Thursday, February 17, 2011

12c. The Larry Sanders Show

The show hit the ground running with its first episode, "What Have You Done for Me Lately?" (According to the episode's commentary track by Garry Shandling and Peter Tolan, the episode's writer, this was actually the sixth episode filmed.) The creators of the series were confident enough to dispense with introductions to the characters. The essential traits of the characters became evident without any clumsy exposition. The look and feel of the series also became clear with the first 'walk and talk,' which followed Larry and Artie's conversation as they walked down a hallway right after the talk show finished taping.

Here's some exemplary dialogue from the first episode:
Melanie (Vice President of Programming): Our number one problem, mathwise: lost viewers equals lost advertisers equals lost revenues. What do we do to keep our advertisers happy -- other than give them free handjobs? Now, Larry, we've talked to some of your sponsors. We've asked them what we can do for them. It's come back to us this way: They want you to do live commercials as part of the show. They want it -- that means we want it.
Sheldon (President of the network): You can see how this would help us.
Larry: Well, uh, you know, knowing the sponsors the way I do, I just think they would respond more to the handjobs. But, you're asking me actually to do live commercials?
Melanie: You have a problem with that.
Larry: No, I just ... My only concern would be the style of the show that we've established over the years and it ... I'm not sure that the live commercials would mesh with that style.
Melanie: You don't want to do it.
Larry: No, I didn't say that. Uh, Artie?
Artie: Melanie, I'd like to jump in if I might. Oh, that's a lovely thing you have at your neck, by the way. I think what Larry's trying to say is that we have no real problem with the live commercial concept.
Larry: Absolutely not.
Artie: It's just a matter of finding the right man for this job. Now I don't know if you know, but Hank Kingsley does a hell of a lot of fine commercial work. He does the adjustable bed. He does the medical alert necklace. He does, uh, --
Network executive: Arthur, excuse me. Melanie, if I may?
Melanie: Mmm hmm.
Network executive: The thing is ... Hank does too much commercial work. He's way overexposed. His saturation level is very high.
Larry: Gee, I don't think that's true.
Network executive: He's doing the Green Giant spots.
Larry: Is that Hank?
Network executive: You can't really tell because you only see him from the knees down. But, uh, he's the new Green Giant.
Larry: I didn't know that. Hank's the fucking Green Giant?
In this one scene, we see several recurring elements of the show:
  • Larry uses Artie to solve his problems ('Uh, Artie?')
  • The network tries to make Larry's show more profitable
  • Hank is willing to take any gig that will supplement his sidekick income
  • Larry hides behind humour and doesn't want to be seen as uncooperative (here, he makes a handjob joke and denies that he has a problem with doing live commercials)
  • Artie tries to seem charming ('Oh, that's a lovely thing you have at your neck, by the way') and reasonable ('we have no real problem with the live commercial', 'it's just a matter of finding the right man for the job').
  • Profanity is omnipresent (in just a few minutes, we get two 'handjobs' and one 'fuck')
Eventually, Larry does three live commercials for the Garden Weasel:

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