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“Curb Your Enthusiasm” Returns: the Red Sox’s Bill Buckner Triumphs

A lot of celebs and yours truly got a sneak peek at the eighth season of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” last night and this much I can tell you: Larry David has imperiled Jewish-Arab relations, satirized the entire mosque-near-Ground Zero saga, and rehabilitates the reputation of retired Boston Red Sox player Bill Buckner. Basically, “Curb” returns on Sunday night kicking ass, with writing so sublime and over the edge that once you’ve seen it, most network comedies (with the exception of “30 Rock,” “The Office,” and “Modern Family”) just not matter.

In the audience at the Time Warner Center were not only Larry David and Jeff Garlin, but Cheryl Hines (out and about with boyfriend Robert Kennedy Jr.), director (and great comedian) David Steinberg, Susie Essman, J.B. Smoove, future guest stars Aida Turturro, Ana Gasteyer and Amy Landecker, actor Richard Kind (star of HBO’s upcoming “Luck”), Regis and Joy Philbin, Rachel Evan Wood, radio personality Mark Simone, and about four dozen media types including NewYork Times editor in chief Jill Abramson and Bloomberg editorial chief Norm Pearlstine, CBS’s Harry Smith, and so on. Absent: actor Fred Melamed, a Woody Allen regular who starred in the Coen brothers’ “A Serious Man.” He plays Larry’s shrink in the new season.

We did not see the premiere episode, which airs this Sunday on HBO. That would spoil everything. We did see what I think were episodes 3 and 9. The first, “Palestinian Chicken,” may incite an international incident. It’s an incredibly deft send up of the story about the mosque and Ground Zero in which a branch of Palestinian chicken, a popular new hangout, opens across the street from a Jewish deli. This also involves Larry seducing a Palestinian woman who screams anti-Semitic epithets at him during sex. It’s an outrageous episode, one that deserves awards, but is so over the top that it’s better coming in the third week of the new season.

Episode 9 takes place in New York, where all the “Curb” characters somehow wind up halfway through the season. Everyone is sworn to secrecy about how this happens, so we’ll have to wait and see. But in this episode Larry’s childhood fear of the Mr. Softie ice cream truck is revealed, and the reputation of Red Sox veteran Bill Buckner is explored and rehabilitated. Buckner, of course, is infamous for letting a ball roll through his legs during the 1986 World Series vs. the Mets. Larry David is a Yankee fan, but he told me last night: “I always felt sorry for him [Buckner] from the moment that happened.” The result is a series of plot turns that culminates in Buckner’s salvation. It’s brilliant.

By the way, neither of the episodes we saw last night featured Cheryl Hines. And none of the credits for the 8th season currently listed on the imdb.com are correct. Landecker, for example, will play a girlfriend of Larry’s who leaves him for Rosie O’Donnell.

PS David and his writers coin two new baseball terms in these episodes also: to be “Bucknered” and to be “Koufaxed.” The latter refers to legendary Dodger pitcher Sandy Koufax, who was Jewish and skipped throwing the opening game of the 1965 World Series when it fell on Yom Kippur.