(Dailymotion/Vimeo/YouTube/etc.)? You’re probably familiar with THE LARRY SANDERS SHOW, which features stand-up comedian and actor Garry Shandling as a neurotic late night host. (Given that Shandling was one of a few folks considered to be an heir to Johnny Carson, it was not much of a stretch for him.) It was a huge critical and commercial success for HBO, and its depiction of the nitty gritty of producing a late night show was very ahead of its time. However, before THE LARRY SANDERS SHOW there was IT’S GARRY SHANDLING’S SHOW.

Simply put, IT’S GARRY SHANDLING’S SHOW was one of the first meta-sitcoms. Shandling plays ‘himself’, aware that a sitcom audience, at home and in the studio, is watching him as he lives his semi-celebrity, narcissistic, vain, and insecure life. Each SHANDLING’S SHOW episode opens with Garry giving a fourth-wall breaking monologue about his current status as well as what he hopes to accomplish this episode. (I’ll note that THE GEORGE BURNS AND GRACIE ALLEN SHOW did something similar decades prior with their introduction to the show.)

As each episode of SHANDLING’S SHOW would progress, Garry would continue to nod and wink at the audience and, as the show grew older, became bolder about actively turning the safe 80s sitcom format on its head with loads of surreal bits and set-breaking acts.

SHANDLING’S SHOW was one of the first comedies penned for Showtime, as well as Shandling’s first show working both in-front of and behind the camera. He co-created it with Alan Zweibel, one of the original SNL writers, and they often enlisted legendary TV comedy director Alan Rafkin (THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW, ONE DAY AT A TIME (1978), THE BOB NEWHART SHOW — his directorial filmography is ridiculous). Oh, and Ed Solomon (BILL & TED) had a hand in more than a fair number of eps, too!

It also has one of the best TV theme songs ever, reflecting the meta-nature of the show, also penned by Shandling & Zeiwbel. It’s 41 seconds long — a fact the show frequently hammers home — but it’s catchy enough that you’d suspect it was written and performed by Randy Newman:

(From the first episode — there’s a bit of setup, but not much):

To follow that up, it has one of the best riffs on the theme song opening:

Sadly, today it seems to be barely remembered except by TV and comedy nerds, despite the fact that it was quite critically acclaimed at the time. There are several reasons for that: first, it was on Showtime in 1986 and they didn’t exactly have a huge audience then, and they certainly weren’t known for their original programming. That said, FOX purchased rerun rights to bolster their Sunday lineup, but this was before they’d wrangle THE SIMPSONS.

Second, it was practically impossible to watch after FOX ceased airing reruns in 1990. Some fans would post VHS recordings to YouTube once that was a thing, but it was like posting into a vacuum.

Third, Shout! Factory released a full-series DVD set over a decade ago that I dragged my feet on buying and, before I knew it, it was out-of-print and almost of the ripped YouTube eps had been scrubbed.

However! You can still find a fair number of eps out there, as well as a smattering of clips. They’re well-worth your time although I’ll warn you that more than a few jokes haven’t aged terribly well, but they’re all immaculately constructed. If you don’t believe me, Rolling Stone just listed the show as #58 on their ‘100 Best Sitcoms of All Time’ list*.

Sample episode (S01E12):

First episode (S01E01):

Shout! Factory’s DVD Trailer:

  • I quibble with the list, not because of the entries themselves, but because I don’t believe you should include an in-progress series on the list, and they included -many- on-the-air shows.