“ Genre: Television - The Larry Saunders Show / Theatrical Release: 1992 / Director: John Riggi, Brent Carpenter / Actors: Janeane Garofalo, Megan Gallagher ... / DVD released 19 June, 2000 at Sony Pictures Home Entertainment / Features of the DVD: Full Screen, PAL „
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This a review of two very different sides. Firstly its an amazing show. Innovative, hilarious and totally landmark. The influence this show had is seen in comedy around the world, and will be seen for years to come. Some shows make the influence this show had obvious with clear nods to the style of comedy it affirmed, and some shows were simply created in the environment Larry Sanders cultivated - their influence being much more in the background, but ever present.
Garry Shandling is the mastermind both on and off screen. He is both cast in the lead role, heads up the writing and it generally feels like his show. The autocratic presence he has is welcome, he makes it what it is.
The premise is a little confusing - he plays a character who feels very real - a late night talk-show host, on a fictional talk show. Every effort is made to make the talk-show and Larry seem real. The show has actual music guests from real life, real life celebrities and if you didn't know otherwise at times you would find it difficult to tell the difference between this and Conan. Garry Shandling has even worked as a late night talk show host, and written a book from the perspective of one - even more confusing when you see its not real. The show is fact fictional, the guests simply playing themselves and the real action is what goes on off screen.
The Larry Sanders show is not a throwaway comedy about the tensions of behind the scenes of a talk-show, although it has that. Its much more than that. Its about the workplace, the nuance of everyday life and its about character. There is a lot of humor surrounding tension between workers, pressure from the network and the constant fear that the jobs of the staff are always on the line due to the nature of the business. This only scratches the surface of what makes this show.
A good place to start off in describing what makes this show are the central characters. The three main charachters, and I'm defining them as main on their impact on the show not just screen time are Hank (Jeffery Tambor) Artie (Rip Torn) and Larry (Garry Shandling) Hank is Larrys co-host, college and friend, and Larry is Hanks boss. The relationship is very much like that, its not a two way thing at all. And Artie is Larrys boss, working for the network hosting the show.
Each charachter brings something great to the show, but its how they work together when comedy magic is made. All three fight their own little corners to great comedy effect, and the supporting cast bounce off this too. The supporting cast are great as the serve to pad out the jokes when needed, but never seem too far in the back ground - helping drive the story and deliver the jokes.
This show ran for six years bang in the middle of the 90s, with the celebrity and music guest confirming this, but its comedy styling leaves you confused. A show almost 20 years old can still feel this fresh and innovative. The jokes have not ages, where some of the reference have (and where some of the supporting cast absolutely have - Jeremy Piven...) Its timing was essential for a lot of reasons. The Talk Show format in the US was big business and a show lampooning it was a great opportunity. But more importantly, US comedy needed its creditably reassuring. In the UK, American sitcoms got a bad name in the early 00s. The clogged up daytime TV, the clogged up almost all of Channel 4 weekend programming and UK views were boredom with lifeless actors shouting wafer thing jokes at us under the pretense it was comedy. However, not all US comedy is like this, just the one that get aired at peak times in the UK. The good stuff either gets aired at hours when no one is watching, or never gets aired and only makes itself known upon it arrival on DVD.
The Larry Sanders show was both of these. The BBC and ITV4 both aired this at unusual times and no one really watched - its name getting most of the attention when in post Office dust Ricky Gervais stated how much of an influence Larry Sanders had on him and made a documentary (a VERY awkward one) with Gary Shandling.
So, it wasn't really until the DVD of The Larry Sanders Show made there way to the UK, could UK audiences really see what the fuss was about - and help dispel the myths Friends was helping create.
Unfortunately, this isn't really one of those DVD. Its is in part - as it gives you a taste of what to expect, but you will struggle to see what the fuss is about with only 7 episodes, despite them being billed as 'the best of'. To my mind, the who series is a best off. The seemed to have actually picked the episodes with the biggest guest starts (Robin Williams, Courtney Cox etc). Its such a frustrating DVD, you need to see story arcs to get the picture -its not quite as bad as 'The Best Of Lost', but its still quite frustrating. I would say watching these episodes as stand alone episodes you are only really going to get about 50% of the fun out of them than you should.
