and using COVID to avoid people,' why would we do exactly that?" says Schaffer. "That's not a unique story — that's just group think. In this season of Curb, COVID has come and it has gone, and we definitely talk about it and do some stories about it, but in a different way that people wouldn't expect."
2. The season starts off by scattering your bearings.
Brace for a little — or a lot of — disorientation at the beginning of the season. "There are whole vats of pickles that Larry finds himself in," says Schaffer. "There are lots of disparate threads that don't seem to have anything in common at the start of the season, but they're all going to knit together in the end to make an exquisite petty shame blanket. We're going to throw out a lot of information at you at the beginning, and this season comes full circle in one of the most satisfying ways we've had. Everything culminates in a really, really interesting way that I cannot tell you anything about."
3. Larry returns to his old profession.
The last time viewers saw the Seinfeld co-creator, he had burned down Latte Larry's and Mocha Joe's, and Mocha Joe (Saverio Guerra) had moved in to the [spite] house next door with Larry's former assistant Alice (Megan Ferguson). "When we pick this season up, Mocha Joe has moved on from that house, but those lawsuits cost Larry a pretty penny," reports Schaffer. "So he's a little bit burned by that. He's even thinking about getting back to writing."
4. Rules were made to be questioned — and broken.
A key theme of this season? "Rules and regulation," says Schaffer. "In these polarizing times, there still have to be things that we all agree on as a society to get along — and Larry's here to tell you what those are. Like a bald Emily Post, Larry tackles everything from toasting behavior to music at the dentist to sushi chefs to how to tap someone in public in his usual gentile and graceful manner."
5. Larry turns political.
In season 10, Larry discovered that a red MAGA hat can be used as whatever the opposite of a social lubricant is. But this season, "he's going to get more politically involved on a local level," teases Schaffer. "I think that's the kind of grassroots change we can all get behind."
6. You should have a lot of, well, enthusiasm for the guest cast.
"It's the most spectacularly cast season," declares Schaffer, ticking off several high-level names that will go to low places with Larry.
*Woody Harrelson as himself. "We didn't realize what a big fan of the show he was. He came in and it was just like, 'Oh, he knows his stuff!' He's seen every episode. He just slid right in and was going at it with Larry. Larry's often at his best when he needs something from someone and you can really see all the shades of the lying color wheel."
* Kaley Cuoco as Heidi. "She's a doctor who shows exceeding amounts of patience with Larry. She is playing the girlfriend of Freddy Funkhouser [Vince Vaughn], and as happens to all things Funkhouser, when Larry gets involved, things get more complicated and then they go south. She said she hadn't done a lot of improv before she came in, and she must've been lying. She fit in perfectly — it was like she'd been on the show forever."
* Lucy Liu as herself. "Lucy is in our premiere. She sees a side of Larry that she can't unsee."
* Seth Rogen as himself. "He is working on a not-well-thought-out Viking comedy movie called Eric the Yellow."
* Tracey Ullman as Irma Kostroski. "Tracey has a pretty significant role this season. It's amazing she hasn't been on the show already. Working with her was a masterclass. On set, she made it her job to crack Larry up, and she was successful in making him blow takes in almost every scene."
* Bill Hader as… ? "We had a super specific, super complicated role that we didn't even know if it was going to be able to be pulled off. And then we thought about Bill, we were like, 'Oh, of course! He can do this.' There are maybe three people on the planet that could've done this — and two of them are dead."
7. Old friends (and frenemies) are peppered throughout the season to match wits with Larry.
"All of our favorites and usuals are back," says Schaffer. Such as?
* Ted Danson as himself. "Ted is still dating Cheryl. He and Larry seem to have reached a detente on that subject, but there's going to be a whole new thing for them to work through together. For Larry, Ted is still that friend that he doesn't like very much."
* Jon Hamm as himself. "People kept asking after the season, 'What's going to happen with that movie where Jon's playing Larry David?' And we wanted people to know that like many of the things that Larry touches, even peripherally, it went way south."
* Vince Vaughn as Freddy Funkhouser. "Freddy Funkhouser is still the mattress champ of the valley, but this season his entrepreneurial spirit is going to break out into other venues. And Larry may want a piece of it."
8. Larry follows his heart.
"Larry has had some very good relationships — Cheryl — and some very bad relationships — all others — but this season he will definitely dip more than a toe into the dating pool," shares Schaffer. "You know those couples where you go, 'What are they doing together? There's got to be a story there.' There is, and you'll see it."
9. All of the show's main cast members return to action.
* Larry's ex, Cheryl (Cheryl Hines), may be Danson with someone else these days, but Larry still lingers in her life. "Larry is able to complicate Cheryl's world not as a husband, but simply as a friend," notes Schaffer.
* While Larry's manager, Jeff (Jeff Garlin), has had little managerial work to do in regards to Larry recently, "he's going to be very busy with Larry this year in a professional capacity," says Schaffer. "Larry's got a new idea." Which may not be not good news for Jeff's wife, Susie…
* "As Larry and Jeff work together this season, Susie (Susie Essman) going to get dragged into some of Larry's nefarious schemes this season. Then, of course, there's always Susie and Jeff's relationship. I feel like Susie's always suspicious that Jeff has got something up his sleeve and sometimes she's right."
* Larry's pal/housemate, Leon (J.B. Smoove), will find himself in new circumstances whilst in his old digs. "We're going to see a side of Leon we haven't really seen before," says Schaffer. "When the season opens, he's got a girlfriend — someone he's been actually dating for awhile. She's a professional and she's got a nice house." That said… "He's still never going to move out of Larry's, which he insists he owns."
10. "Don't let just anyone get up on your roof."
11. One never knows if this will be the last season of Curb... but it's probably not.
Fans wondered if Curb had drawn to a close after season 8, given that season 9 didn't debut until six years later. Although seasons 10 and 11 appeared after more reasonable hiatuses of 27 months and 19 months, respectively, it has become a seasonal sport to wonder whether the most recent season of Curb will in fact be its last, especially with David loathe to commit to future seasons. ("One day I can only hope that HBO will come to their senses and grant me the cancellation I so richly deserve," he quipped in a statement last year when Curb was renewed for season 11.)
While no decisions have been officially made, it sounds like Larry & Co. might have enough bald ambition to last a while longer. "People go, 'Oh my God. Season 11! you've been doing for so long? Aren't you out of ideas?'" says Schaffer. "And I was always go, 'Well, until society reaches a place where you can walk outside and not be annoyed by your fellow man, I think we're good.' Because people aren't great, and people are walking double standards. That's one of the things that fuels the success of the show — when the audience sees Larry do something selfish, they know in their cold hearts, they would do it too. And then when they see him rail against a tiny injustice, they think, 'Oh, I was wanting to tell someone off like that, too!' So the show sometimes makes you root for people you would never usually side with, like Liz Cheney."
What are the odds of viewers getting a 12th season of Curb? "Larry will only do another season if he feels like if he has enough good ideas, but I wouldn't bet on Larry running out," quips Schaffer, who also offers this colorful analogy: "It's getting close to the holidays and this season is like a perverse Christmas. Here's 10 little gift-wrapped presents of awkwardness, pettiness and confrontation, and we'll have to see if Larry is in a giving mood next year."