The Larry Sanders Show, Season 1

So, I like this show. A lot. It’s great. But I don’t love it, which is kind of disappointing. And here’s why: I don’t like any of the characters. I mean, I like them in the sense that they’re amusing, but I honestly don’t care what happens to them. Perhaps I’ll watch the rest of this show at some point, but I feel no need to continue with it right away.

Sad horn noise, right? I know. It doesn’t mean that the show didn’t make me laugh, though. It did. Rip Torn pretty much stole every scene he was in, Jeffrey Tambor lit up the screen with his Entire Face Smile, and Jeremy Piven is an endless delight (although I’ve heard he’s kind of a dick offscreen). The celebrity cameos are brilliant, too. It’s a funny thing, this Larry Sanders business. On the one hand, I respect Garry Shandling’s work and genius in creating such a subtle satire to the late-night talk-show circuit. On the other hand, I find the characters insufferable, and it makes me hate late-night talk shows just a little bit more.

Of course, it doesn’t help that I’m not the biggest fan of Garry Shandling. Again, I respect him as a comedian, but I don’t find him hilarious like a lot of people do. Maybe if he relaxed his face or something? I don’t know. His whole uneasy, self-conscious schtick just never worked for me. Larry Sanders is certainly more of an asshole than Shandling is, but either way, I just don’t buy him as a charismatic talk show host, though Sanders does reek of Letterman. And Hank Kingsley… well, his insecurity is just grating. Like I said, Tambor is great, but I have no desire to watch him say “Hey now!” anymore.

Why am I blathering on about my ambivalence towards this show? I’m not sure. It’s probably the Shandling effect. I’m insecure about not being enthusiastic about it, since so many people love it. But if this show has any kernels of truth to it, then it both underscores how much I despise the formulaic, pointless crap that Leno and Letterman have gotten away with for the past 20 years and highlights just how awesome Conan, Kimmel, and Fallon are. (And Stewart and Colbert, fine, but they’re in a different, even more unconventional category.) Especially Fallon. He’s taking the late-night formula and turning it on its head… involving guests in sketches, getting them to play games against each other, parodying people, complimenting them instead of dryly belittling their career choices. Jimmy Fallon, believe it or not, is a maverick.

So maybe that’s why The Larry Sanders Show was so well-regarded back in the day—because it hit too close to home. For that, I say one thing: RESPECT.