Hey now! “Larry’s Sanders Show” fans haven’t had the best 2016 so far, with the surprising passing of the classic show’s star, Garry Shandling. But there’s no better way to remember the comedian’s genius than by appreciating the legacy he left behind, and HBO is now making that easier.
Next month, the network will release every episode of the ‘1992-1998 talk show spoof on HBO now, HBO Go, HBO On Demand (starting Sept. 23) and the HBO Comedy channel (starting Sept. 26). If you’ve never had the opportunity to embrace the brilliance of Shandling’s show, here’s your chance; if you’re already a fan, now you can revisit an old friend.
Here are the 5 episodes you should watch first — the cream of the crop, these are the classics that will leave you holding your sides, gasping for air, and missing Garry Shandling.
‘The Hey Now Episode’ (Season 1, episode 13)
Often cited by fans and critics alike as the very best of this show that was nominated for 56 Emmys — and probably should have received more — this episode finished the first season with a bang, and helped cement its winning comedic tone. The episode also focuses on what might be the show’s best character: Hank, an Ed McMahon-like showbiz veteran whose importance to the show seems dubious.
Balancing out some great jokes about Hank’s shameless endorsement side gigs, “Hey Now” does a wonderful job of showing us the relationship between Larry and Hank, and why he’s the show’s secret weapon. It also gave us a peek at the brilliance of Jeffrey Tambor, which would only further evolve years later in projects like “Arrested Development” and “Transparent.”
‘The Warmth Episode’ (Season 1, episode 11)
Part of the genius of “Sanders” was how it would get laughs by tapping into the behind-the-scenes secrets of the late night shows. If we’re being honest, how many of these hosts are driven by an intrinsic need to be liked and validated every night on air? This classic episode has Larry contemplating the nature of these faceless men and women who applaud every night when the audience sign tells them to.
The episode is worth watching, If only for one of Garry Shandling’s greatest lines: “20 people could say they like me, and I am telling you: 17 of them are lying, 2 of them probably have severe emotional problems and 1 is confusing me with Larry King.”
‘Life Behind Larry’ (Season 2, episode 7)
These days, Seth Meyers, Stephen Colbert and the Jimmies Fallon, Kimmel and Corden all seem quite civil to each other, engaging in friendly competitions to see who can make the most viral video of Sia and the cast of “Teen Wolf” lip-syncing in a car. So, it might be difficult for younger audiences to imagine a time when David Letterman, Jay Leno, Johnny Carson and Conan O’Brien were involved in a headline-grabbing soap opera that provided more unintended entertainment than all theirs shows combined.
“Life Behind Larry” was the episode that sank its teeth into this ripe material. As the network searches for a 12:30 host to follow-up Larry’s show, the host suggests Bobcat Goldthwait — who turns out to be a bit edgier than anyone wants. The episode mines real-world drama that would see Conan making his talk show debut a few months later, while making some memorable jokes about Sanders’ competition with Letterman.
‘The Fourteenth Floor’ (Season 3, episode 14)
Late Night talk show hosts have a long tradition of making fun of their employers — in fact, it’s a comedy touchstone that speaking truth to power is inherently funny. But this episode gets into the nature of how much is too much, as Larry mocks his network on the air and then faces the consequences.
‘The Spiders Episode’ (Season 1, episode 3)
Talk show history has a tradition of physical humor — ironic, since classic moments like the Ed Ames tomahwak throw found its punchline with no words at all. In this classic episode, Larry is searching for his great spontaneous moment — and finally gets one in the worst possible way.