Life is as sweetly sour as ever as HBO's Curb Your Enthusiasm returns for its seventh season Sunday night.

Sure, Larry -- producer-writer-star Larry David's dyspeptic TV alter-ego -- has a few nagging problems: Thieves have been spotted in his upscale neighborhood, but I'd rather have thieves than the neighbors, he blusters. The thieves don't impose. Apricots are a disappointing fruit. And, oh yeah, his new live-in girlfriend, Loretta (Vivica A. Fox), keeps the bedroom too warm at night, and getting rid of her isn't going to be easy since she's just been diagnosed with cancer.

Still, as soon as he hits upon a scheme to win back his separated wife, Cheryl (Cheryl Hines) -- which, conveniently, also provides the season with a through-line -- there's a spring in Larry's shameless, self-deluded step. Although he always has resisted the network's entreaties, Seinfeld co-creator David realizes if he agrees to a reunion show, he can ingratiate himself with his own TV ex by offering her the part of George Costanza's ex-wife on the project.

So by the third episode, Larry sets out to round up the old Seinfeld gang. Jerry Seinfeld and Julia Louis-Dreyfus are skeptical but good-naturedly game. Jason Alexander doubts that Costanza could possibly have ever married since the character is unlovable -- impervious to the fact that he's actually dumping on Larry as Curb enters meta-meta-territory. And Michael Richards doesn't even hear Larry's pitch because he becomes so mesmerized by the arty nude photos decorating the Venice restaurant where they meet.

Because most everything in Larry David's universe ends in an unexpected disaster, there's bound to be trouble ahead. But no matter, because Curb has always been the true son of Seinfeld. Both series obsess about life's little annoyances. Among Curb's privileged L.A. Westsiders, that means restaurants that are too dark to read the menu; humiliating rafter seats at Staples Center; competitive tipping; hard-plastic-sealed packaging that is impossible to open; and the dangers of driving while getting pleasured.

And just like the best of Seinfeld, each Curb episode pingpongs along from one improbable encounter to another like a crazily complicated Rube Goldberg device. Popping up as a just-released mental patient, new addition Catherine O'Hara brings a particularly demented madness to the cast, which has yet to sit through a dinner party that doesn't end in mutual recriminations. There's reliable pleasure to be had in watching an increasingly embarrassed and panicky Larry rush from one self-created crisis to another until, wham, he steps on a figurative steel trap and suddenly realizes he'll probably have to gnaw off his leg if he's ever going to escape the hell he's made for himself.