No. of seasons
Country of origin
Garry ShandlingDennis Klein
Garry ShandlingJeffrey TamborMegan GallagherWallace LanghamJeremy PivenPenny JohnsonLinda DoucettJaneane GarofaloRip TornKathryn HarroldScott ThompsonMary Lynn Rajskub
The larry sanders show 1x01 the garden weasel what have you done for me lately
The Larry Sanders Show is an American television sitcom set in the office and studio of a fictional late-night talk show. The series was created by Garry Shandling and Dennis Klein and aired from August 1992 to May 1998 on the HBO cable television network.
- The larry sanders show 1x01 the garden weasel what have you done for me lately
- Writing and production
- Season 1
- Season 2
- Season 3
- Season 4
- Season 5
- Season 6
- Main characters
- Critical reaction
- BAFTA Television Awards
- Directors Guild of America DGA
- GLAAD Media Awards
- Golden Globe Awards
- Image Awards
- Satellite Awards
- Writers Guild of America WGA
- Other honors
- DVD releases
The series stars Shandling, Jeffrey Tambor, and Rip Torn and features celebrities playing exaggerated, self-parodying versions of themselves. The show has its roots in Shandling's stand-up comedy background, his experience as a guest host on The Tonight Show and his earlier sitcom It's Garry Shandling's Show. The program has had a marked and long-lasting influence on HBO as well as on television shows in the US and Britain such as Curb Your Enthusiasm, 30 Rock and The Office. The supporting cast includes Janeane Garofalo, Wallace Langham, Penny Johnson, Linda Doucett, Scott Thompson and Jeremy Piven.
Regarded as an influential and landmark series, it ranked 38 on TV Guide's 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time, the only HBO comedy to make the list, and was also included in Time magazine's list of the "100 Best TV Shows of All Time".
The show won 24 major awards, including three Primetime Emmy Awards, five CableACE Awards, four American Comedy Awards, two British Comedy Awards, two Peabody Awards, a BAFTA Award and a Satellite Award. It also received 86 nominations, including 56 Primetime Emmy Awards nominations, five Directors Guild of America nominations, six Writers' Guild of America nominations, six American Comedy Awards nominations, three Golden Globe nominations, three Satellite Awards nominations and a GLAAD Award nomination.
From the mid-1980s to the late 1990s, there was a stream of American stand-up comedians finding success in sitcoms on broadcast network television, including Bill Cosby, Roseanne Barr, Richard Lewis, Jerry Seinfeld, Tim Allen, Paul Reiser, Tom Arnold, Brett Butler, Ellen DeGeneres, and Drew Carey. Garry Shandling took a slightly different path with the cable network sitcoms The Larry Sanders Show and its forerunner It's Garry Shandling's Show.
In It's Garry Shandling's Show, Shandling makes use of the George Burns technique of directly addressing the audience. He speaks to the studio and home audiences as well as the other actors, often in quick succession. In both shows celebrity guests appear as themselves and Shandling essentially plays himself: a star of a television show and stand-up comedian with a distinctive "comic persona and rhythm". Shandling said, in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, "the idea for doing something about a talk show host actually came out of an It’s Garry Shandling's Show episode in which I was the guest on an LA morning show ... I thought I could make the talk show look very real so the audience would buy that part and then slowly suck them into the realities of life once Larry goes behind the curtain."
In 1981, Shandling performed a stand-up routine on The Tonight Show and subsequently became a regular guest, particularly at short notice. He also began appearing as a guest host and, in 1986, replaced Joan Rivers as "permanent guest host". He was considered to be a possible, although unlikely, successor to Johnny Carson. After Jay Leno replaced Carson in 1992, Shandling was offered his own late-night (1 a.m.) talk show but preferred instead to create "a show about a talk-show", The Larry Sanders Show. The series has similarities to The Player, The King of Comedy and classic Hollywood back-stage musicals with their "let's put on a show" theme, but the links to The Tonight Show are so strong it verges on parody. Alex Pareene commented "Shandling turned down hosting a network late night show to do a brilliant cult hit sitcom about a version of himself who took the deal."
