15 Pretty, Pretty Good Facts About Curb Your Enthusiasm

John P. Johnson/HBO
John P. Johnson/HBO

On October 17, 1999, HBO aired a mockumentary special called Larry David: Curb Your Enthusiasm. They liked it so much that they picked it up as a 10-episode narrative series, which premiered on October 15, 2000 with a slightly truncated title. On and off for eight seasons (it’s been on hiatus since 2011), Larry David has played a very candid—if somewhat exaggerated—version of himself, with every episode revolving around him angering somebody. Here are some real facts about the improvised show, which will make its triumphant return to HBO tonight for a ninth season.

1. “LARRY DAVID” IS AN “IDEALIZED” VERSION OF LARRY DAVID.

Sure, there are some obvious similarities between TV Larry and real-life Larry, but David told Rolling Stone that it wouldn’t be smart for him to be TV Larry all the time. “The character really is me, but I just couldn't possibly behave like that,” he said. “If I had my druthers, that would be me all the time, but you can’t do that. We’re always doing things we don’t want to do, we never say what we really feel, and so this is an idealized version of how I want to be. As crazy as this person is, I could step into those shoes right now, but I would be arrested or I’d be hit or whatever.”

2. THE MOCKUMENTARY FORMAT WAS LOST ON SOME OF CHERYL HINES’S FRIENDS AND FAMILY MEMBERS. 


HBO

Larry David tapped documentary filmmaker Robert B. Weide to direct the original Curb Your Enthusiasm special (Weide stayed on for most of the series run as both a director and executive producer), which was supposed to chronicle David’s returning to the stand-up comedy circuit. Weide didn’t understand why David wanted to “torture himself like that” but finally realized that “he wanted to face down some old demons, now that he had nothing invested in it.” David had already locked in a commitment with HBO to do a special on his stand-up, but it evolved into being more of a mockumentary than a documentary. As Weide explained, people who knew Cheryl Hines thought it was too real. “She had friends in Florida who saw the show and were upset to find out that Cheryl had married a big TV producer and they were never invited to the wedding.”

3. CHERYL HINES DIDN’T THINK SHE WOULD GET HIRED AS CHERYL DAVID.

Hines’s background was with The Groundlings improv, and she had an inkling as to who David was. “I wasn’t very stressed out about the audition, because I thought 'It’s not going to happen,'” Hines said during a conversation at The Paley Center. Neither she nor her agent thought she “was right for the part.” At the time of her audition, Hines was working as a personal assistant to Rob Reiner’s family. Four hours after reading for the part she got a call that she’d won the role. “I know now that they were looking for an unknown, so it worked in my favor that I had absolutely nothing on my resume,” she said.

4. CHERYL DAVID IS NOT BASED ON LAURIE DAVID.

In an interview with Rolling Stone, Cheryl Hines said that she did not meet Larry David’s former wife, Laurie, until after the show began production. “It was confusing to people because people would ask me what kind of research I did on Laurie before I started playing her. And I had to say I wasn’t playing her,” Hines said. At one point Hines asked Larry if she should be hanging out with Laurie, and David said “no.”

5. EACH EPISODE IS BASED ON AN OUTLINE, AND NO DIALOGUE IS EVER WRITTEN.


HBO

Curb Your Enthusiasm became a milestone show because of its mostly improvised format. David wrote rough outlines for each episode and let the actors fill in the rest. “I write the scenes where we know everything that’s going to happen,” David told NPR. “There’s an outline of about seven or eight pages, and then we improvise it.”

“We do a rough camera blocking before we start shooting, but I tell the actors just to ‘blah-blah' the dialogue until the cameras roll,” Weide explained. “My fear is that if they make up a wonderful piece of dialogue, then they'll be self-consciously trying to hit the same mark once we’re filming and we’ll lose the spontaneity.”

