Let's face it, summer is a pretty lousy season for television. The weather is unbearably hot in most of the country, and most worthwhile TV shows, along with most of the major American sports, are on hiatus. However, there is no need for you to suffer and be left twiddling your thumbs to wile away the hours. This is the time of year that DVDs are made for and thanks to services such as Netflix, catching up on TV shows you may have missed is as easy as ever. For fans of comedy, and particularly late night talk shows, here's a recommendation to check out this summer: The Larry Sanders Show.
You can find all six seasons of The Larry Sanders Show. which ran from 1992 to 1998, streaming on Netflix, making it easily accessible. The show stars Garry Shandling as the titular Larry Sanders, host of a middling late night talk show. What makes the series particularly interesting is that it explores what happens both on air with the late night talker as well as behind the scenes and during filming. On camera, Sanders may seem like your typical genial talk show host, but in real life he's a neurotic, selfish, vain bastard. If it can't further his career, or get him a date with a female guest he has his eyes on, he's not really interested in it.
There have been many show business satires done over the years, and most of them are so concerned about showing you what things are really like that they don't bother doing much else. Fortunately, The Larry Sanders Show remembers you need to have good characters and funny stories to make a series worth watching. Sanders is a great character, but he's eclipsed by Jeffrey Tambor's Hank Kingsley, Larry's talentless sidekick who constantly spouts his catchphrase "Hey now!" and is an even worse person than Larry is. Then there is Rip Torn as Arthur, the show's producer. Without Arthur nothing would get done, as he's the only one willing to put his foot down when need be, and he's more than willing to kick some ass as well. The no nonsense, intimidating Arthur is probably the best character, but all three of these characters are excellent, and watching them is a true pleasure.
That's not to say that The Gary Shandling Show doesn't have some top notch secondary characters as well, including familar faces such as Sarah Silverman, Janeane Garafalo, Bob Odenkirk, Jeremy Piven, and Jon Stewart, the last of whom plays himself. That provides a most excellent segueinto another of the show's charms. Countless celebrities appear on as themselves, often as a means to send up their own images. Particularly notable are appearances from the likes of Sharon Stone and Ellen DeGeneres, although Bruno Kirby's frequent guest spots are very funny as well. Musical performances also play a role, though some of those are spotty.
Admittedly, time has not been kind to the show. A lot of the material, particularly on Larry's talk show-within-the-shwo, is very much of the time. Granted, that was likely in part intentional. Talk shows so often rely on flash in the pan stories for their monologue jokes and bits, and that is certainly reflected here. Some of the jokes and comedy pieces are even supposed to be funny based on how cheesy they are. That being said, intentional or otherwise, some of the material feels quite dated, but overall that is a minor quibble.
So, if you've got some time this summer, considering giving The Larry Sanders Show a chance. For a primer, here are a few episodes you may want to consider:
There you have it. Enjoy, and remember, no flipping!