Live on tape, from Hollywood, its The Larry Sanders Show
The Complete Series: 89 Original Episodes on 17 Discs
At long last, Garry Shandling s comedy series about the twisted inner workings of a late-night talk show, and its host, comes to DVD. All of it.
Larry Sanders (Garry Shandling) is a neurotic late-night talk show host flanked by Artie (Rip Torn), his caustic, foul-mouthed producer, and Hey Now Hank Kingsley (Jeffrey Tambor), his hopelessly insecure, ethically inept sidekick. Off-air it is all train wrecks and egos, but when the lights go down and the theme music kicks in, you get late-night Entertainment Inc. at its finest.
The Larry Sanders Show raised the bar for fearless, acerbic Hollywood satire. The innovative use of both video and film to distinguish on-air events from real-life happenings, displaying the jarring dynamic between the on-camera poise of Larry and his backstage neurosis, was brutally fascinating. And in the company of a patronizing, combative staff and a parade of A-list guests, more than game for putting their own celebrity in the crosshairs, you had a backstage pass to a Hollywood that was shockingly raw and hilarious.
Also starring Linda Doucett, Janeane Garofalo (24), Penny Johnson (24), Wallace Langham (CSI), Bob Odenkirk (Mr. Show, Breaking Bad), Jeremy Piven (Entourage), Mary Lynn Rajskub (24), Sarah Silverman (The Sarah Silverman Program), Scott Thompson (Kids In The Hall), and written and produced by Garry Shandling, Peter Tolan (Rescue Me) and Judd Apatow (Knocked Up), The Larry Sanders Show was the hippest TV show . . . probably ever. Late-night would never be the same again.
The Larry Sanders Show is "how good television could be." So proclaims Ricky Gervais in the definitive documentary "The Making of The Larry Sanders Show" included in this 17-disc boxed set that would be essential even without the prodigious bonus features. After the welcome but woefully inadequate Season One and Not Just the Best of…. sets, this long-overdue complete collection takes full measure of the groundbreaking series TV Guide listed 38th (just behind The X-Files and ahead of The Rockford Files) among the top 50 TV series of all time. One could only imagine the exquisite ego-pierced pique that Larry Sanders (Garry Shandling), the angst-ridden, neurotic, and self-absorbed late-night talk show host, would exhibit upon learning of that ranking. It was Larry, in one of the series' most memorable episodes, who went to desperate lengths to get Ben Stiller bumped so he could take Stiller's place on People magazine's Sexiest Man Alive list. The bracingly funny and show business savvy Larry Sanders Show set the stage for later classics of discomfort television Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Office, and Extras with its unflinching documentary style that captured the raw personalities and the chaotic process behind the production of a late-night talk show. How real did this show seem? To this day when I watch The Daily Show, I still harbor some resentment toward Jon Stewart, who in the series is tapped by the network to be Larry's replacement. The talent in front of and behind the cameras is staggering. The seamless ensemble includes Emmy® winner Rip Torn as Artie, Larry's old school producer; Jeffrey Tambor as clueless sidekick (and "poor deluded bastard") Hank "Hey Now" Kingsley; Penny Johnson as Larry's indispensable secretary Beverly; Janeane Garofalo at her deadpan best as talent booker Paula (followed by 24's Mary Lynn Rajskub); Jeremy Piven as cocksure head writer Jerry (followed by Wallace Langham); and Scott Thompson as Hank's sensitive assistant. The writers included Peter Tolan (Rescue Me), Jon Vitti (The Simpsons), Adam Resnick (Late Night with David Letterman), Steven Levitan (Modern Family), Paul Simms (NewsRadio), and Judd Apatow (you know). Adding to the verisimilitude are the scores of celebrity guest stars (David Duchovny, Ellen DeGeneres, Sharon Stone, and Roseanne are standouts) who sportingly tweak their personas. The topical jokes and pop culture references are necessarily dated, but some have a longer shelf life than others. When one particular joke bombs, Larry recovers with, "And Conan O'Brien thinks this is going to be easy." One doesn't have to be a Hollywood insider to fully appreciate The Larry Sanders Show. This is a workplace comedy whose portrayals of ego clashes, petty jealousies, and bureaucratic B.S. will be relatable to anyone who's ever worked in an office. Among the highlights of the bonus features are intimate, hilarious, and, in the case of Linda Doucett--who portrayed Hank's New Agey assistant Darlene, and was at the time Shandling's girlfriend--achingly personal interviews. The Larry Sanders Show never earned an Emmy for best comedy series. As Larry insincerely remarks at one point, "I prefer to let the work speak for itself." Here's the work. It speaks volumes. --Donald Liebenson