Tuesday, August 21, 2007

On "The Larry Sanders Show"

I am currently working my way through the entire run of "The Larry Sanders Show". I am almost at the end of season 3. When I originally saw an episode or two when it first aired, I was impressed, but not THAT impressed.

Well it's funny how age can change your outlook as Larry Sanders would now probably be in my top five comedies of all times. (Joining "Scrubs", "Spaced", "Peep Show" and "Sports Night".) I find as I get older, my taste is, for want of a better word, maturing. Of course it often helps seeing a TV show multiple episodes at a time and without commercials. (The network I saw "Sanders" on saturated the show with them.) I've found this with shows before, when you get the chance to see it on your own time, without interruptions etc... A merely good show can become great.

The recently cancelled "Studio 60" struggled sometimes to be an accurate portrayal of backstage life on a TV show, often devolving into "Look at us, aren't we clever." (I loved the show, but am not blind to its failings.) Sorkin's earlier vehicle, "Sports Night", did a far better job portraying backstage life, but while "Sports Night" may be my favourite ever US comedy, the show was set entirely within a fantasy world. "Sanders" melded its world into reality, with stars appearing either as themselves, or parody versions of themselves, most notably David Duchovny playing himself as being in love with Larry.

The other great thing with the show is the fact that it doesn't insult viewers intelligence. Case in point: In one episode, Hank decides to finally call members of his fan club who requested he call them. The first one, he's told by his assistant, is very sick. So he calls. The setup is obvious. The person is going to be dead when he calls. Now most comedies would telephone the gag, and then have Hank have a one sided conversation bludgeoning you around the head essentially saying "Here we go, the person is dead. Do you get it? DO YOU GET IT?"

Sanders? Nope. It's played with subtlety. In fact when watching I was sitting here quietly muttering to myself "Don't you dare... Don't you fucking dare..." You could see the gag coming, and I was dearly hoping the show wouldn't let me down and take an opportunity to pander. It didn't.

THIS is how comedy should be. Good adult comedy shouldn't pander to the lowest common denominator. If some viewers aren't intelligent enough to get the joke, to hell with them. I'm sick of garbage like "According to Jim" running for endless seasons of mediocrity, recycled jokes and "DO YOU GET IT?" writing. "Sanders" was comedy wine. "According to Jim" is the sediment at the bottom of the bottle.

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