[Ed. This piece was originally written/posted in 2011. It’s reprinted here to mark Gary Shandling’s recent passing.]
I’ve never subscribed to HBO. There may have been a month here and there when it was provided to us here in New Gloucester, by mistake, or as part of some promotion, but when the cable monolith inevitably attempted to charge us, we balked. The movie-watching we missed as a result of this cultural diminishment we didn’t see as relevant.
However, many is the time I wish I had seen all those episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm and The Larry Sanders Show.
Last year, from some Bangkok street vendor, I procured up first four seasons of Curb, for a ridiculously small sum. It was good. I had seen the odd show here and there. But ultimately I had trouble watching them en masse. After 5-6 episodes, not even a full season, I found myself worn out but the sameness of each plot: No, Larry. No, don’t do that. Oh geez…
By contrast, IFC started rebroadcasting The Larry Sanders Show in January and with a deft flick of my DVR settings, I have proceeded to record each and every episode, in order, from the very beginning of the show’s run in 1992. It’s hard to keep up. My family rolls its eyes when they glimpse the list of recorded shows and spy this sea of Larry.
I’ll temper my ultimate, unfettered enthusiasm by saying the first two seasons of Larry Sanders were only slightly better than average — and something of a letdown when contrasted with the glowing tributes this series routinely garners from TV cognoscenti. These episodes didn’t suffer from a sameness, a la Curb, but I did find myself wondering why it is I am supposed to care about any of the main characters who are unfailingly funny but rather shitty.
Well, I can report that by Season 4, the show officially hits its stride. It’s not just easy for me to sit down and watch 2-3 episodes in a sitting; I make time for it. Indeed, I recently watched the fictitious talk show’s 8th anniversary special, and it struck me that a number of things have come together, revealing the show’s genius and explaining all the accolades I’d read and listened to over the years.