Sunday, February 6, 2011

12a. The Larry Sanders Show

A few weeks ago, we read the book The War for Late Night (2010) by Bill Carter. It does a good job of untangling the knots of the recent late night Coco v. Leno fiasco. It's also pretty entertaining. We'd previously read Carter's book The Late Shift (1994), which was about why NBC had chosen Leno over Letterman as Carson's Tonight Show successor. The War for Late Night mentions that Garry Shandling was NBC's top choice to succeed Letterman when he jumped to CBS. They even offered him a substantial fee to host the show -- $5 million/yr, if memory serves -- unlike the much smaller sum they later offered Conan. Shandling thought about the offer and eventually declined.

It's telling that Shandling would reject a massive amount of money to host an established late night show on NBC in order to helm The Larry Sanders Show, a TV series he co-created that was broadcast on cable network HBO (remember, this is HBO before Oz, The Sopranos, and The Wire) that portrayed the egotistical assholes who run late night shows.

We first happened upon The Larry Sanders Show in September 1997, when a six-hour marathon of the show aired during the launch of a new TV channel called VTV (Vancouver Television). We'd heard plenty of good things about the show and even taped the full six hours on a VHS tape. We watched those episodes repeatedly and tracked down as many other episodes as we could. (This was eight years before YouTube existed.)

Recently, we acquired the just-released complete series box set (17 discs!) from Shout! Factory. (A few years ago, we received the four disc set Not Just the Best of Larry Sanders as a great gift.) We've been rewarding ourselves by doling out episodes irregularly rather than devouring them all in a short span, which is our usual pattern. (We're currently in the middle of Season Three.) Garry Shandling is a fucking genius, right?

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