Larry David in the Sunday Season 11 premiere Calm your enthusiasm. John P. Johnson / HBO
Jon Hein knows television. In the late 1990s, he coined the phrase “Jump the Shark” when he founded the site of the same name. Since then he has written all over television, from the New York Times to the 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 week ahead.
If it’s Sunday night on HBO, get ready for a character you’re meant to love to hate. Classic antiheroes have been a staple of HBO programming ever since Dr. Melfi asked Tony to sit in his office. The key to all of this is finding something likable about these not-so-nice characters.
Tony Soprano had it. Tyrion Lannister had it. Barry has it. Someone on Succession doesn’t have it (see last week’s column).
But the best example of a character we love to hate is Larry David on Calm your enthusiasm. And fortunately, Sidewalk returns for its 11th season this Sunday evening at 10:40 p.m.
Larry is a despicable human being. He has done countless horrible things on Sidewalk over the years. Kill a swan and try to hide the body. Impersonate an incest survivor. Dating a woman in a wheelchair for perks like good parking and trim lines. And yet we keep coming back, because a part of us is tied into what Larry is going through.
The brilliance of Sidewalk is his incredible ability to find humor in such terrible situations. Larry feeds on clumsiness. He lives grinding his teeth right now, and from the moment you hear the theme of the show, you absolutely know what’s coming (Westworld should have learned this lesson).
And who would have ever thought that we would have more of Larry David than Jerry Seinfeld in a TV series? Larry is famous Seinfeld Towards the end of its NBC airing overwhelming pressure to help create and produce episodes that we still talk about today. 11 seasons for Sidewalk? That’s a lot of awkward situations to make laughable. Larry has the freedom to decide when he wants to make a season, and that flexibility seems to be what keeps him coming back for more.
This is precisely the opposite of how a half-hour network sitcom is handled. Larry David has proven he can make a brilliant TV comedy, but the networks could learn a thing or two about the possibility of leaving their creators to create. Sidewalk the stories are built around a few lines and ideas and then the brilliant comedic actors go to do their thing. Who wouldn’t want to be part of the freedom allowed in this universe?
The show is known to have big 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 part of Larry’s world. And regulars including Susie Essman, Cheryl Hines, JB Smoove, and Jeff Garlin, as well as the inevitable clashes with Ted Danson and Richard Lewis are always a sight to behold.
The storyline for this season really doesn’t matter. I hope he 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 betting on the 11th season of Calm your enthusiasm to make us feel pretty, pretty, pretty good.
THIS WEEK’S SPTINAFOBYMB!
(Shows a premiere that I’m not a fan of but you could be!)
Queens (ABC) – A hip hop version of Girls5Eva, minus the laughs. Tuesday at 10 p.m.
The next thing you eat (HULU) – Chef David Chang talks about the future of food. Thusday.
Sex, Love & Goop (NETFLIX) – Gwyneth continues to show us the way. Thusday.
Dune (HBO MAX) – The last attempt to turn a great sand and worms book into a great movie. Thusday.
Unsafe (HBO) – The popular comedy by Issa Rae returns for its final season. Sunday at 10 p.m.
THE CHOICES OF THE WEEK
Aliens from all over the world and living from New York …
Invasion (APPLE TV +)
Friday 22 October
Aliens are coming… all over the world. And it’s happening on Apple TV +, which means there’s going to be a big budget. It was filmed in several places around the world to create the impression of a truly global crisis.
Sam Neill stars as a sheriff who will hopefully finally get to see Montana. All characters have stories to tell as another War of the Worlds unfolds in this ten-part series.
Saturday Night Live (NBC)
Saturday, October 23 11:30 p.m. ET / 8:30 p.m. PT
I stopped watching regularly SNL a long time ago, but this Saturday night should be special. Jason Sudeikis, fresh out of his Ted lasso Emmy triumphs, returns to Studio 8H for a victory lap.
Brandi Carlile will do it SNL debut, and his performances elsewhere have always been something to see. We keep our fingers crossed for a new one What’s up with this? who sees Jason dancing one last time in that red tracksuit before crossing the pond to Ted lasso Season 3.
If you love or hate my choices, I would like to hear from you.
To get vaccinated. Get a reminder. Stay healthy and safe!
Jon Hein is the creator of “Jump the Shark” and the author of three books. Follow it @jonhein on Twitter.