To make matters worse, this DVD had hardly any extras and the transfer quality of the picture is poor (its much better on later DVDs), and the packaging is very standard. Its got very much a budget release feel to it. It goes without saying, don't bother with this. You could argue it serves as a introduction to the show at a good price, but there are other collections out there at good prices with way more episodes and extras (Not just the best...being the big one). The entire collection is available, it not cheap but is worth it if you are a serious comedy fan looking to make sure you comedy collection has one of the most important series of ll time. This DVD is cheap, but will not do much for the serious comedy fan, and hardly anything for a causal viewer.
Comedian Garry Shandling was a regular guest host on The Tonight Show, filling in when the legendary Johnny Carson went on holiday, and was actually offered his own nightly chat show on NBC when David Letterman defected to CBS in 1993.
He turned that gig down, opting instead to make this pioneering sitcom with HBO, skewering the pretensions of celebrity and the television industry, which he had observed at close hand.
Shandling pushes the boundaries with his self-mocking performance as the narcissistic chat show host Larry Sanders, deliberately blurring what is fictional and what is real, as the program moves between his nightly broadcasts and various backstage production intrigues, allowing an array of Hollywood stars to portray caricatures of themselves.
But although his is the titular character, this is really a three-hander, and Shandling is smart enough to let his creation take a back-seat to two of the all-time truly great sitcom performances. Rip Torn is gruff and terrifying as Artie, the bulldog producer of the show, who you secretly suspect has a heart of gold, but the real scene stealer is frequently Jeffrey Tambor, playing the obsequious and inept sidekick Hank Kingsley, one of television's great comedic monsters. The interaction between the three leads is glorious. Lightning struck twice for Tambor, as he was later blessed with a second career defining role as George Bluth, the shady patriarch on Fox's short lived series Arrested Development. The supporting cast includes Janeane Garofalo, Jeremy Piven and Penny Johnson Jerald.
The willingness of Shandling and co-writer Peter Tolan to subvert the conventions of situation comedy had a lasting influence on other television writers, and notably, Curb Your Enthusiasm and The Office owe a clear debt to The Larry Sanders Show. For all that the series had to say about it's Hollywood setting, the real target of the fine writing and acting was always the shabbiness of human social behaviour in the workplace.
Sadly this release contains only seven episodes. Although it carries a subtitle "the best episodes", this was a rare beast of a show in that all eighty-nine programs that were made somehow managed to retain a remarkably high standard until the end. This probably gives it an edge over the other behemoths of the 1990s, such as Friends, Frasier and Seinfeld. Only a complete box set could truly do The Larry Sanders Show justice, and unfortunately, issues concerning musical clearance rights for live performances, combined with uncertainty as to how big a following the show was ever able to amass on a cable network, have made such a product elusive to date. The stand-out here is the episode "Montana", which brought the early season plot of Larry's neurotic insecurities to a memorable conclusion as he hides out in the wilderness after a breakdown.
Ricky Gervais has admitted that he stole the idea for the superb Office sitcom from the brilliant Larry Sanders Show. And I dont blame him as this is a masterpiece. Where as Ricky doesnt use celebrities in his spoof documentary, his David Brent character, rather ironically, aspiring to be one through the medium of television documentary, Gary Shandlings talk show host Larry Sanders uses the machine of Hollywood to lampoon its self-centered self. And so willing are the real life A-List celebs to take one at themselves that they flock to the show in salivating droves to be sent up, one more tick to their celebrity CVs... Everyone from Alec Baldwin to Billy Crystal drop into character to ridicule their on screen persons and vacuous industry. Baldwin is particular good here.
Larry David, the creator of Seinfeld, took things on with his brilliant Curb Your Enthusiasm sitcom, now into its eight series, which Ricky Gervais also admits he borrowed heavily from for the Office. Sadly the Americans copied back, but it was the wrong people who did it and the American Office was awful and way off the point, ironically drowning in and then running scared of the very political correctness they were supposed to be taking the pi** of.
I have two Region One DVDs from the first two series of the LSS and recently saw this on Amazon for £7.99.You cant get better value for intelligent comedy from America than that.
The quirky and lets be honest, unusual thing about this is Shandlings willingness to take one at Hollywood in an industry that prides itself in not exploring irony.
