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.