At first glance the world of late night talk shows can seem slick and sophisticated. These shows always appear to be full of fun, spontaneous humour and good times spent amongst friends. But like so many things which are often not as they seem, the Larry Sanders Show takes us behind the scenes of this superficial and very artificial world. Garry Shandling (as Larry Sanders) provides hilarious insights into the world of a late night talk show host in a series that has taken far too long to find its way on to DVD. Originally screening back in 1992, Series 1 at least is now finally available.
The show is built around the star, the ever smiling Larry Sanders. We follow him during snippets of his nightly show, join him as he attempts to interact with his office staff and witness as he struggles to deal with the many problems of his insecure sidekick ‘Hey Now’ Hank (Jeffrey Tambor). Larry is often neurotic, paranoid and is of course highly self involved. He generally tries to keep his involvement with work colleagues at a distance, using his producer Arthur (played with relish and supreme delight by Rip Torn) as an intermediary.
While of course fictional The Larry Sanders Show feels very real. In watching it you could very much believe that this is how it really is behind the scenes once the makeup is off and the lights are turned down. Aside from the humour value of the show, it is particularly interesting to contrast the on-air personalities with the behind the scenes ‘real’ people. We are witness to many off-air moments such as marital arguments, contract negotiations, office romances and Larry’s interactions with management and a whole host of stars. Speaking of which, the show features some great guest stars like Mimi Rogers, Williams Shatner’s voice, Dana Carvey, Billy Crystal and Robin Williams. Watching Larry and his guests as they wait for the show to return from commercial breaks provides for some truly awkward and very funny moments. The show’s supporting cast is also impressive and includes a wide range of actors who have gone on to bigger and better things since, people like Jeremy Piven and Janeane Garofalo.
One of the golden rules of television is to never upstage the star. However in the case of Larry Sanders and no doubt every talk show host in the history of talk show hosts, he would be nothing without his inimitable and highly talented supporting cast. They all provide us with a brief look into the reality of a fake show which resides in a very surreal industry.