6. THE SHOW’S TITLE HAS TWO MEANINGS.

David titled the series Curb Your Enthusiasm as an ode to Seinfeld fervor, meaning that people shouldn’t expect this to be another Seinfeld. “Also, people should keep enthusiasm curbed in their lives,” David told Time. “Always keep it. To not is unattractive. It’s unseemly.”

7. DAVID DIDN’T WANT HIS TV MARRIAGE TO BE TOO HAPPY.

“I want people to think we’re happy, but not that happy,” David said during The Paley Center cast Q&A. “I don’t want to see anybody that happy, because it makes me a little sick. I’m trying to strike the balance that you believe the marriage, that they really like each other, but he’s really not that happy.” David also admitted that his on-screen marriage and real-life marriage started to mirror each other. “It’s [the marriage] mitigated a little bit by the kids in my real marriage. It’s much easier for me to play a guy without kids, though … the wives, they’re getting closer and closer.”

8. THE "MARY, JOSEPH AND LARRY" EPISODE IS BASED ON A TRUE STORY. 


HBO

Cheryl Hines told TV Guide that her favorite episode of the series was the 2002 Christmas one where her family visits and Larry eats a cookie version of baby Jesus. “When I was home in Florida, my family had made a manger scene out of cookies and everyone was walking around saying, ‘Don't eat baby Jesus.’ And I immediately called Larry and said, ‘If you were at my house right now, you would eat baby Jesus and my family would go crazy.’ And then we started talking back-and-forth and he [loved it].”

9. LARRY DAVID DIDN’T WANT TO BE MARRIED ON THE SHOW IF HE WASN’T MARRIED IN REAL LIFE.

In real life, Larry and Laurie David got divorced in 2007, which he integrated into the show: the seventh and eighth season arcs involved David separating from and then divorcing his wife. “Larry works on a very deeply unconscious level that even he’s not aware of,” Susie Essman told Rolling Stone. “As an outsider, I can see it. He doesn’t want to analyze it, that’s not his personality, he’s not analytical, but I think that that’s basically it. That if he’s not married, he doesn’t want to be married fictitiously, either.”

But Hines told The A.V. Club she thinks the couple belongs together. “Who else is going to love him? And, by the way, he is very entertaining.”

10. SUSIE ESSMAN CONSTANTLY TELLS FANS TO “GO F**K” THEMSELVES. 


HBO

Essman’s character, Susie Greene, has a foul mouth and makes a regular habit of unleashing streams of expletives on Larry and her on-screen husband, Jeff (Jeff Garlin). Essman explained to The Paley Center audience how fans constantly come up to her and ask to be berated. “My life has become extremely bizarre that people just come up to [me] wherever I am, begging me to tell them to go f**k themselves. It’s like, I’m buying produce, I’m shaking a melon. ‘Call me a fat f**k.’ I’m not always in the mood.” During an interview with Esquire, Essman said that, “People are visibly disappointed that when they meet me I’m not this screaming, yelling crazy person.”

11. JEFF GARLIN THINKS JEFF GREENE IS A “BUFFOON." 


HBO

During the cast’s Paley Center Q&A, Garlin claimed that Larry forced him to co-star and produce the show against his will. Garlin also shared how he feels about his character, Jeff Greene: “He’s an idiot. He’s not a good guy. He wants to get laid constantly, by anyone, any time. He wants to please his clients. That’s all he works on … I’m a decent guy so there’s some niceness underneath. I have no respect for this guy. He’s a buffoon, that’s all.”

12. THE SHOW HELPED TO EXONERATE A MAN WHO WAS ARRESTED FOR MURDER.

In 2003 Juan Catalan was arrested for murdering a teenage girl, even though he swore he couldn’t have been at the purported crime scene because he was with his daughter at a Los Angeles Dodgers baseball game. Curb Your Enthusiasm just happened to be filming at the game on the very same day, and five months after Catalan’s arrest, the raw footage from the filming proved that Catalan was indeed where he claimed to be. In 2007, Catalan was awarded $320,000 in a lawsuit he had filed against the city of Los Angeles and its police department.