Shandlings, Sanders absolutely nails that vain, conceited talk show host that lives and dies on his reviews, the compative world of talk show hosting ruling his waking day. The splendidly named Rip Torn, who plays Larrys trusted and embattled production manager Arty, is as equally brilliant in holding everything together as pieces of the neurotic Sanders fall off.
Hank (Jeffrey Tambour) is a revelation as Larrys groveling and needy sidekick, as is Janine Garafalo as the star of the production team as the sour faced booker. Each in front and behind of camera character is carefully crafted to cause the most amount of tongue-in-cheek observation ,real industry people nodding in sly agreement, especially the real talk show crowd who backbite the most. Eve David Letterman cameos to give the series that extra credibility and tacit agreement from the industry.
The format is quite simple. Larry is the talk show host and the cameras follow him and his team and guests backstage and on set.
THE GUEST HOST
Larry, rather unwisely, decides to take a break from the show and let his mate Dana Carvey guest host for a week. Not only does the network take note of the shows rise in popularity but Larry gets very worried as other networks are tempted to put the talented Carvey up against Sanders on another station. So the holiday is cut short and their friendship tested. But how can Larry and Arty convince Dana to step down and not break up their friendship. Hank does his best to rein Larry in as senior sidekick.
THE TALK SHOW
Arguing with his wife during a recording, Larry loses his concentration and the show suffers. Star guest Billy Crystal is not best pleased. She wants a break from their relationship whilst Larry just wants the commercial break. Some avuncular advice from Arty and some waffle from Hank doesnt help things during the commercials. When guest Katherine OHara of Home Alone fame gets to know about Larrys problems his wife is soon invited on to the couch to talk it through.
Larry is back with his ex-wife Francine, who casually admits to him that she has slept with the impossibly handsome Alec Baldwin, Larrys star guest this evening. When that particular line of conversation comes up on the show other lovers are revealed, denting the hosts ego even more. To put the argument to bed once and for all both Larry and Francine make a list of their previous lovers so Larry isnt ambushed again by his male guests but all the Baldwin brothers have a big grin on their faces.
Larry has been banished from the show and production shut down at the studio. Hes hiding out in his grotty cabin in Montana in disgrace. But Arty has a cunning plan to get him and the show back on air, the catch being that Larry will have to make a groveling apology live on air. Meanwhile Hank has a revolutionary idea for a ground based revolving restaurant called the Lookaroundcafe.
HANKS SEX TAPE
Hanks private birthday tape, circulating in the production office, isnt exactly innocent cake and candles stuff, although there is cake and candles. Hank has not only embarrassed the show as the tape spreads like Ebola across L.A but scuppered a lucrative and wholesome advertising deal with the orange growers of California. Not only that but Hank is hung like an elephant. As Arty says, the camera puts ten pounds on you!
LARRYS BIG IDEA
After watching the Letterman Show, Larry decides to copy a kernel of an idea and incorporate the staff in some sketches, much to Artys ire. Arty insists there should be a moat between the staff and the talent and the drawbridge never lowered. When the gag writer and the booker start making demands for their screen time the show suffers.
I WAS A TEENAGE LESBIAN
Whilst Larrys sexy black secretary is waiting on her breasts biopsy, Paula the booker angers guest Brett Butler (feisty US feminist comedienne of Dhama & Gregg fame), who is offering Larry some massage tips, stressing him even more. Paula and Brett have met before in college for a sexual liaison.
Whilst Hanks beloved and decrepit agent lies dieing with a heart attack in Caesars Sinai, Hanks loyalty is tested as he is headhunted by the top agencies.
2 hours 47 minutes run time
Its so hard to fault if you enjoy sharp intelligent comedy and fans of Curb and the office will know all about his, the original post Spinal tap spoofumentry, wobbly cameras and all. For some reason Shandling stopped making it after three series and BBC2 didnt think much more of it either by bunging it on at midnight when it was on over here on proper telly. It recently surfaced on an obscure cable station here to further the disrespect to what is a superb and innovative US comedy show. There are few of those around in the last ten years.
