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It's Garry Shandling's Show aired from September 1986 until June 1990 on the Showtime Cable Network and FOX.
Stand-up comic Garry Shandling and former Saturday Night Live writer Alan Zweibel borrowed from one of tv's earliest sitcoms to create one of the freshest shows of the 1980's. Their inspiration was The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show; the central character played himself as the star of the tv show, lived at home and frequently addressed the audience directly, the later device, known as breaking the 4th wall had been seldom utilized in series television since the demise of Burns and Allen in 1958, but Shandling used it as effectively as had Burns to comment on the plot, to update the story, or to interject a joke. This series was reportedly rejected by all 3 major commercial networks before premiering on the Showtime Cable Network in the fall of 1986.
The focus more or less, was the fictionalized personal life of off beat comic Garry Shandling. Garry played himself, a friendly rather neurotic young single coping not to successfully with the outside world. His main problems were his general insecurity, his lmited success with women, and a tendacy to have things fall apart around him. Most of the action took place on a set that was a replica of Garry's real-life living room. His platonic friend Nancy ( Molly Cheek), his mother ( Barbara Cason), his best married friend Pete (Michael Tucci), and Pete's intellectual son Grant ( Scott Nemes), came by to help Garry deal with his problems. Leonard (Paul Willson),was the nosy next-door neighbor.
What made It's Garry Shandling's Show so different was it's point of view. Garry knew he was on television. As George Burns had done three decades before, he opened each show talking directly to the audience and as the story progressed, regularly paused to make observations to the camera. Not only did Garry know, but so did all the others in the cast, stories were written to take advantage of this awareness. If Garry was leaving home he might invite the studio audience to use his living room while he was away-and they did-until he came back and they returned to their seats. At times he would leave the set and go into the audience to get personal reactions to what was going on or to take a call from a viewer. Sometimes the other actors in character chided Garry for paying too much attention to the camera and not enough to the plot. Garry and his writers were all to familiar with the standard elements of traditional sitcoms and went out of their way to make fun of them while still presenting a reasonably coherent and funny story. This extended even to the show's self-mocking theme song; Garry's fictional neighbor might drop by to complain that it was being played to loud again.
It's Garry Shandling's Show received rave reviews from critics bored with standard tv fare and did reasonably well on the limited-distribution Showtime Cable Service. In early 1988 in an effort to bolster it's Sunday Night lineup, the new FOX Network secured the rights to air reruns of the Showtime episodes not less then one month after they had aired on Showtime, and all America could see what the fuss was about.
Many guest stars dropped by from time to time ( usually playing themselves), including Red Buttons, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Rock Star Tom Petty, and Gildna Radner ( in one of her last tv appearances). It's Garry Shandling's Show also parodied tv shows such as Lassie and The Fugitive. One episode was aired live on Showtime; an election special ( Nov. 8, 1988) with Soul Train's Don Cornelius as guest political analyst.
In 1989 both Garry and his friend Nancy found love, he with Phoebe Bass ( Jessica Harper), and she with Ian ( Dan Buchanan). Early in 1990 Garry and Phoebe were married and he was still adjusting to married life when FOX canceled the show. New episodes continued to run on Showtime for the next 3 months.
72 episodes were produced.
The genius of this series was a sketch on NBC's Michael Nesmith In Television Parts in which Shandling on a date with Miss Maryland narrated the event to the camera.
Here's an article published in TV Guide ( May 16-22, 1987 Ed,)
Audatious, Satirical, Hip, Sophisticated, Wonderfully Silly
A leading writer for stage, screen and TV tells why he finds It's Garry Shandling's Show a 'refreshing breakthrough'
By Larry Gelbert
Let us pause to consider the possible peril to our planet due to the irreversible damage done to the ozone caused by the destruction of so many forests to provide the pulp for page after page of TV pulp. How wasteful and lethal this conversion of sequoias into sequels, of redwoods into rip-offs.
