On Sunday, Oct. 1, Curb Your Enthusiasm — Larry David's groundbreaking and widely acclaimed comedic television project — returned to HBO after six years off the air. In 2011, after eight Curb seasons, many fans considered the show to be finished and never to return to television again. But Sunday saw the modern comedic staple return. Only time and multiple viewings of the show will determine whether or not this season of Curb Your Enthusiasm will live up to the high expectations of its well-established past, but the buzz around Larry David's comedic masterpiece's return to television demonstrates fans' intense and undying love for the comeback. 

Larry David is unique. With a career of not only one, but two, beats of pure comedic and societal success, he makes us heavily invested in his comeback dynamic.

Our affinity for the comeback — for the rise of something from the ashes of its own greatness — is something shared and common to the human experience. It is a story and a narrative that continues to draw our attentions and our unconditional interests time and time again.

This intense connection to the comeback story lies in the tendency to develop our own sorts of hopes, ideas, and anticipations from the reality around us. We build up the reality around us and our conceptions of that reality to unrealistic standards. And because of this notion, there is often a large disconnect in the grounds of our expectations versus the grounds of actual reality. It’s the reason why we are moved to such excitement and surprised joy when a comeback is successful, and the same reason why we are overcome by sheer disappointment when the effort isn’t reached entirely as we envisioned.

A simple Google search of “comeback stories” will yield pages and pages of results. The Huffington Post shares “The 10 Most Inspiring Comebacks” while Buzzfeed posts a list entitled “10 Comeback Stories to Inspire Us All” and Business Insider shares “The 13 Best Celebrity Career Comebacks” to its readers. These are subjects that draw our attention and peak our interest on some of the most frequented sites and publications in our media. 

Leading up to Curb Your Enthusiasm’s revival, host HBO created a promo campaign that aired months before the season premiere, interspersing tantalizing shots of Larry David and the familiar show’s tune. Curb Your Enthusiasm evokes the human and societal phenomenon of the comeback, which can be observed and appreciated at its fullest.

When famous artists or athletes leave the public stage at the height of their success, we hold them at their best, and the images of them at their peak are the memories that stick in our minds. We retain these ideas of greatness in our own conception of the individual. Even after these people exit the spotlight and even after the hopes of return are slim to none, we retain these unrealistically high standards. And at the slightest mention of a comeback or return to the spotlight, we demand these standards be met at such a prospect. 

This kind of heightened expectation that exists in our minds doesn’t always occur consciously. Inherently, we impart our own anticipations, our own ideas about how things should be, and these instinctual impressions guide us and our attitudes towards a subject. Investment into the return of a great or the comeback of a show that one found particularly legendary comes naturally, even if this human feeling isn’t consciously or deliberately conceived. We’re moved to feel strongly and expect the most out of the subjects that touched us, that provided us the most enjoyment and substance. We so desperately want our expectations to match reality; we so desperately want a successful comeback story. 

It’s such a deep desire, such a talked-about phenomenon in society and culture today because, more often than not, our expectations do not match our reality. In most cases, the comeback story is non-existent. It’s rare for the rigidly high standards and lofty ambitions of our minds to be satisfied by anything less. 

Athletes returning to the big leagues out of retirement are not as strong or dynamic as they were in their primes; bands coming back together after years apart are not as skilled and musically in tune as before; the long-awaited return of a television show does not live up to the hype. The unfortunate reality of the “back-in-the-day” ideology makes the successful reality of a comeback all the more desired, all the more wanted. We love to see the revival of a great to the present stage because it’s the moment where our expectations — most often unrealized dreams in our minds — become the reality that we so desperately desire. 

I should say that I too, like many others, was impatiently and enthusiastically awaiting the return of Curb Your Enthusiasm. I reminisced about the storylines and the jokes that filled the past seven seasons of Curb, and I couldn’t wait to see what the premiere of season nine had in store. In some parts more than others, it was a funny episode, and while I was somewhat happy with it, reality came up short of my expectations, as happens all too often. 

My expectations — like they so often have a tendency to do — were too high, too lofty, too ambitious for my own reality. But it doesn’t mean that I won’t be rooting for the next comeback that comes to the scene in the future, that I won’t be envisioning and expecting so much from the next return from greatness. 

Kaveh Badrei is a sophomore from Houston, Tex. He can be reached at kbadrei@princeton.edu.

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