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Series / It's Garry Shandling's Show

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This is the theme to Garry's show, the theme to Garry's show
Garry called me up and asked if I would write his theme song
I'm almost halfway finished; how do you like it so far?
How do you like the theme to Garry's show?

This is the theme to Garry's show, the opening theme to Garry's show
This is the music that you hear as you watch the credits
We're almost to the part of where I start to whistle
Then we'll watch It's Garry Shandling's Show
[whistling the main riff]
This was the theme to Garry Shandling's show

It's Garry Shandling's Show was a 1986–90 sitcom on Showtime (which would later be rebroadcast on Fox) that turned No Fourth Wall into an art form. Comedian Garry Shandling played comedian Garry Shandling, who not only knew he lived inside a sitcom, but had a Studio Audience living inside his "house". (Sometimes their presence would surprise him when he first came out of his bedroom in the morning.) Garry's visitors, friends and neighbors, while not possessing studio audiences of their own, were all aware of his, and everyone made a point of addressing the audience at some point in the show.

The entire purpose of this series, around which almost all of its plots revolved, was deconstructing, subverting and inverting all the standard tropes of broadcast television sitcoms. In any given episode, Garry would perform a monologue to set up whatever the standard sitcom plot of the week was, talk directly to the audience mid-scene (which the other cast members rarely acknowledged), and even change scenes by walking off one set and directly onto the next one. This total lack of regard for the fourth wall, the conventions of sitcoms, and even the show in and of itself, was pretty unusual and strikingly postmodern for the straight-faced '80s. And considering that writers for the series went on to work on The Simpsons and Seinfeld, one could say that It's Garry Shandling's Show was quite a few years ahead of its time.

Shandling would later use similar methods to skewer late-night television with The Larry Sanders Show.

"This is the list for Garry's tropes. The list for Garry's tropes..."

