January TV highlights: Avenue 5 & Curb Your Enthusiasm

Sky falls

Armando Iannucci takes his sarcastic humour into space and Larry David returns to familiar ground

In 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 Josef 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 in fine form as the accent-shifting boss on Avenue 5) 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.

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