Before everybody had a talk show in their garage, there was a period called the 1990s where only a select few were worthy of the limited positions to sit behind a desk in front of a national audience – and everyone was vying for it. So, it was kind of like a Game of Thrones, right?

The Larry Sanders Show is a show, and a show within that show hosted by fictional comedian Larry Sanders (Garry Shandling). Larry hosts celebrities, whom he interviews in a Tonight Show/Late Show style. And then, there’s what goes on behind the scenes, be it troublesome guests – often big actors at the time playing parodies of themselves – a writing team with unique personality disorders (Jeremy Piven, Sarah Silverman, Wallace Langham), a nihilistic booking agent (Janeane Garofalo), a petty and pedantic side kick (Jeffrey Tambor), an end-of-her-rope assistant (Penny Johnson Jerald), an alcoholic and enabling producer (Rip Torn)… the list goes on, and, despite all of that, so must Larry’s show.

The Larry Sanders Show is a single camera comedy from when single camera comedies weren’t standard practice. This one is all about star power – it’s got a heavy-hitting cast as it is, and top it off with weekly big names in movies mocking themselves. Its jokes are tight, its characters are well defined… to say the least, it’s the closest thing to a masterpiece without throwing the word around indiscriminately.

Watching the show, it goes without saying that so much of the content from the past 20 years wouldn’t exist without it. The Office, 30 Rock, Girls – the list can go on, but for brevity’s sake, many modern sitcoms and comedies owe The Larry Sanders Show for pioneering, whether it be for its strong depth of character for a comedy, its style, format and tone, or its sheer rawness that you just didn’t find in comedy apart from later seasons of M*A*S*H.

The only thing The Larry Sanders Show has going against it at this point is its age – it wasn’t heavily topical or political but there’s still some dated references in there, and some of the guests simply aren’t relevant for today’s audience. Andrew Dice Clay and Bobcat Goldthwait don’t hold as much cultural currency twenty years later, and when’s the last time you saw Pauly Shore in anything?

Episodes to win you over: Season 1, Episode 13: The Hey Now Episode; Season 4, Episode 13: Larry’s Big Idea; Season 5, Episode 6: Make A Wish

Categories: TV Show Review

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