  • Advertised Extra: Grant, who hadn't been doing much story-wise as of late, once stormed into Garry's house and got mad at him for letting him become this trope.
  • Amazingly Embarrassing Parents: Ruth Shandling loves her "bubba" to death, and maybe a little too much in too many inopportune moments for Garry's liking. She's embarrassed him in front of a couple of prospective girlfriends, for instance, but the apex is when Ruth does a nightclub routine in season 3 with a lanky Garry Expy dancing behind her, and a slideshow of Garry's high school photos plays on the side of the stage. Garry looks miserable sitting through it.
  • An Aesop: Garry likes to end shows by telling the audience what the lesson is from the episode, but it’s obviously tacked on and Garry never feels bothered to explain it very well. Nancy tried to deliver the episode’s Aesop once, but it kinda got away from her a bit.
  • As Himself: This was the premise, but in-universe Garry referred to himself as The Danza.
  • Aside Glance: Garry was especially fond of this trope.
  • Audience Participation: Garry likes getting the audience involved in the show.
    • One episode had Garry marry an illegal immigrant so she could stay in the country, and Garry took a mic and went into the audience to ask them their feelings on the topic and generally play Oprah Winfrey for them.
    • Also, in season 2's "The Schumakers Go To Hollywood," Garry tries getting the Studio Audience to sing the theme song ("tries" being the operative word).
    • During a season 3 episode, Garry and Pete are trying to have breakfast together but something's bothering Pete and he takes it out on Garry, and then the audience. The audience throw rolls at him.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Rob Reiner saves Garry from a Crazy Jealous Guy about to beat the crap out of Garry. Rob then apologizes for trying to pad out his part too much.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: There is none, as far as Garry's concerned. One standout example was when, after we first meet Pete Schumaker, Garry promises we'll meet his wife Jackie in the next episode, and they couldn't meet her this week since they haven't cast her yet.
  • Broken Pedestal: There's a season 4 episode called "Dinner At Eddy King's House," where Eddy King, a variety show host from the 50s, has Garry and Phoebe over for dinner to "talk shop." Garry's excited to meet one of his influences, but unfortunately, Eddy's Glory Days are far behind him, and his resulting bitterness overwhelms the entire dinner. He's especially snippy toward his wife, who's used to this by now. By the time he leaves with Phoebe, Garry is left disillusioned and scared that he, too, will become a bitter, nasty old has-been like Eddy.
  • The Cameo: Tom Petty shows up in season 2 to play a song, and basically kill some time until Jackie Schumaker gives birth. He occasionally, and rather unceremoniously, pokes his head in for a cameo in a few later episodes, such as accompanying the main cast to Las Vegas. Rob Reiner also shows up from time to time.
  • Censor Box: Well, more like Censor Dot. In one episode, Garry strips down to just a black dot on a chain covering his genitals.
  • Character as Himself: Father Guido Sarducci in episode 3. He'd become a minor recurring character.
  • Christmas Episode: "It's Garry Shandling's Christmas Show," of course. In the Christmas spirit, Leonard Smith's vocal group is actually willfully given camera time - though it just so happens that this time, one of the singers is Tom Petty. There's no fanfare about it whatsoever; he's just there.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Garry's buddy Lewis from early season 1, who just seemed kind of there most of the time, and only contributed one really memorable moment - when he was late for the plot in the first episode and Garry had to stop the closing credits to squeeze in a scene with him. It never got better from there, and after the first six episodes, Lewis disappeared from the series. He was replaced by Leonard Smith, Garry's camera-hungry landlord.
  • Clean, Pretty Childbirth: Jackie Schumaker delivers one of these in season 2, and Garry thoughtfully (as in, thoughtful of the ratings) has the entire episode centered around it.
  • A Day in the Limelight: Ruth Shandling gets a focus episode in season 3, "Mum's The Word," where she "gets the bug again" and decides to revive her old nightclub act. Periodically the cast check in on Garry's show, and all he's doing is being a personal trainer for his neighbor, so they immediately stop caring... until they see Ruth's risque striptease act, which hits a lot different now that she's in her 60s, and they turn on Garry's show again.
  • Deconstructor Fleet: Once the Sitcom tropes had generally been mined out, guest stars from classic programs and political figures allowed exploration of tropes ranging from Musicals to health movies.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Garry had an entire episode for Jackie giving birth, but when she isn't delivering the baby on schedule, Garry has nothing to fall back on. A performance from Tom Petty and a cameo from Susan Anton only kills a few minutes each before Garry has to scramble some more to get anything to fill the dead air.
