As Armando Iannucci takes his sarcastic humour into space and Larry David returns to familiar ground, Brian Donaldson wonders if the two comedy titans are set for a scoring draw

I n the early days of his dementia, The Sopranos’ Uncle Junior spotted an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm on TV and was convinced that he and his driver/carer Bobby Baccalà were inexplicably on screen. The lookalikes a bald and bespectacled Larry David and the heavy-set Jeff Garlin might not have been too offended at this confusion, but in the opening episode of the new, tenth series of Curb, Garlin is rather more awkwardly mistaken for Harvey Weinstein.

This is David’s in to ‘tackle’ #MeToo while other modern issues are raised including MAGA hats, selfie sticks and tattoo proliferation alongside perennial concerns such as wobbly tables, lukewarm coffee and people saying ‘happy new year’ well into January. Requiring a mortal enemy to harbour a season-long grudge against (previously Larry has ostracised people for stealing his takeaway shrimp, leaving stains on varnished tables and stomping around in clumpy boots upstairs), a blast from Curb’s past in the shape of Mocha Joe appears to fit the bill this time around. Strong resentment is built up in Larry about the quality of scones he’s served up by his latest nemesis. While a tenth set of moral dilemmas and brazen pettiness from Larry David feels like a warm, reliable blanket for fans, Avenue 5 has its creator stepping

into fresh territory, geographically speaking at least. Armando Iannucci has long since moved away from contemporary UK-US governmental affairs by recently pitching his sarcastic characters into the past worlds of Joseph Stalin and David Copperfield, but now he’s plunging headlong towards the future with a sitcom set onboard a luxury cruise ship that appears lost in outer space. As ever with Iannucci, incompetent figureheads and bureaucratic minefields clash as Captain Ryan Clark (Hugh Laurie, pictured, in fine form as the accent- shifting boss on the Avenue 5 ship) tries to continually pass the buck while awkward customers, playboy billionaires and harassed decision-makers at mission control make his life a stressful omnishambles.

While early reviews in the States suggest that David and Iannucci may be coasting a little on past glories, it’s surely far too early to write off two of the most talented comedy scribes of our times. Hopefully the social codes of Curb as proscribed by ‘Larry’ will soon have our anti-hero flexing his hilarious ire while Iannucci’s creations will be delivering innovative insults as only this caustic Glaswegian can pen them.

Avenue 5, Sky One, Wed, 10pm; Curb Your Enthusiasm, Sky Comedy, Tue, 9pm.



BLOOD TIES From the makers of Dirty John and Dr Death comes a new scripted drama about siblings uncovering dark family truths after the deaths of their parents in a plane crash. Gillian Jacobs (Community, Love) and Josh Gad (Frozen, Book of Mormon) play the grieving investigators. THE PEREGRINE He’d probably make the phone book sound captivating, so chances are David Attenborough’s reading of JA Baker’s classic piece of nature writing on the titular bird of prey should be a veritable delight.

GETTING CURIOUS Queer Eye’s grooming expert Jonathan Van Ness delivers some weekly wit and wisdom on everything from climate to cosmetics, and terrorism to turtles. The recent interview with presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren is a blast. THE REWATCHABLES Host Bill Simmons recently marked the 100th episode of this film ’cast with Quentin Tarantino chatting about Tony Scott’s thriller Unstoppable. Other movies dissected include The Godfather Part II, Skyfall and The Shining.

THE NAKED SCIENTISTS A weekly show that tackles all your sciencey concerns, such as whether recycling is actually beneficial, which sport requires the best fitness levels, and how to survive an avalanche. (Brian Donaldson)

Our alphabetical column on viewing marathons continues with some B plans Now in its third season, Pamela Adlon’s infectiously downbeat Better Things (BBC iPlayer) follows a single mother trying to keep her three daughters and overbearing

mother (Celia Imrie) happy. All the while she struggles to maintain a credible acting career in a business that seems to be downsizing strong roles for women in their 40s and 50s. It’s funnier than all that sounds. Dumped by Fox after five seasons and picked up by NBC the next day, Brooklyn Nine- Nine (Netflix) is a zip-fast police procedural sitcom with bundles of gags and flashbacks, and a diverse cast of excellent actors such as Andy Samberg, Stephanie Beatriz and Andre Braugher. Other B binges: Boy Meets Girl (Amazon Prime), Band of Brothers (NOW TV), Bodies (BBC iPlayer).

98 THE LIST 1 Feb–31 Mar 2020