The show follows the production of a fictional late night talk show The Larry Sanders Show. It chronicles the daily life of host Larry (Garry Shandling), producer Arthur "Artie" (Rip Torn), sidekick Hank Kingsley (Jeffrey Tambor) and their interaction with celebrity guests, the network and others. Episodes focus on the professional and personal lives of the principal characters, with most focusing on Larry. Ancillary characters are also featured, among them the writers Phil and Jerry, talent bookers Paula and Mary Lou, and the personal assistants Beverly, Darlene and Brian. Larry's wife, ex-wife and girlfriends are frequent sources of conflict, and his home is a secondary location for the show.
A typical early episode opens to the titles with the sound of Hank's audience warm-up routine in the background. This is followed by the talk show's titles and an excerpt from Larry's monologue. Episodes vary after this, sometimes continuing with the studio recording, but often cutting to a back-stage shot or to the production offices.
Writing and production
The Larry Sanders Show is a satire on show business that mixes fact with fiction. It featured real-life celebrity guests as they performed on the talk show and as they appeared behind the scenes. For example, in the final episode Larry interviews Sean Penn who, once they cut to a commercial break, gossips freely about Shandling's acting, insecurity, and behaviour towards Penn's wife (Robin Wright) on the set of Hurlyburly, in which all three appear. The scripts often shocked by appearing to show the guest's malice, or the difference between their public and private personas.
Profanities are used on the show, although not gratuitously, with the writers taking advantage of the freedom allowed by HBO as a subscription cable service. It paved the way for subsequent HBO shows such as Oz, The Sopranos, and Deadwood. According to Peter Tolan, early episodes were also recorded with language suitable for broadcast syndication until midway through the second season, when the actors resisted shooting the extra takes.
The show used both videotape and film. The behind the scenes footage was shot on film, often using hand-held cameras, in a documentary style. Four video cameras recorded the show-within-a-show which gives a brighter, less grainy picture and helps distinguish the talk show from the back-stage scenes. The talk show was staged with realistic music, lighting and set design. It was recorded in front of an actual live studio audience during the first season and then occasionally during later episodes.
The show had a few catchphrases used throughout its entire run. The most common was "Hey now", a phrase Hank repeats in the opening credits of the fictional talk show and whenever he greets someone (though it was intellectual property of the network; season 3, episode 1, "Montana"). It mirrors the "Hi-yo" catchphrase used by Ed McMahon (sidekick on The Tonight Show), upon whom Hank Kingsley was based. In one episode, Hank says he invented the phrase when he accidentally said it to someone and liked it. In 2007, Nickleodeon's TV Land ranked "Hey Now" as the 87th Best Television catchphrase. "No flipping" is a phrase Larry uses to go to commercial breaks, encouraging the viewer audience not to change to another channel (which was considered public domain; season 3, episode 1, "Montana"). In the series finale, the last thing Larry says on his talk show is, "You may now flip" (though he said near the end of episode 18, season 2, "New York or LA": "You may feel free to flip" while pondering relocating to New York City due to a change in network ownership).
The first season premiered on August 15, 1992, and ended on November 7, 1992, and was an immediate success. Story arcs include the breakdown of Larry's relationship with his second wife Jeannie (Megan Gallagher) and his abuse of Excedrin tablets.
The season was nominated for eight Emmy Awards. After changes to the eligibility rules in 1988, The Larry Sanders Show became the first cable TV series to be nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy Series, but lost to Seinfeld. Shandling was nominated for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series. Torn and Tambor were nominated for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series. Dana Carvey and Carol Burnett were nominated for Outstanding Guest Actor and Guest Actress in a Comedy Series. Klein and Shandling were nominated for Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series for the pilot, "The Hey Now Episode", which was broadcast at the end of the season. Shandling, Paul Simms, Peter Tolan and Rosie Shuster were nominated in the same category for "The Spider Episode".
