The Larry Sanders Show: Not Just the Best of...

"Extraordinary"

The Larry Sanders Show: Not Just the Best of... Review


It's a cliche now to complain that HBO has the best original programming on television, but never has that been more true than in the case of The Larry Sanders Show, which ran for six seasons from 1992 to 1998 and was nominated for (and won) countless Emmys and every other award under the sun.

The show is pure genius and pure simplicity: Larry Sanders (Garry Shandling) is a late night talk show host on an unspecified network in the post-Carson era. Each week we were treated to the behind-the-scenes antics that go on before such a show can get on the air five nights a week: At its slapstick simplest we have Carol Burnett fleeing spiders by climbing on Larry's back. At its smarmy sickest, we have Larry's agent (Bob Odenkirk) selling him down the river so he can move on to greener pastures: Namely one Jon Stewart, a guest host for the show who became a running theme in later years as a cheap, network-approved replacement for the skewing-too-old Larry.

With the exception of the crew of the show and a few outsiders like network executives and agents, everyone plays themselves (even Stewart). Not a show goes by without a cameo or guest spot from Ed Begley, Bruno Kirby, Illeana Douglas, or Ellen DeGeneres. In some of the series' most entertaining episodes, the action heads offstage and into Larry's private life: His bedding of DeGeneres in the "is she or isn't she?" era remains a series highlight.

The show's casting is nigh untouchable, though characters came and went over the years. At the top of the pile is Rip Torn as Artie, the show's unflappable, hard-drinking, smooth-talking, Rip Torn-esque producer. A veritable fountain of one-liners, Artie is the dream producer of any show, and the comic anchor of Sanders. Shandling is almost equally good as the self-absorbed and deeply insecure Sanders, using Hank (a cringingly funny Jeffrey Tambor) as his unending whipping boy and the butt of every joke imaginable. Hank is the series' default punch line, at his most pathetic when he opens a revolving restaurant on the ground level of L.A., with no view. Penny Johnson, playing Larry's doting assistant, is a rock of stability on the show, while the other characters (Wallace Langham as Phil the writer, Janeane Garofalo as the talent booker in early seasons) get precious little screen time but make the most of every scene they're in.

Going "behind the scenes" of TV shows has become almost too in vogue among television producers, and these days, the gag is running thin, as naval gazing is starting to become evident. Watch a tired episode of 30 Rock then sit down with a vintage Sanders, and you'll immediately see what all the fuss was about.

Sony has begun releasing the show on DVD, but if you want a primer the four-disc Not Just the Best of ... is a good place to start, featuing 23 of the 89 episodes of the show but skewing oddly toward the last two seasons. I'd much rather have individual season box sets (and so far season one has been released), but this is a good start... for now.

Those unfamiliar with the show might be confused about Garofalo's and Linda Doucett's disappearance (and the set misses one of the show's best episodes, as Doucett prepares on- and off-screen for a Playboy pictorial), but it's a fair (and less expensive) alternative to buying box sets one at a time. The set includes copious additional material, including deleted scenes, commentary tracks, and new interviews with the cast. Shandling's fingerprints are all over the set, as evident by the vignettes he films with some of the show's most amusing guest stars and reminisces over old times. You may not want to watch all of them, but seeing exactly how Shandling has aged vs. Sharon Stone in the last 15 years... yow, that's worth a look.



Facts and Figures

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4.5 / 5

Cast & Crew

Director: , , Alan Myerson

Producer: , , John Ziffren

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Colossal Movie Review

Colossal Movie Review

It's rare to find a movie that so defiantly refuses to be put into a...

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword Movie Review

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword Movie Review

It's unlikely that Guy Ritchie could make a boring movie if he wanted to. This...

Snatched Movie Review

Snatched Movie Review

It doesn't really matter that the script for this lively action-comedy is paper thin: teaming...

Jawbone Movie Review

Jawbone Movie Review

Boxing movies aren't usually this thoughtful. Sure, there are plenty of punchy moments in the...

Whisky Galore! Movie Review

Whisky Galore! Movie Review

Scottish filmmaker Gillies MacKinnon (Hideous Kinky) remakes the 1949 Ealing comedy classic, although it's difficult...

Alien: Covenant Movie Review

Alien: Covenant Movie Review

Master filmmaker Ridley Scott is back to continue the story 10 years after the events...

The Journey (2017) Movie Review

The Journey (2017) Movie Review

A fictionalised account of real events, this drama is reminiscent of Peter Morgan's work in...

Advertisement
Sleepless Movie Review

Sleepless Movie Review

In remaking the 2011 French thriller Sleepless Night, the filmmakers have dumbed down both the...

Unlocked Movie Review

Unlocked Movie Review

By injecting a steady sense of fun, this slick but mindless action thriller both holds...

Lady Macbeth Movie Review

Lady Macbeth Movie Review

A seriously impressive feature directing debut with a star-making central performance, this period British drama...

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Movie Review

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Movie Review

It was never going to be easy to match the impact of 2014's Guardians of...

The Promise Movie Review

The Promise Movie Review

The director of Hotel Rwanda, Terry George, turns to another humanitarian horror: the systematic murder...

Their Finest Movie Review

Their Finest Movie Review

Skilfully written, directed and acted, this offbeat British period film tells a story that catches...

Unforgettable Movie Review

Unforgettable Movie Review

With heavy echoes of trashy thrillers like Fatal Attraction, this movie overcomes its painfully simplistic...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.