  • Flashback: Courtesy of Garry's flashback booth (marked "It's Garry Shandling's Flashback Booth").
  • Grease Monkey: Nancy is revealed to be pretty good with cars in season 2.
  • Hostile Show Takeover: A variant. In the season one finale, Garry moves to New York to try his hand at being in a cop show. So Red Buttons, of all people, sublets his apartment, and it becomes his show.
  • Large Ham: Not usually the show's style, except for Leonard Smith, who likes to butt in for camera time, by himself or with his vocal group. A huge exception is made for Gilda Radner's appearance, as she shamelessly mugs for the camera even when Garry tells her to stop.
    Garry: ...are you looking into the camera?
    Gilda Radner: No. No I didn't.
    Garry: Don't look into the camera.
    Gilda Radner: I didn't!
    Garry: Don't. Don't come in here and look at the camera.
    Gilda Radner: I didn't!
    Garry: I'll bop you. I will. [Gilda mugs for the camera some more the moment Garry turns away]
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: Nancy gets amnesia (Garry: "Our first amnesia episode!") but gets her memory back using the flashback booth.
  • Locked in a Freezer: Garry once gets locked in a freezer with Jeff Goldblum, with Garry lampshading it before it even happens, and commenting that he hates this trope but the nature of the show does not allow them to skip it.
  • Love Goddess: Zsa Zsa Gabor in a two-part special as the "Goddess of Commitment". When Garry and Phoebe finally commit to their relationship, she bursts in and impatiently starts moving Phoebe's stuff into Garry's home.
  • Love Interest: Phoebe, Garry's girlfriend who moves in with him in season 4, after a few seasons of the Girl of the Week format. Nancy beat Garry to it, though, with Ian, who debuts in season 3.
  • Medium Awareness: Imagine this trope was an entire series, and you have this show. Garry of course is the most aware of them all, but other characters know what they're getting into when they go over to Garry's condo. As mentioned above, Garry would talk to — and with — the crew and audience; move between scenes by walking around the walls of the sets (or driving by golf cart), and declare time lapses if he didn't feel like waiting for something (and once missed a visit from a guest because his Girl of the Week did a time lapse without his permission). One episode featured Gilda Radner (her last role before her untimely death), and Garry chastised her for looking into the camera. Only he was allowed to Break the Fourth Wall.
  • Meta Guy: Garry, usually, but given the nature of the show, other cast members get a crack at this from time to time.
  • Mouthy Kid: Grant Schumaker isn't one to be shy about his opinions, especially where it concerns Garry's comedy talents (or lack thereof, in Grant's view).
  • Musical Episode: In the third season, musical numbers accompanied a plot where Grant goes through puberty and a female classmate makes advances on him.
  • No Fourth Wall: And how. Gags included Garry asking the people in the studio not to shout out a secret he was trying to keep or tip off his neighbors to the surprise party he was planning.
    • On a more literal note, Garry would go from scene to scene by stepping off the current set and walking (or driving a golf cart) to the next set.
  • Non-Indicative Title: Played with in "Garry Falls Down a Hole": He actually fell into it before the episode started.
  • The Not-Love Interest: Nancy, who's Garry's "attractive, yet non-threatening, platonic neighbor." One episode teased this status changing, but ended in an Anchored Ship.
  • Opening Narration: In keeping with No Fourth Wall.
  • Overly Long Gag: "Garry Falls Down a Hole." There's no monologue, since Garry never shows up. There's dead air for an uncomfortably long moment. The theme song plays, and no one comes out afterward. Nancy eventually comes in to break up the tension, calling out for Garry, to no avail. The theme song plays again. No Garry. This goes on for an interminable amount of time and the audience is audibly uncomfortable for much of it, until Nancy thankfully returns with Leonard for some actual dialogue. No points for guessing where Garry was.
  • Postmodernism: Garry and his friends are fully aware that they're in a Sitcom, often talking directly to members of the audience, with Garry even manipulating the story to his own ends.
  • Product Placement: Ruth invokes this when she discovers she can advertise her pet store on "Bubba's" show, which drives her sales through the roof. Garry quickly gets sick of it and they get into a spat over it.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: "Garry Falls Down A Hole." They're not even coy about how it's a reference to Baby Jessica.
  • Sexophone: Plays when Garry meets a hot girl in a laundromat, but the sax is loud enough that it lets her jealous ex-boyfriend find them.
  • Show Stopper:
    • Invoked Once an Episode when Garry comes out of his bedroom to greet the audience, who greet him in return with a round of applause. This obviously suits glory-hog Garry just fine.