13. LARRY DAVID AND RICHARD LEWIS USED TO BE CHILDHOOD RIVALS. 


HBO

In 2000, David came over to comedian Richard Lewis’s house and personally asked him to star on the show. But before they were friends, they were teenage rivals. The men attended a sports camp together when they were 12 years old, and did not get along. “I despised the guy and he hated me,” Lewis told OC Weekly. “It was like Curb Your Enthusiasm, but at 12.”

The two men had forgotten about each other until they reconnected a decade later, when they both started doing stand-up. “We then traced our childhoods and then it hit me like a ton of bricks! I was like, ‘Ohhhh you’re Larry David from that camp!’ The odds that we would become best friends was so unique and so crazy, it bonded us forever. You can see that on Curb Your Enthusiasm. Ninety-nine percent is me fighting with him because we do it in real life.”

14. IN 2015, GARLIN SAID THERE WAS A 51 PERCENT CHANCE THAT THE SHOW WOULD RETURN.

At the 2015 TCA (Television Critics Association), Garlin said he’d love to do more Curb Your Enthusiasm and prophesied that the chance of David signing on for another season is around 51 percent. “Larry David is so goddamned rich he doesn’t have to do anything unless it’s good,” Garlin joked.

15. DAVID HIMSELF ONCE PUT THE ODDS OF A NINTH SEASON AT 6-1.

At the end of 2014, David told Grantland, “I guess, right now, the odds would be against it, probably 6 to 1,” and stated he has no desire to do another episode “to wrap things up.” In 2015, HBO's then-president of programming Michael Lombardo saw Larry David and told The Hollywood Reporter that David had pointed to a notebook and said he was working on a new season of Curb. “I don’t think it’s out of [Larry’s] system,” said Lombardo. “I think he wants to have something to say.”

In 2016, a ninth season of the series was officially greenlit and on July 10, 2017, HBO confirmed that the new season would begin on October 1, 2017 and dropped a teaser trailer:

Keep Your Cat Busy With a Board Game That Doubles as a Scratch Pad

Cheerble
Cheerble

No matter how much you love playing with your cat, waving a feather toy in front of its face can get monotonous after a while (for the both of you). To shake up playtime, the Cheerble three-in-one board game looks to provide your feline housemate with hours of hands-free entertainment.

Cheerble's board game, which is currently raising money on Kickstarter, is designed to keep even the most restless cats stimulated. The first component of the game is the electronic Cheerble ball, which rolls on its own when your cat touches it with their paw or nose—no remote control required. And on days when your cat is especially energetic, you can adjust the ball's settings to roll and bounce in a way that matches their stamina.

Cheerable cat toy on Kickstarter.
Cheerble

The Cheerble balls are meant to pair with the Cheerble game board, which consists of a box that has plenty of room for balls to roll around. The board is also covered on one side with a platform that has holes big enough for your cat to fit their paws through, so they can hunt the balls like a game of Whack-a-Mole. And if your cat ever loses interest in chasing the ball, the board also includes a built-in scratch pad and fluffy wand toy to slap around. A simplified version of the board game includes the scratch pad without the wand or hole maze, so you can tailor your purchase for your cat's interests.

Cheerble cat board game.
Cheerble

Since launching its campaign on Kickstarter on April 23, Cheerble has raised over $128,000, already blowing past its initial goal of $6416. You can back the Kickstarter today to claim a Cheerble product, with $32 getting you a ball and $58 getting you the board game. You can make your pledge here, with shipping estimated for July 2020.

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The 15 Best Netflix Original Series

Tim Robinson stars in I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson.
Tim Robinson stars in I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson.
Netflix

Netflix is a cultural Rorschach test. In addition to being a revolution of the way we watch movies and television, it's a prestige factory that's helping to bring Oscar-quality entertainment to your home. And it's massive enough to be whatever you need it to be at whatever time you need it.