And the chief killers of more trees than Dutch elm disease have been the suppliers of television comedy shows. But despite nearly a half century of effort, be it sitcom or stand-up, TV comedy has barely changed a whit. The forms are frozen in the case of sitcoms , fossilized . Yet every so often , a show appears that manages to change the presentation of humerous material in a way that delights and surprises even those of us who long ago gave up hoping for some series to dare to be, for God's sake, different.
It's Garry Shandling's Show is to me , that refreshing breakthrough. The show defies comparrison with any other program on the air today. It is audacious , satiricle, hip, sophisticated, and wonderfully silly, and, often , miraculously, all of the above at the same time. It is, in addition , that rarity of rarities, a TV effort that has the uncommon goal of appealing to the highest common denominator.
There is a spirit of freedom on the show that reflects one of the major reasons for its quality and uniqueness: it is not seen on network television. It is not a product of the ceaseless and essentually joyless cloning process that gives us so much repetitive programming ( the two major escapees being David Letterman and Moonlighting's Glenn Caron).
Why do our TV sets seem like copy machines with pictures? Everything we see on the box represents choices made by network executives.These people tend to be young. Very Young.What qualifies them for their positions is their, however brief , lifelong familiarity with the tube. Exposed to television even before they're out of the wound ( not inconceivably conceived during a commercial break on Johnny Carson, resulting in a form of tubal pregnancy), network mavens are chiefly concerned with perpetuating what they've been programmed to believe a TV program should be.
Whether by shrewd choice or happy accident, Shandling and his Collaborators come to us courtesy of cable. It is one of two comedy series seen only on Showtime and each suggests a hands-off attitude on the part of the powers-that-be. The second Showtime series with a difference is Brothers , the show that treats homosexuality with such gay abandon.
Because it's on cable, the Shandling show enjoys another tremendous advantage. No commercials. No unwelcome breaks in the entertainment to remind viewers that they can and should shave closer, smell nicer, and knock back a few better beers before they drive off in their ever bigger smaller cars.
This freedom from free enterprise allows the viewer to watch each episode in one go-especially important in this series, since its storylines are almost nonexistent and so fragile that any pause could prove fatal in terms of maintaining the audience's acceptance of what is going on. These slender storylines offer no complicated plots and no surprising twists. Rather, the surprise come from the way the half hour passes.
There is, of course, the obligatory opening theme song. The obligation stops there. It's not a tune you're likely to leave the living room humming. It is like the program it introduces, filled with self-mockery and is a warning to us that what we're about to see is the result of some lively, mischievous minds at play.
Shandling talks directly to the audience at the top of each show and at numerous other times during the program. This, of course, is not a new device. George Burns did it years ago in his series, and Roman comedies, which predate the birth of Christ, featured actors' asides to the audience ( Burns also starred in several of these).
But Shandling carries the device to new and original heights. He not only addresses the studio audience , taking them into his confidence or sharing some information with them unknown to the other actors in the show, he will on occasion, invade the studio bleachers and include the audience in the proceedings, soliciting their opinions as to how to proceed. Standard fare for a Donahue or a Winfrey, totally unprecedented for an actor appearing on a script show. He will also engage his crew, camera operators, whomever, in his wanderings and work all these normally behind-the-scenes people very much into the scenes.
These departures are all planned , naturally. Shandling is not improvising on the job. What's so refreshing is that the writers are. Clearly, they are trying, and equally clearly, they are succeeding in turning a cliche form on its head , inside out, upside down , and backwards. Each week's show is charged with a kind of restless energy, an impatience with predictability, a gleeful assault on convention, a willingness, a need to experiment, to throw all the pieces up in the air and have them come down in a different order.
One show began with Garry's answering machine addressing the audience, informing us that he was lost in traffic somewhere. On another episode, Garry, out of the goodness of his heart, married an illegal alien so that she could remain in this country. Her gratitude lasted about three pages, after which she began badgering Garry mercilessly, finally insisting he stop talking to the camera ( a neat trick, scripted characters who are aware that they are acting out their lives before cameras, that their lives are both fact and fiction at the same time.)
Form is not the only element of the Shandling show that is treated with such gleeful disrespect. Least sacred of all is Shandling himself. With a long face that seems to use up half his height, Shandling's looks or lack of them, and his awesome strike-out record with women make him the chief butt of the show's humor, which ranges from simple one-liners to the surreal.