The second season premiered on June 2, 1993 and ended on September 29, 1993. The story arcs include Larry beginning a new relationship with his ex-wife Francine (Kathryn Harrold) and Hank investing all his money in a street-level revolving restaurant.
Jeremy Piven grew tired of playing the character Jerry, head writer of the fictional talk show, because his character was not given much of a background. He was written out during the episode "Larry's Birthday", where Artie fired Jerry because of his behavior. Eventually, Wallace Langham (Phil) replaced him as the talk show's head writer. Some popular episodes of the season were: "Larry's Agent", in which Larry tries to fire his agent; "Broadcast Nudes", in which Hank wants Darlene (Linda Doucett) to pose nude in Playboy magazine (Doucett actually appeared in the September 1993 edition of the magazine); "Larry's Birthday" in which Larry doesn't want anyone throwing a party for his birthday; "The Grand Opening", in which Hank tries to promote his new restaurant; "Off Camera", in which Artie has to deal with all the stress that Larry suffers every show and the season finale "L.A. or N.Y?", in which Larry leaves the talk show and moves to Montana, to protest the network's desire to shift the talk show's base from L.A. to New York.
The show was nominated for four Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Comedy Series but lost to Frasier (beginning a streak of fruitless nominations that would continue for the rest of the show's run). Rip Torn was nominated for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy. Todd Holland was nominated for Outstanding Directing in a Comedy Series for the episode "Life Behind Larry". Shandling, Paul Simms, Drake Sathers, Victor Levin and Maya Forbes were nominated for Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series for the episode "Larry's Agent".
The season premiered on July 22, 1994 and ended on October 12, 1994.
Some of the most popular episodes of the season were: "Montana", in which the talk show gets back on the air after Larry discovers that life in Montana is not to his liking; "You're Having My Baby", in which a woman claims that she is having Larry's baby; "Hank's Night in the Sun", in which Hank fulfills his dream of becoming guest host; "The Mr. Sharon Stone Show", which Larry dates Sharon Stone and finds out what it means to be the less famous member of a show business couple; and the season finale "End of the Season" in which Larry gets engaged to Roseanne Barr.
The season was nominated for six Emmy awards, including, for the third year in a row, Outstanding Comedy Series. Shandling was nominated as Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series. Torn was nominated for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series. Todd Holland was nominated for Outstanding Directing in a Comedy Series for "Hank's Night in the Sun". The show received two nominations for Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series: Peter Tolan for "Hank's Night in the Sun", Shandling and Tolan for "The Mr. Sharon Stone Show". Shandling also received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Lead Actor in Musical or Comedy. Holland received a nomination for the Directors Guild of America Award for "The Mr. Sharon Stone Show".
The season premiered on July 19, 1995 and ended on November 22, 1995.
Linda Doucett (Darlene) left the show at the end of season three. She had been in a six-year relationship with Shandling, but the couple became estranged between seasons and she was written out of the show. Doucett filed a lawsuit against Shandling and producer Brad Grey's company for sexual harassment and wrongful termination, which was settled out of court for $1 million. She was replaced as Hank's assistant by Scott Thompson (Brian).
Some of the most popular episodes of the season included: "Roseanne's Return", in which Larry has to face Roseanne Barr after their engagement broke off; "Arthur After Hours", in which it is revealed what Artie does after an unsuccessful broadcast; "Jeannie's Visit", in which Larry's ex-wife visits the talk show; "Hank's Sex Tape", in which Hank becomes incensed when Phil circulates a tape of him having sex with two women; and the season finale "Larry's On Vacation", in which Sandra Bernhard tries to take over the talk show.
