Nowadays there’s nothing new about a comedy show without a laugh track or a live studio audience, where the jokes are delivered casually in conversation, with no “beat” or pause to signal a punchline.
It’s no longer necessary that TV shows are shot on fixed sets and by three fixed cameras; they’re frequently filmed with cameras that move, their shots and angles storyboarded like a movie’s. Nor are we any longer wowed by the idea of a postmodern, self-reflexive TV show that blurs the line between fact and fiction.
But in 1992 that was all new, and The Larry Sanders Show starring Garry Shandling was where it all began. Garry Shandling died on March 24, 2016 in Los Angeles. He was 66. Here’s just some of the shows that wouldn’t have existed without his influence.
1. Knowing Me, Knowing You with Alan Partridge (BBC, 1994 – 1995)
Sports presenter Alan Partridge (Steve Coogan) emerged from BBC news spoof The Day Today to have his own show, and, despite the laughter track and fixed multi-camera set-up, the Larry influence was obvious:
Later series starring Alan used the single-camera set-up, as Alan found himself without a show and out in the cold when it came to BBC commissioners. Producer Armando Iannucci, who went on to create The Thick of It and Veep, has acknowledged his debt to Shandling.
2. Freaks and Geeks (NBC, 1999-2000)
Judd Apatow worked as a writer and producer on The Larry Sanders Show, going on to make his directorial debut with episode “Putting the ‘Gay’ Back in Litigation” in the show’s final season.
“One thing Garry used to say that had a big impact on me was that the show was about people who loved each other but show business got in the way,” Apatow said on the DVD extras for the show. He also said the difficult schedule and Shandling’s demand for excellence made him better when he made his first show, the cult classic Freaks and Geeks.
The debt is made explicit in episode 14 “Dead Dogs and Gym Teachers,” when Bill (Silicon Valley‘s Martin Starr), one of the titular geeks who gets laughed at in school, sits down to watch Garry doing stand-up on The Dinah Shore Show on TV:
3. Curb Your Enthusiasm (2000 -2011)
Larry David is famously playing himself, the co-creator of Seinfeld, in this long-running series. But as a deeply neurotic, narcissistic, self-loathing train wreck of a man, he is also playing Larry Sanders.
4. The Office (U.K. version, 2001 – 2003) (U.S. version, 2005 – 2013)
Ricky Gervais is open about the obvious influence of The Larry Sanders Show on The Office. “It taught me that flawed characters can be compulsive viewing – seeing them squirm and get their comeuppance,” he told Variety in 2010.
RIP the great Garry Shandling. Surely, one of the most influential comedians of a generation.
— Ricky Gervais (@rickygervais) March 24, 2016
5. Arrested Development ( FOX 2003 – 2006, Netflix 2013 – )
Jeffrey Tambor, currently starring in Transparent, starred as Larry’s on-air sidekick “Hey Now!” Hank Kingsley in the show, and went on to play George Bluth Senior in one of the most critically acclaimed shows of the recent batch of single-cam shows, Mitchell Hurwitz‘s Arrested Development.
And if the link wasn’t clear enough, here’s Tambor as Hank in The Larry Sanders Show showing Arrested Development‘s Gob Bluth (aka Will Arnett) his first magic trick:
“I am so sad,” said Tambor in a statement yesterday on hearing of Shandling’s death. “Garry was my dear friend and was and always will be my teacher. Garry redesigned the wheel of comedy and he was the kindest and funniest of Geniuses. I will miss him so much.”
6. 30 Rock (NBC, 2006 – 2013)
Behind the scenes of a talkshow becomes behind the scenes of a Saturday night comedy show in 30 Rock, but all the ingredients are still there: the self-absorbed hosts, the demands from TV executives, the funding crises, with Liz Lemon navigating them all with the aplomb of a—okay, with no aplomb whatsoever:
In fact, an early indiction of Alec Baldwin’s ability to send himself up occurred on The Larry Sanders Show: