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TV CRITIC'S CORNER

Kicking off season 11, ‘Curb’ still has its moments

J.B. Smoove and Larry David in season 11 of "Curb Your Enthusiasm."John P. Johnson/HBO

Many fans of Larry David have been calling the time of creative death of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” for years, but the HBO series continues to entertain nonetheless. Certainly in every season — we’re on No. 11 right now — some of the episodes are better than others. And certainly “Curb” no longer has the revelatory quality it did early on, when it was a new thrill to see the co-creator of “Seinfeld” unleashed in a semi-improvisational format.

But I’m sticking with the show, which returned on Sunday with “The Five-Foot Fence.” It’s that rare comedy that, to me, did not lapse into self-parody by season 6 or 7. The premiere was decent enough — not a standout, but there were moments, some of which added up at the end of the half-hour, others of which may matter more as the season develops. On “Seinfeld” and on “Curb,” David has been a fan of the farcical denouement, where everything comes together — or collides, depending on the situation.

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I appreciated the way the episode set up what may well become a season-long arc, like the “Seinfeld” reunion, the spite store, and “The Producers” revival in previous seasons. Larry now has a Netflix deal for a comedy in the vein of “Young Sheldon,” called “Young Larry,” and the brother of the robber who died in Larry’s pool (it’s a long story) is blackmailing him into casting his decidedly untalented daughter in it.

Albert Brooks is on hand to throw himself a funeral. Susie Essman is there to go nuts a few times. Lucy Liu shows up as Larry’s date, who can no longer see him as a sexual being after he walks into a glass door. And Jon Hamm, who appeared last season to study Larry for a Larry David-like role, puts in another turn, this time at the Brooks “funeral,” where he deploys a few Yiddish words. When Larry asks about that David-like role Hamm was working on, Hamm explains that it never made it to the screen.

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“They loved the performance, they hated the character,” he tells Larry. “The word that kept reappearing was ‘repugnant.’”


Matthew Gilbert can be reached at matthew.gilbert@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @MatthewGilbert.