The show won its first Emmy award: Rip Torn for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series. It was nominated for a further 12, including for Outstanding Comedy Series. Jeffrey Tambor was also nominated for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series. Shandling was nominated for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series, and the show received two nominations for Outstanding Directing in a Comedy Series: One for Todd Holland for "Arthur After Hours", another for Michael Leachmann for "I was a Teenage Lesbian". It received three nominations for Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series: one for Shandling, Steve Levitan and Maya Forbes for the episode "Roseanne's Return", a second for Peter Tolan for the episode "Arthur After Hours", and a third for Jon Vitti for "Hank's Sex Tape". Janeane Garofalo was nominated for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series. Rosie O'Donnell and Mandy Patinkin were nominated for Outstanding Guest Actress and Guest Actor in a Comedy Series. Shandling was nominated for the second year in a row for Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy Series at the Golden Globe Awards. This season received four Writers' Guild of America Awards, one for Shandling, Steve Levitan and Maya Forbes for "Roseanne's Return", another for John Riggi for "Hank's New Assistant", another for Tolan for "Arthur After Hours" and finally one for Tolan for "Eight". It received one Director's Guild of America Award nomination: Todd Holland for the episode "Arthur After Hours".
The season premiered November 13, 1996 and ended on February 26, 1997.
Janeane Garofalo decided to leave due to decreasing screen time for her character Paula, the talk show's talent booker. Mary Lynn Rajskub (Mary Lou, Paula's assistant) replaced her as booker. Jon Stewart became a frequent guest who threatened to replace Larry on the talk show.
Some of the most famous episodes of the series were made in this season: "Everybody Loves Larry", in which Larry starts suspecting that David Duchovny has sexual feelings for him; "My Name is Asher Kingsley", in which Hank explores his Jewish roots; "Ellen, or Isn't She?", in which Larry and Artie try to find if Ellen DeGeneres is really a lesbian; "The New Writer", in which Wendy (Sarah Silverman) begins working as a writer, much to Phil's dismay; "The Book", in which Larry writes an autobiography; "Pain Equals Funny", in which Paula leaves the show; and the season finale, "Larry's New Love", in which Hank is afraid the network is trying to replace him.
The show was nominated for 16 Emmy awards, breaking the record for most nominations for a Comedy Series for an individual Emmy year. The record was maintained for ten years, until 30 Rock received 17 nominations for its second season in 2008 and then 22 nominations for its third season in 2009. The show was nominated for the fifth time for Outstanding Comedy Series, and was considered a front-runner for the award, but was defeated again by Frasier. Shandling was nominated for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series. Torn and Tambor were nominated for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series. Janeane Garofalo was nominated for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series. It received two nominations for Outstanding Directing in a Comedy Series: one for Todd Holland for "Everybody Loves Larry", another for Alan Myerson for "Ellen, Or Isn't She?" It received three nominations for Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series: one for Shandling, John Markus and Judd Apatow for the episode "Ellen, Or Isn't She?", another for Peter Tolan for "My Name is Asher Kingsley", and another for Jon Vitti for "Everybody Loves Larry". David Duchovny and Ellen DeGeneres received nominations for Outstanding Guest Actor and Guest Actress in a Comedy Series. The show was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Series-Musical or Comedy. It received two Directors Guild of America Award nominations; one for Holland for "Everybody Loves Larry", another for Alan Myerson for "Ellen, Or Isn't She?" It was also nominated for two Writers' Guild of America Awards: one for Maya Forbes for "The Book" and another for Shandling, John Markus and Judd Apatow for "Ellen, Or Isn't She?"
The season premiered on March 15, 1998 and ended on May 31, 1998. Shandling decided to make this the final season in part because of his high workload on the show. The main story arc is the increasing pressure from the network to aim for a younger audience that results in Larry deciding to leave the talk show.
