Jon Hein knows TV. In the late 1990s, he coined the phrase "Jump the Shark" when he founded the site of the same name. Since then, he's written about television everywhere from The New York Times to TV Guide. In his column for Primetimer, he shares his thoughts on what's new and good on TV and the shows on his radar for the coming week.
If it's Sunday night on HBO, prepare for a character that you're supposed to love to hate. Classic anti-heroes have been a staple of HBO programming since Dr. Melfi asked Tony to take a seat in her office. The key to it all is finding something likable in these not-so-nice characters.
Tony Soprano had it. Tyrion Lannister had it. Barry has it. Anyone on Succession does not have it (see last week's column).
But the best example of a character we just love to hate is Larry David on Curb Your Enthusiasm. And thankfully, Curb returns for its 11th season this Sunday night at 10:40pm.
Larry is a despicable human being. He has done countless awful things on Curb over the years. Killing a swan and trying to hide the body. Posing as an incest survivor. Dating a woman in a wheelchair for benefits like good parking and cutting lines. And yet we keep coming back for more, because part of us relates to whatever Larry is going through.
The brilliance of Curb is its uncanny ability to find the humor in these terrible situations. Larry thrives on awkwardness. He lives for the cringe moment, and from the moment you hear the show's theme, you absolutely know what's coming (Westworld should have learned this lesson).
And who would ever have thought that we'd get more Larry David than Jerry Seinfeld on a television series? Larry famously left Seinfeld towards the end of its run on NBC from the overwhelming pressure to help create and produce episodes we still talk about today. 11 seasons for Curb? That's a lot of awkward situations to make laughable. Larry has the freedom to decide when he wants to do a season, and that flexibility seems to be what keeps him coming back for more.
That's precisely the opposite of how a half-hour network sitcom is handled. Larry David has proven he can create brilliant television comedy, but the networks could learn a thing or two about letting their creators create. Curb stories are built around a few lines and ideas, and then the brilliant comedic actors go and do their thing. Who wouldn't want to be a part of the freedom allowed in this universe?
The show is known for having great guest stars, and this season's guest cast is truly stellar. Bill Hader, Jon Hamm, Patton Oswalt, Albert Brooks, Woody Harrelson, Seth Rogen, Lucy Liu, Kaley Cuoco and Tracey Ullman will be a part of Larry's world. And the regulars, including Susie Essman, Cheryl Hines, JB Smoove and Jeff Garlin along with the inevitable conflicts with Ted Danson and Richard Lewis are always a sight to behold.
This season's storyline truly doesn't matter. I'm hoping it deals with the pandemic, because the little bit of Larry in all of us can't wait to come out from under our masks. We can all use the laughs.
I'm banking on the 11th season of Curb Your Enthusiasm to leave us feeling pretty, pretty, pretty good.
THIS WEEK’S SPTINAFOBYMB!
(Shows Premiering That I'm Not A Fan Of But You Might Be!)
Queens (ABC) – A hip hop version of Girls5Eva, minus the laughs. Tuesday at 10pm.
The Next Thing You Eat (HULU) – Chef David Chang tackles the future of food. Thursday.
Sex, Love & Goop (NETFLIX) – Gwyneth continues to show us the way. Thursday.
Dune (HBO MAX) – The latest attempt to make a really good book about sand and worms into a really good movie. Thursday.
Insecure (HBO) – Issa Rae's popular comedy returns for its final season. Sunday at 10pm.
THIS WEEK'S PICKS
Aliens around the world and live from New York…
Invasion (APPLE TV+)
Friday, October 22nd
Aliens are coming… worldwide. And it's happening on Apple TV+, which means there's going to be a big budget. This was shot in multiple locations all over the planet to create the feel of a truly global crisis.
Sam Neill stars as a sheriff who will hopefully finally get to see Montana. All of the characters have stories to tell as another war of the worlds unfolds in this ten episode series.
Saturday Night Live (NBC)
Saturday, October 23rd 11:30 PM ET/ 8:30 PM PT
I stopped regularly watching SNL a long time ago, but this Saturday night should be a special one. Jason Sudeikis, fresh off his Ted Lasso Emmy triumph, returns to Studio 8H for a victory lap.
Brandi Carlile will make her SNL debut, and her performances elsewhere have always been something to behold. Fingers are firmly crossed for a new What Up With That? that sees Jason dancing in that red tracksuit one last time before he heads back across the pond for Ted Lasso Season 3.
If you love or hate my picks, I'd love to hear from you.
Get vaccinated. Get a booster. Stay healthy and safe!
Jon Hein is the creator of "Jump the Shark" and author of three books. Follow him @jonhein on Twitter.