In fashioning what can best be described as Television of the Absurd, Shandling and his fellow Shandlers offer us testimony and hope that , even on TV, there can be something new under the sun-that imitation is the sincerest form of laziness.
Garry Shandling and producer Alan Zweibel are credited as the shows creators. I'm grateful to them. And to Showtime, as well. If they can come up with a few more as good as this one, I'll happily throw away my channel changer.
Here's an article announcing FOX's pickup of It's Garry Shandling's Show
Garry Shandling Show Moving to Fox Network
Published: January 7, 1988
The Fox Broadcasting Company has said that the comedy series ''It's Garry Shandling's Show'' will make its debut on the network in March.
''We went after 'It's Garry Shandling's Show' because it is clearly one of the most innovative comedy series on television today,'' Garth Ancier, the president of programming for Fox, said on Tuesday. ''There is no doubt that the series will greatly enhance our program lineup.''
The show is to appear on Sundays, Fox's most successful night. The fledgling network has had problems with its other night of programming, Saturday, and its new late-night show, ''The Wilton North Report,'' is not doing well.
The Shandling show, honored by the International Film and Television Festival of New York for outstanding programming, was turned down by ABC, CBS and NBC. It first appeared on the Showtime pay-cable network in September 1986.
Here's an article from the New York Times talking about the end of It's Garry Shandling's Show.
End of the Run for Garry Shandling
By JOHN J. O'CONNOR
Published: June 8, 1990
At the top of Showtime's comedy lineup tonight, at 10, is the final episode of ''It's Garry Shandling's Show,'' which, perhaps not so coincidentally, was pulled not too long ago from the Fox Broadcasting Sunday-night schedule. The comic has no need to pout, as is his wont. On the Showtime pay-cable service, ''It's Garry Shandling's Show'' compiled a total of 72 episodes over four seasons. Good show. The shambling Mr. Shandling has parlayed a keen eye and ear for life's daily foibles into a performance persona that his fans find gently ingratiating. Some, though, have been heard to say they find that same persona irritatingly inert. As far as the Shandling career is concerned, the yeas clearly have the momentum.
The comedian credits much of his success to Johnny Carson. The first Shandling appearance on the ''Tonight'' show was in 1981, and he quickly became one of the more prominent guest hosts. There was even talk about his being Mr. Carson's successor. But then Mr. Shandling became involved in the Showtime series and, more to the point, along came Jay Leno as Mr. Carson's permanent guest host.
Mr. Shandling's approach to comedy is uncomplicated: ''I take my personal experiences, such as my life as a single man in the 80's, and exaggerate them, or I take the unusual things in life that happen to all of us and work with them.'' His laid-back manner was reflected in the style and tone of ''It's Garry Shandling's Show,'' which he created with Alan Zweibel. The barrier between sitcom set and studio audience was demolished. Mr. Shandling would frequently step out of character to address the audience directly, much as George Burns did on the old ''Burns and Allen'' shows. A resident supporting company filled the roles of girlfriend, mother and assorted neighbors and friends.
Tonight's final episode offers a rather wan parody of ''Driving Miss Daisy.'' The cast of regulars is largely and curiously ignored as Mr. Shandling cavorts with special guests Dan Aykroyd and Paul Winfield in what is called ''Driving Miss Garry.'' Mr. Aykroyd reprises his film role of Boolie who, worried about Garry's driving around the set, insists on the hiring of a chauffeur named Hoke (Mr. Winfield). The illiterate Hoke learns to read and, after devouring biographies of Donald Trump and Malcolm X, pressures Miss Garry to raise his salary from $80 a week to $200,000 a year.
The overall satire is limp, but there are distinctive Shandling touches. At one point, he pulls out a pair of fake buttocks, much to the disapproval of the snippety Hoke. ''Haven't you ever had your own cable comedy series?'' Mr. Shandling asks, putting on the prop and shaking his hips ridiculously. Then he reprimands the studio audience: ''You should be ashamed for laughing.'' Momentary silence. ''I'm only kidding. Lighten up, will you?'' It's a perfect Shandling spin, the kind that made this show worth watching.
