Series / The Larry Sanders Show
Hank, Artie, and Larry

Live on tape from Hollywood, it's the Larry Sanders Show!

Superb late-night talk show satire that aired on HBO 1992-1998, written by and starring Garry Shandling as the titular Larry Sanders, a self-centred and neurotic late-night talk show host à la David Letterman or Jay Leno. Adopting a curious format, the show was split between Larry's talk-show (recorded on videotape) and the back-stage exploits (recorded on film). This effortlessly presented the contrast between the professional showbiz world of the show and the petty, snide backstabbing environment behind the scenes, along with Larry's effortlessly smooth, constantly grinning and in-control stage persona and his insecure, paranoid off-camera personality. The contrast was helped by numerous real-life stars who agreed to play as 'guests' on Larry's show, including Robin Williams, Ellen DeGeneres, Roseanne Barr and David Duchovny, whose man-crush on Larry became a running gag.

Present to help (or hinder) Larry was his ultra-aggressive and tough-as-boots, but loyal, bulldog of a producer, Artie (Rip Torn), and Larry's pompous and egotistical sidekick, "Hey Now!" Hank Kingsley (Jeffrey Tambor), who despite his genial and bumbling stage presence was if anything even more paranoid, insecure and pathetic than Larry himself.

This show provides examples of:

  • Adam Westing/As Himself: All the guests.
  • Adored by the Network: In-Universe The unnamed network grooms Jon Stewart to replace Larry, believing he can get the same or better ratings at a fraction of Larry's salary.
  • Catch Phrase: Several are associated with the Show Within a Show:
    • Larry ends each of his monologues with "No flipping!" as he mimes clicking on a remote, as a mock warning not to change the channel during the first commercial break. In the series finale, he ends his finale show by telling the audience that they may now flip.
    • Hank Kingsley uses his "Hey, now!" catch phrase during the show... and at pretty much all other times. He even gets fired from a Stunt Casting gig as a plumber on Caroline in the City because he insists on repeatedly ad-libbing his catch phrase.
  • Celebrity Paradox: Averted on more than one occasion:
    • Garry Shandling does have a separate existence from Larry Sanders. On Larry's final show, Sean Penn complains to Sanders about what a terrible and insecure actor Shandling (his co-star on a Real Life movie) is.
    • Likewise, Paul Mooney plays Beverly's brother in one episode and is mentioned as a potential booking on the Show Within a Show in another.
  • Door Closes Ending: One episode combines this with Brick Joke: midway through, a character can be seen drawing something on the office door. The last thing that happens is people walk out the door, and as they close it behind them, we're treated to a drawing of a giant middle finger.
  • The Eponymous Show
  • Executive Meddling: In-Universe. Apparently averted in Real Life, but a constant on the Show Within a Show.
  • Flanderization: Over several seasons, Phil the writer became more obnoxious and less talented.
  • Ho Yay: Invoked, between Larry and David Duchovny. No, really.
  • I Never Said It Was Denny's: A Montana woman claims Larry has gotten her pregnant, and when Larry's lawyer arrives to let him know it's all been cleared up but that she now claims that she gave him a hand job in a parking lot, Larry's amused reaction gives just a little bit too much away.
  • Instrumental Theme Tune: The Show Within a Show has one, but technically, the actual show does not (though it used that of the Show Within a Show to represent it in Real Life, such as at awards shows).
  • The Man Behind the Man: Artie, to Larry.
  • Product Placement: The Garden Weasel was used in an episode where the in-universe network insisted that Larry perform live commercials on stage in order to promote the company's sponsors. Larry got back at the network by joking that he could see Jimmy Hoffa's remains after using the product during the sketch.
  • Retraux: Larry's show, for the most part, mimics the style of Johnny Carson's Tonight Show, even as contemporaneous late night shows moved away from Johnny's template in various ways (with the sole exception of the Theme Tune, which practically screams early nineties).
  • Single-Target Sexuality: Duchovny's interest in Larry.
  • Screwed by the Network: In-Universe. The network sabotages Larry's show as they maneuver Jon Stewart to replace him.
  • Show Within a Show: Also named The Larry Sanders Show.
  • Sidekick: "Hey Now!" Hank Kingsley!
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Hank.
  • Spiritual Successor: Like It's Garry Shandling's Show, Shandling used a familiar TV format to parody that format. The more obvious predecessor for Larry Sanders, though, was the 1985 Showtime special The Garry Shandling Show: 25th Anniversary Special, where Shandling starred As Himself, but as a neurotic veteran late night host with a pathetic sidekick.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Not entirely villainous, but Duchovny's interest in Larry made Larry more than a little uncomfortable.
  • Studio Audience
  • Stunt Casting: The producers got an awful lot of big names to appear on the show playing themselves. In-Universe, this is pretty much the only reason Hank Kingsley ever gets offered outside acting gigs - e.g., a guest spot as the janitor on Caroline in the City and a voice role in Disney's Hercules movie.
  • Two For One Show
  • Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Below average in appearance Larry is married to the gorgeous Jeannie in the first season and dates many beautiful actresses throughout (Mimi Rogers, Sharon Stone etc). Balding Hank also has a much younger and attractive wife.
  • Unintentional Period Piece: Many of the celebrity guests (along with the projects they're plugging) ensure this. Even if they hadn't, the characters constantly engaged in discussions of current events (e.g. The L.A. Riots, O.J. Simpson, David Letterman's stalker), which is highly unusual for TV shows of any era due to the delay between a show's production and broadcast.
  • Writing Around Trademarks: When Hank was hosting lottery drawings during Larry's sabbatical, he was forced to change his catchphrase to "Say Now!" because the network claimed "Hey Now!" as its intellectual property (satirizing NBC's similar tussle with David Letterman when he moved to CBS).

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