Garry Shandling ... Larry Sanders (89 episodes, 1992-1998)
Jeffrey Tambor ... Hank Kingsley (89 episodes, 1992-1998)
Rip Torn ... Arthur (89 episodes, 1992-1998)
Wallace Langham ... Phil (58 episodes, 1992-1998)
Penny Johnson ... Beverly Barnes (55 episodes, 1992-1998)
Janeane Garofalo ... Paula (47 episodes, 1992-1997
I never really watched The Larry Sanders show when it was on TV, this was mainly because the BBC chose to relegate the show to the late/early hours of the day when I was either asleep or too tired to pay attention. However watching the incredibly funny last ever episode made me go out and get this dvd to see what I was missing. For those who don't know what the shows about then basically it stars Garry Shandling as Larry Sanders, the host of a late night US chat show. The show revolves around what goes on behind the scenes with the crew and also sometimes Larry's private life. The show is so good that every episode features guest appearances from names such as Billy Crystal, Robin Williams, Sean Penn, Courtenay Cox and chat show king David Letterman. The show is shot in a style where it seems like a fly on the wall docu-soap. If you tuned in blind you may think that's what it is. The jokes come fast and with a genuine intelligence. There's also no canned laughter whihc is a good sign if the show can make you laugh without prompting. This dvd features 7 od the best episodes from the series. THE GUEST HOST --------------- This episode guest stars Dana Carvey of Waynes World fame. He becomes a guest host on Larry's show and becomes quite a success. This makes Larry very insecure and nervous about his job but he never lets on to Carvey. THE TALK SHOW --------------- Larry loses all concentration on the show while having Billy Crystal as a guest. This is the result of an argument at home and in turn causes chaos backstage. THE LIST --------- A remark by Larry's ex-wife leads him to asking her for a list of sexual partners she's had since their divorce. It causes Larry to be a bit more distracted and paranoid. MONTANA -------- After Larry quits the show he stays in Montana where he's going out of his mind with boredom. His producer Artie comes up
with an idea to get the show back when he suggests Larry say he has adrug problem to regain some public interest. HANKS SEX TAPE --------------- Larry's show announcer Hank tries to get a big career change with an endorsment. Problem is a sex tape featuring him is circualting around the office and could blow his big chance. LARRYS BIG IDEA ---------------- After seeing an episode of Letterman, Larry has the idea of bringing in the crew memebers in sketches as part of the show. This leads to the writers and office staff getting big ideas of stardom. The episode ends with a great scene featuring Letterman. I WAS A TEENAGE LESBIAN ------------------------- Office girl Paula awaits the results of a breast biopsy while Hank tries to get a new agent while his current one may be dying in hospital. Meanwhile Larry is having massge troubles. These are all great episdoes and very funny to boot. I'm hoping that we'll get season by season releases after seeing this sample of the show. As for the dvd presentation well as it's a US tv show made before hi-definition was the norm to shoot in. As a result the pictuer quailty has that nasty NTSC look about it with a very soft and sometimes smeared image. It's not great but it's what you would get if you were watching it on terrestrial broadcast. As it's a TV show the sound is also just a no-frills stereo mix. As for the extras all you get is a trailer for a film called 'What Planet Are You From' which stars Shandling and bombed in the USA before going straight to video over here. They also claim that the 7th epsisode is exclusive to dvd but I can't really class that as an extra. If you can pick this dvd up then do so. It shows that there was a some decent US comedy other than Friends a few years back.
In The Larry Sanders Show Garry Shandling is Larry Sanders, host of a fictitious chat show. But the real The Larry Sanders Show (1992-98), was alongside Sienfeld, one of the great cult successes of 1990's American TV. Nominally a sitcom, the naturalistic acting, uncensored strong language and absence of canned laughter lend the show a distinctive pseudo-documentary feel, as every week some of the top names in US entertainment appear as themselves. The viewer can't help but wonder just how much these celebrities are for real, and how much they are having us on when, for example, Billy Crystal seems so mercenary about using the episode "The Talk Show" to plug his movie, Mr Saturday Night. Other guests on the seven episodes of this DVD include Dana Carvey ("The Guest Host"), Alex Baldwin ("The List"), Robin Williams ("Montana"), Henry Winkler ("Hank's Sex Tape"), Courtney Cox ("Larry's Big Idea") and Brett Butler ("I Was a Teenage Lesbian"--a bonus episode exclusive to DVD). Clever and caustic, rather than laugh-out-loud funny, this release offers good value at 167 minutes, though the only DVD extra is a trailer. The picture on the first five episodes is soft and grainy. That matters improve considerably for the last two episodes suggests this is because of poor original tapes rather than a bad transfer. --Gary S. Dalkin