Seven years after House of Cards changed our perceptions of what streaming content could look like, Netflix has amassed a library of more than 100 original series (and that's only counting the English language stuff). Here are 15 of the best of them.

1. Russian Doll (2019- )

Nadia (Natasha Lyonne, who also co-created the series) is a game developer stuck in a time loop that keeps killing her and depositing her back at her own birthday party. If you roll your eyes at Groundhog Day situations, roll them back, because this incredibly inventive take from Lyonne, Leslye Headland, and Amy Poehler is deeply funny, strange, sad, and celebratory all at once. One woman's existential crisis is our binge-worthy content. As a bonus, Harry Nilsson's "Gotta Get Up" will be permanently stuck in your brain.

2. Dear White People (2017- )

Based on his (also excellent) 2014 feature, Justin Simien takes us back to prestigious Winchester University, where social justice bard Samantha White (Logan Browning) navigates the growing pains of collegiate romance and friendship while trying to make her classmates recognize the social divisions at their school. Through three seasons (with a fourth coming in 2020), the show has faithfully delivered outrageous humor with its singular blend of satire and soap opera.

3. GLOW (2017- )

Anchored by Alison Brie, Betty Gilpin, and a stellar ensemble cast, GLOW follows a group of women who launch a wrestling show backed by a trust fund kid and a cranky cult horror director (brilliantly played by Marc Maron). It scored laughs from how awkward everything was early on, but the show really sailed when Brie and her cohorts began to fully own the weird, wonderful spandex assault they were creating. Now it's about keeping that show, their group, and their personal lives intact.

4. I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson (2019- )

Tim Robinson is a Saturday Night Live alum whose sketch show couldn't be further from that mainstay's sensibilities. Where SNL is the McDonald's of comedy, I Think You Should Leave is the hole-in-the-wall place only you and your friends love because it keeps changing the menu with new dishes you can't get anywhere else. It's fair to call the show outlandish, but its comic brilliance stems from the simplicity of its setups and the deranged lengths that the characters go to in order to stick with that premise. Learn nothing else and dive in.

5. BoJack Horseman (2014-2020)

It's the silly cartoon show here to make you think about death and get sad and stuff. Like emo music for grownups, Raphael Bob-Waksberg and Lisa Hanawalt's brilliant series focuses on the addiction, self-loathing, and career envy of its titular anti-hero as he attempts to crawl out of the cheesy '80s sitcom stardom of his past and into something more respected. No other show can get away with this many animal puns while exploring the depths of despair that result from trying to fill a bottomless pit in your soul.

6. Master of None (2015- )

Allora! Although it has dipped its toe into experimentation, Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang's relationship comedy works largely because of the likability of Dev Shah (its main character, played by Ansari). It's buoyant and feels like you're hanging out with friends but, fair warning, it will make you deliriously hungry for pasta.

7. Sex Education (2019- )

Plenty of high school comedies have focused on how awkward sex and romance is for high schoolers, but this fantastic show from Laurie Nunn wanted to raise the stakes by making the young, sexually ambivalent main character's mom a sex therapist. In another ingenious move, they hired Gillian Anderson to play that sex therapist mom, and she delivers all the frank, embarrassing talk you could possibly ask for. So what happens when the insecure son of a sex therapist starts his own sex therapy side hustle to help his high school friends? An excellent, empathetic series that uses its laughs as a release.

8. Sense8 (2015-2018)

Eight strangers living all over the world discover they are emotionally connected to each other. They can feel what others in their cluster are feeling and can communicate with each other despite physical separation. Teaming with comic book and screenwriter J. Michael Straczynski, the Wachowskis have pulled another big-think, sci-fi rabbit out of their hats with this globetrotting thriller that's never met a third-rail issue it didn't want to explore. When they're not running from a mysterious entity bent on their destruction, the fascinatingly diverse crew of connected characters break down everything you're not supposed to talk about at the dinner table. So maybe we should be talking about them around the dinner table?

