October 11, 2009

AN INSECURE AND SENSITIVE LOT:

This Is a Story About the DVD of Garry’s Show (DAVE ITZKOFF, 10/11/09, NY Times)

Created by Mr. Shandling and Alan Zweibel, an alumnus of the original “Saturday Night Live” writing staff, “It’s Garry Shandling’s Show” superficially resembled a network sitcom. Mr. Shandling played a Los Angeles bachelor with a nebbishy best pal, a platonic female friend and a nosy neighbor but was also permitted to step out of the story and address the audience directly. (When Mr. Shandling pitched a similar idea to NBC, the network asked if he could instead talk to a dog.)

“Both of us had a distaste for what was a very predictable, pat situation-comedy formula,” Mr. Zweibel said. “What we thought was, let’s be Off Broadway — let’s be more theatrical about it.”

So at every level, “It’s Garry Shandling’s Show” was infused with self-awareness and self-reference, even in its theme song, whose lyrics reminded viewers that they were listening to a theme song. (“I’m almost halfway finished/How do you like it so far?”) Episodes were crammed with pop-cultural allusions, absurdist humor and guest appearances from retro-chic stars like Red Buttons, Steve Allen and Florence Henderson.

Otherwise, the “Shandling’s Show” writers had to observe only two rules: keep their star armed with plenty of one-liners, and make sure he was the funniest person in the room.

“Garry likes stuff where he gets the laughs,” said Tom Gammill, a “Seinfeld” and “Simpsons” veteran who with his writing partner, Max Pross, contributed to the show. “If there’s a scene where everyone else is getting laughs, he goes: ‘I think there’s a problem with this scene. I can’t put my finger on it.’ ”

For Mr. Shandling, the offbeat opportunity came with a significant sacrifice: in 1987, he quit “The Tonight Show,” where he had been invited to share guest-hosting duties with Jay Leno, to focus full time on “Shandling’s Show.” In a tentative phone call, Mr. Shandling broke the news to his mentor, Johnny Carson, who had recently frozen out his former protégé Joan Rivers when she became his broadcast rival.



Posted by Orrin Judd at October 11, 2009 7:39 AM
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