Most of the changes to the show occurred offscreen this season. All of the show's writers left except Shandling, Tolan, and Apatow, and a new writing staff was hired. Shandling's relationship with his manager, Brad Grey, had broken down and in January 1998, Shandling filed a lawsuit for $100 million against Grey. In an interview with The New York Times, Shandling said "We had a situation in which the writers were leaving the show for other Brillstein-Grey shows, which became part of the issue of a lawsuit". (The suit was settled out of court for $10 million.) Todd Holland, who directed more than 48 episodes of the show, only directed two of the sixth season. This season was also markedly less comedic than earlier ones. Sid, the cue card guy at the talk show, commits suicide in the episode "I Buried Sid".
Some of the most popular episodes of the season were: "Another List", in which the network threatens to replace Larry with Jon Stewart unless he makes some changes; "The Beginning of the End", in which the talk show gets a new creative consultant who wants to make big changes; "Adolf Hankler", in which Hank has to play Adolf Hitler, while Larry is on vacation and Jon Stewart guest hosts; "Beverly's Secret", in which Beverly (Penny Johnson) tries to tell the father that she's pregnant; "Putting the 'Gay' Back in Litigation", in which Brian sues Phil and the talk show for sexual harassment; and the series finale "Flip", in which the cast gets ready for their final broadcast and Larry and Artie deal with Hank and the emotions of the crew.
The finale was written by Shandling and Tolan. It was directed by Holland with a running time of 53 minutes. It aired on May 31, 16 days after the finale of Seinfeld, and was watched by 2.5 million viewers, which was a significant number for HBO. The finale got very positive reviews from critics, especially in comparison to Seinfeld's series finale. Coincidentally, Jerry Seinfeld appears as himself in the Larry Sanders finale. Other guests in the finale included Warren Beatty, Jim Carrey and Sean Penn.
For its final Emmy year, it received 10 nominations and won two awards. Both wins were for the finale: Holland for Outstanding Directing in a Comedy Series; Shandling and Tolan for Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series. It received its sixth nomination for Outstanding Comedy Series, but lost once again to Frasier, for the fifth year in a row. Shandling was nominated Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series. Torn and Tambor were nominated for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series. Richard Day, Alex Gregory and Peter Huyck were nominated for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series for "Putting the 'Gay' Back in Litigation." It received only one nomination for Directors Guild of America Award: Holland for the episode "Flip."
The following is a list of cast and characters who regularly appeared in one or more seasons of the show.
The following is a list of some of the celebrity guests who appeared on the show.
In a commentary on the season one DVD, Shandling says the guests were invariably happy to parody their media images and generally shared the same sense of humor as himself and the other writers.
The show had a total of thirteen directors. Ken Kwapis directed most of the first season, including the pilot, and contributed to the visual style of the show. (He later went on to direct episodes of The Office, also including the pilot, using a "mockumentary" approach.) Todd Holland directed 51 episodes spanning all six seasons. Shandling directed three episodes of the final season. Acting coach Roy London directed two episodes and received a "Special Thanks" credit at the end of every episode for his influence on the show. The show received one Emmy Award for directing. It went to Holland for the series finale "Flip".
More than 40 writers wrote episodes of the show. Shandling and Tolan were the head writers for the entire six-season run. Shandling and Dennis Klein wrote the pilot episode of the show. Shandling wrote 38, while Tolan wrote 23 episodes. Shandling and Tolan received an Emmy Award for writing the series finale "Flip". Other writers on the show were Maya Forbes, Paul Simms, Judd Apatow, John Markus, John Riggi, Jon Vitti, Chris Thompson, Drake Sather, Molly Newman, Lester Lewis, Becky Hartman Edwards and Jeff Cesario.
After the show ended, the New York Post called it "One of the Greatest Achievements in Television". LA Weekly called it "Very Funny". Time said it was "The Closest Sitcom Ever Came to Perfect Pitch". The Washington Post called the show "Brutally and Blatantly Hilarious" and USA Today gave it four stars.
Many critics called it one of the greatest television shows of all time. Metacritic gives the show a metascore of 96%, based on 8 reviews. Doug Elfman from the Chicago Sun-Times said "It is simply the one of the best sitcoms ever". Ivan Morales calls it "the greatest HBO sitcom of all time". Brooke Allen in the New York Times called it "a comedy series so funny and risque as to make Seinfeld look positively bland". Mark Monahan in The Telegraph called it "very close indeed to comic perfection."
Despite drawing small audiences, The Larry Sanders Show has been influential. It helped establish HBO's reputation for quality shows, leading to Sex and the City, The Sopranos, The Wire and Deadwood. The show influenced subsequent series with satirical back-stage show business and celebrity culture themes, such as 30 Rock, My Life on the D-List, The Showbiz Show, Action, and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.
The show's most significant innovation is in celebrities playing themselves. It was followed in its use of celebrity guests, its lack of laugh track, and its comedy of embarrassment by Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Office and Arrested Development. Shandling's performance is a precursor to Larry David's in Curb Your Enthusiasm and Ricky Gervais (The Office, Extras) as David Brent. Gervais said in Variety that he was heavily influenced by the show and that "It taught me that flawed characters can be compulsive viewing — seeing them squirm and get their comeuppance." Armando Iannucci said that his political satire The Thick of It strove to mix comedy and authenticity in a similar manner to The Larry Sanders Show.
Matt Zoller Seitz wrote in Time Out Los Angeles that it introduced to television the cinematic technique of "walk and talk" where the camera follows the actors as they move around the offices in conversation. This later became an important part of the style of The West Wing and ER. The show can also be seen as a distorted example of reality television because the portrayal of the talk show production is so convincing. According to Andrew Pulver in The Guardian, "This is where it all began. The whole postmodernist, self-reflexive fact-fiction sitcom thing."
BAFTA Television Awards
Directors Guild of America (DGA)
GLAAD Media Awards
Golden Globe Awards
Writers Guild of America (WGA)
After the show ended, it came to be considered one of the finest TV shows of all time. The biggest honor it received was a spot on Time magazine's 100 Greatest Shows of All Time. In 2008, Entertainment Weekly ranked The Larry Sanders Show the 28th Greatest Show of the past 25 years. Also, TV Guide named it the 38th Greatest Show of All Time, the only HBO comedy to make it to the list. During its six-year run, The Larry Sanders Show won 24 awards including three Emmy awards. In 1997, the episode "Everybody Loves Larry" was ranked 39 on TV Guide's 100 Greatest Episodes of All Time. In 2013, TV Guide ranked it No. 56 on its list of the 60 Best Series of All Time.
In 2000, The Larry Sanders Show: The Best Episodes was released by Sony Pictures UK in Region 2. The compilation contains the episodes: "Montana" (Robin Williams); "Hank's Sex Tape" (Henry Winkler, Norm Macdonald); "Larry's Big Idea" (Courteney Cox, David Letterman); "I Was a Teenage Lesbian" (Brett Butler). Also included are two first season episodes, "The Guest Host" and "The Talk Show", as well as the second season episode, "The List" which was left out of the US cable syndication package offered to Bravo.
On February 26, 2002 Sony Pictures Home Entertainment released the complete first season on DVD in Region 1.
On April 17, 2007, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment released a best-of compilation featuring episodes from all six seasons entitled Not Just the Best of the Larry Sanders Show. The 4-disc DVD set includes 23 episodes and eight hours of interviews with members of the cast and guests.
On November 2, 2010, Shout! Factory released The Larry Sanders Show: The Complete Series on DVD in Region 1 (USA). The 17-disc set features extensive bonus features including featurettes, commentaries & outtakes. Shout! Factory has also released separate releases for seasons 2 & 3.
On August 27, 2013, it was announced that Mill Creek Entertainment had acquired the rights to various television series from the Sony Pictures library including The Larry Sanders Show. They subsequently re-released the first two seasons on June 24, 2014.
On May 19, 2015, Mill Creek re-released The Larry Sanders Show: The Complete Series on DVD.