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‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ signs off with a nostalgic finale that’s pretty, pretty good

Review by Brian Lowry, CNN

(CNN) — Larry David appears to pride himself on not caring what people think, which made the “Curb Your Enthusiasm” series finale, and the nod to criticism he received for “Seinfeld’s” sendoff 26 years ago, that much funnier. Yet, he also used the occasion as a trip down memory lane, weaving in highlights and callbacks to the HBO show’s 12 seasons, spread, remarkably, over twice as many years.

With the benefit of hindsight, the season-long plot built around David violating Georgia’s Election Integrity Act, making him an unlikely and accidental hero, all served as a means of setting up what amounted to a “Seinfeld” replay. That included an extensive cameo by Jerry Seinfeld among the various celebrities, news anchors and “Curb” guest stars sprinkled throughout the final hour.

Like “Seinfeld,” the episode hinged on Larry getting put on trial, which created an excuse to bring in character witnesses to remind the audience about all the terrible (and terribly funny) things that he has done across the years.

As a bonus, Larry’s friend Leon (J.B. Smoove) had finally gotten around to watching “Seinfeld,” creating an opportunity to not only dredge up questions about the show’s finish but to give David a chance to overtly address outside voices about that series and surely this one, telling him, “I’m not really interested in your opinion.”

As it happened, the episode also incorporated a nice subplot for Richard Lewis, a longtime staple of the series and David friend, who died earlier this year. (“Curb” featured a memorial card for Lewis earlier in the season.)

“Curb” always reflected David’s uniquely jaundiced and particular vision about human nature and the various acts of dishonesty, large and small, which go into dealing with other people. Perhaps because of that, using the ending to essentially re-litigate the hoopla that surrounded “Seinfeld’s” exit in a very different TV era felt both surprising and unexpectedly welcome – even like a bit of redemption, not that David needs or even sought that.

During the finale, MSNBC anchor Chris Hayes was shown describing David, as depicted throughout the trial, as a “petty, conniving and frankly spiteful man.” What “Curb” did was mine those qualities for comedy, which the finale did with customary gusto.

David had clearly earned the right from HBO (like CNN, a unit of Warner Bros. Discovery), creatively speaking, to say goodbye on his terms, and yes, not to fret about the reaction. Even so, it was nice to see in the “Seinfeld” plot that David could laugh not just at himself but at what many have long seen as one of his few conspicuous misfires.

All told, as Larry is fond of saying, the result was pretty, pretty good, and indeed, even a bit better than that. And while Larry made a point in the episode of saying he hadn’t learned a thing in his life, grading this on the spectrum of series finales would suggest otherwise.

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