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On Aug. 15, 1992, at 10:30 p.m., HBO introduced The Larry Sanders Show to its audience. The half-hour series immediately caught on with The Hollywood Reporter’s critic, who praised the series “finely tuned” scripting. The original Aug. 13 review is below:
They’d better set up a separate category for HBO’s The Larry Sanders Show when Emmy time comes around. This half-hour comedy created by Garry Shandling and Dennis Klein, surrealistically parodying late-night network talk shows, is an almost total winner.
Shandling’s Sanders is a personally vain and manipulative, moderately funny late-night host resembling Carson in style yet totally original in smarmy shtick, complete with a sycophantic, gung-ho sidekick (Jeffrey Tambor) and celebrity guests like Robert Hays and Carol Burnett (also participating in varying degrees in the action).
Behind the scenes, Shandling is shadowed by his producer and mouthpiece (Rip Torn), and attended to by staff (Janeane Garofalo, Penny Johnson and Linda Doucett) and writers (Wallace Langham and Jeremy Piven). At home, his wife (Megan Gallagher) serves as an acerbic Greek chorus and enthusiastic lover.
Despite its generally unsympathetic cast of characters, most of whom seem willing to lie, cheat and steal to achieve their relentlessly greed, superficial goals, the show is a winner because the very funny scripts are so finely tuned that industry-wise viewers will barely have time to catch their breath from one yuk to the next.
The acting, meanwhile, features Torn creating an unforgettable, larger-than-life character who might have a lock on an Emmy already if Tambor weren’t so close at his heels with his more subdued but no less amazing creation. The four women are also very good, even if they are not given enough lines to fully exploit their skills.
As good as it is, the show may turn out to be an acquired taste, since Shandling himself is no more than a competent actor playing a complex if vacuous character; seemingly as a result, each episode’s dynamics take a while to mobilize.
Taken on absolute terms, however, The Larry Sanders Show is an artistic success of stunning brilliance which no one in the business should miss. — Miles Beller
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