    • Gilda Radner annoys Garry in her appearance by continuously trying to invoke this, starting right from her Incoming Ham entrance to a massive reaction.
  • Show Within a Show: Played with. Garry will sometimes rewatch footage of the show on the show. One episode saw him come home from a new job and turn on the TV... only to watch a live feed of himself watching that very TV, since his TV is set up to get nothing but his own show.
  • Sitcom: Subverted big time.
  • Studio Audience: Practically characters in their own right.
    • In one episode they go to a big band club, and it really is a "big" band - the audience are part of it, playing along on instruments.
    • In season 3, when Grant gets in trouble for allegedly beating up The Bully at school, an audience member gets up to prove Grant's innocence, since technically, the audience were witnesses. As such, she's backed up by a few dozen more audience members who literally just get up from their seats and gather on set.
    • In another season 3 episode, the audience completely walk out in protest after Garry cancels Sheena Easton's appearance, in favor of a much more mundane plot of playing catch with a young boy as part of the Big Brother program.
  • Stylistic Suck:
    • The set can be this occasionally, especially in a Dream Sequence. Garry once had a fantasy about a girl where he carved their initials into a tree, but since it was a cheap paper backdrop, Garry just stuck a big hole in it.
    • When Garry decides to quit his show in the season one finale, it's so he can star in a cop show, which he champions as his first chance at a really serious role. Garry shows us a preview, and it has unimaginative dialogue, a downright pathetic fight scene and Garry looking completely out-of-place doing a gritty cop show like this. His character’s name is literally Force Boxman. As in, metaphorically forcing himself into a box.
  • Subverted Trope: Just about every last one of them!
  • Suspiciously Similar Song: In-universe, one episode reveals that the theme song is actually a rewritten version of a local high school's Football Fight Song.
  • Sympathetic Adulterer:
    • The episode "Pete Has An Affair" is pretty self-explanatory. Pete actually takes his own actions harder than Jackie does, and the episode focuses on his overwhelming guilt.
    • Nancy is caught cheating on Ian in the season 3 finale, but she's still somewhat sympathetic only because Ian recently chickened out on proposing to her.
  • The Theme Park Version: Literally. In season 2, it's revealed that Garry's show has inspired an amusement park called Shandlingland, complete with big rubber costume facsimiles of the main cast. Nancy has a human Expy, who's so demure and saccharine that she infuriates the real Nancy.
  • The Thing That Would Not Leave: Leonard Smith hangs around Garry's condo a bit too much for Garry's liking, and it's obvious Leonard wants camera time. Sometimes it's not even just him, but his barbershop quartet - Leonard & The Lads.
  • This Is a Song: The theme song (see Title Theme Tune below)
  • This Is the Part Where...: Used frequently. It's also part of the opening theme.
    "We're almost to the part / of where I start to whistle / Then we'll watch It's Garry Shandling's Show." (cue whistling solo)
  • Time Skip: Parodied sometimes. When the story has to move ahead for a few weeks or so, Garry will just stop mid-scene and say that a specific amount of time has passed, and then the scene will continue from that point. Or stuff will be literally thrown onto the set to make it look like the place has been unkempt for that entire amount of time. For example, Garry was once in a deep funk and ostensibly spent two weeks sitting on the couch, so the crew off-screen threw two weeks worth of newspapers at him.
    Nancy: Garry, what are you doing? You’ve been sitting here for a month!
    [Beat, before Garry cringes as ANOTHER two weeks of newspapers are thrown at him]
    • One time in season 2, Garry's new girlfriend presumptuously tried to invoke it herself, so she could get Garry's car fixed faster, so Garry wouldn't know she totalled it. It worked, but this caused Garry to miss his calligraphy lesson with Magic Johnson.
  • Title Theme Tune: Notable in that the No Fourth Wall nature of the show forces the cast to hear the song every week season after season. Some find it reassuring, others come to hate the bouncy little tune.
    Nancy: Aw, Garry, not the theme song! I feel like I'm on a puppet show!
    • Also notable for its self-awareness as a theme song. For example, it starts "This is the theme to Garry's show / the theme to Garry's show / Garry called me up and asked if I could write his theme song..."
  • To Be Continued: Parodied, and defied, with a season one cliffhanger that’s intentionally never resolved, because Garry immediately decides the plot threads aren’t really worth resolving.
  • The Vietnam Vet: Leonard Smith reveals he's this in the season 2 finale, "Mr. Smith Goes To Nam," and a bad flashback is triggered when he sees someone he fought alongside - Gilda Radner's male nurse.
  • Whole-Plot Reference: There were episodes that parodied The Graduate, The Natural, The Fugitive and Driving Miss Daisy.

"...hope you enjoyed It's Garry Shandling's Show!"