9. Orange is the New Black (2013-2019)

One of Netflix's original originals is still one of its best. Jenji Kohan found a perfect follow-up to Weeds with this adaptation of Piper Kerman's memoir about a young suburban woman going to a minimum-security prison. The fish-out-of-water comedy, drama, and horror only lasts as long as it takes for the show to blossom into a gorgeous, emotional roller coaster that shines the spotlight on all of its women—from the surly cook Red (Kate Mulgrew) to the sweet/troubled Crazy Eyes (Uzo Aduba)—to humanize them beyond the personas they adopt to survive. The show is a hilarious self-peeling onion, tears and all.

10. Astronomy Club (2019- )

Within the first two minutes of Astronomy Club, a talking garlic bulb shoots a gun at Dracula and shouts "Tryin' get this money in 2020, baby!" Fortunately, it gets weirder. This sketch show from some Upright Citizens Brigade alums is framed around a fake reality show that wisely lets us get to know these new performers while mocking every Real World descendant and the cast themselves. The comedy ranges from self-aware and absurdist to straightforward and even socially-conscious, and it all blends together smoothly. A one-of-a-kind winner.

11. The Crown (2016- )

Peter Morgan's historical drama has taken advantage of the new format and the lengthy reign of Queen Elizabeth II to craft a charming, devilish exploration of the scandals and triumphs of her adult life. As The Crown has covered decades and decades, it has shifted from Claire Foy playing the young queen (post-WWII) to Olivia Colman playing her through middle age (Winston Churchill's death and Soviet espionage intrigue) and will eventually star Imelda Staunton as the older queen closing out the show in the early 2000s (the years, not her age). It's an anglophile's delight with keen dramatic instincts and a huge list of world events to tackle.

12. Mindhunter (2017- )

Based on Mindhunter: Inside the FBI's Elite Serial Crime Unit, the series—created by Joe Penhall and executive produced by David Fincher—uncovers our earliest understanding of serial killers and the pioneering research conducted by letting FBI agents interview the country's most notorious murderers about their crimes. The fictionalized team played by Jonathan Groff, Holt McCallany, and Anna Torv battle bureaucracy and old paradigms in order to get their fledgling, vital program to succeed in using the criminal mind to help solve future cases. It's a delicate, gorgeous show exploring our worst impulses, and, chillingly, uses real serial killers' own words to describe their acts.

13. Stranger Things (2016- )

If there were an Audience Choice Award winner for this list, this nostalgia-bomb from the Duffer Brothers would score it. An absolute phenomenon that stuffs Steven Spielberg, The X-Men, and D&D into a blender and pours the results into a Trapper Keeper, the adventures of the psychokinetic Eleven and her band of merry young men are wondrously creepy fun. Perfect PG-13 horror where puberty and a Cthulhu-esque behemoth from a different dimension are equally strong villains.

14. The OA (2016-2019)

After being missing for seven years, a blind woman named Prairie Johnson (Brit Marling) resurfaces with the ability to see and calling herself the Original Angel. The series is a stunning blend of sci-fi and fantasy that explores past trauma and near-death experiences with the backdrop of dimension-hopping adventure. It's an epic, intimate story that's truly unlike anything else, and diving into the magnetic first episode comes with the risk of getting addicted to a series that (for now) ends on a cliffhanger.

15. American Vandal (2017-2018)

American Scandal is undoubtedly the best show ever made about misdemeanor penis drawings. What might have been a crass, surface-level parody of our obsession with true crime stories is elevated to the highest of comedic heights due to the unwavering dedication to taking its juvenile crimes seriously. The first season focuses on a high school slacker who swears he's innocent of drawing the aforementioned phalluses on dozens of cars in the school parking lot while the second uncovers the truth about who spiked cafeteria lemonade with a laxative to cause an event known as "The Brownout." Imbued with all the twists and obsessively granular details of Serial, it's a miracle that they filmed any of it with a straight face.