20. THE LARRY SANDERS SHOW
Created by Garry Shandling & Dennis Klein
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Aired: HBO, 1992-1998
Having lampooned himself – and sitcoms generally – on the meta It’s Garry Shandling’s Show, Shandling this time trained his comedic radar onto the fear and self-loathing backstage at a late-night talk show. Much as it had in common with TV of the past (the show-about-a-show concept was hardly new) Larry Sanders, co-created by Dennis Klein and executive produced by Peter Tolan, brought to pay cable a freshly acerbic glimpse into showbiz narcissism. The show came along when Jay Leno’s succession of Johnny Carson as host of The Tonight Show – sending David Letterman to CBS, replaced at 12:30 on NBC by the no-name Conan O’Brien – had made the late-night ratings wars an ongoing backstage drama. Had Shandling wanted The Tonight Show job? In Larry Sanders he gave audiences a doppelganger tease, and a show in which the backstage bile and neurosis made Shandling look like a comedic sage, taking a higher road.
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