Mr. Shandling was born and raised in Tucson, Ariz. Robert Schimmel, a native New Yorker, used to live in Scottsdale, Ariz. Otherwise, the two comics are worlds apart, as becomes obvious this evening on Showtime when the Shandling show is immediately followed, at 11, by ''Robert Schimmel: Hard Core in the Big Apple.'' The stand-up act was taped before an audience at Caroline's at the Seaport in New York City.
Mr. Schimmel specializes in the kind of unprintable humor that used to be the hallmark of bachelor parties. Now his audiences seem to consist largely of women, some of whom laugh to the point of helpless tears. Insisting that he has been influenced most not by Lenny Bruce but by Jackie Vernon, Mort Sahl and Jackie Gleason, Mr. Schimmel constructs just about his entire act around bodily parts and functions or, more precisely, malfunctions.
With odd patches of hair artfully arranged on the balding landscape of his head, the comedian comes across as Mr. Average Joe, the rumpled salesman or harassed supermarket manager. That's his ''vulnerable'' side, clearly intended to counterbalance the clinical vividness of his observations. A press release notes that Mr. Schimmel is in great demand on today's comedy circuit. For anyone interested in contemporary culture and manners, he is a phenomenon that should be sampled - once.
IT'S GARRY SHANDLING'S SHOW - DRIVING MISS GARRY
Created by Alan Zweibel and Garry Shandling; produced by Mr. Zweibel for Our Production Company; Vic Kaplan and Larry Levin, co-producers; Mr. Shandling, Bernie Brillstein and Brad Grey, executive producers; directed by Stan Lathan; written by Al Jean and Michael Reiss; creative consultant, Monica Johnson; editor, Jerry Bixman; art director, Bruce Ryan. Tonight on Showtime at 10:30.
An Article from Entertainment Weekly
It's Garry Shandling's Show
C By Ken Tucker
In a season notable for first-rate, big-bang finales (how 'bout that last Newhart, eh?), It's Garry Shandling's Show is going out with a comparative whimper. The conclusion of Shandling's four-year run is called ''Driving Miss Garry,'' and the thudding obviousness of the title's spoof on Driving Miss Daisy is indicative of the rest of the half-hour.
Shandling's show, it should be said, was regularly lauded as fresh and innovative. He's a funny fellow as a stand-up comic, all right, but why did TV critics go gaga when he turned to the camera and talked to us viewers? Doesn't anyone remember that George Burns and Gracie Allen were doing this 40 years ago? Heck, the Marx Brothers were talking straight at movie audiences 60 years ago what's the big deal?
Anyway, in this send-off show, guest star Dan Aykroyd reprises his Daisy movie role as Boolie, and offers Shandling the services of a chauffeur Paul Winfield in the Morgan Freeman role of Hoke. Shandling, inevitably, takes the part that Jessica Tandy played, at one point even donning a woman's white wig.
Lacking any sort of context, however, the premise is merely silly, and the writing is dull. One long, long joke, for example, involves Hoke's inability to read; the punch line occurs when he mistakes the name ''Corky'' for ''Noodles.'' Are you rolling on the floor yet?
This last Shandling is frustrating. One of the pleasures of final episodes is the opportunity to see story lines wrapped up and characters bid farewell.
But ''Driving Miss Garry'' is so intent on carrying out its lame movie parody that it doesn't do any of this. At the end of the show, Shandling climbs into a little electric car and putters around the stage set, mock-weeping and waving bye-bye. Bye-bye, Garry.
An Article about the 2009 DVD Release of the show from The LA Times
The funny guy deconstructed the sitcom on his Showtime series, which is newly out on DVD.
October 20, 2009|ROBERT LLOYD | TELEVISION CRITIC
Garry Shandling, the comedian, has co-created and starred in two television shows over the course of his career. Each played with the conceptual physics of the medium itself, and skipped back and forth across the dotted line that divides the actual from the fictional. Each featured Shandling as a comedian somewhat less successful than himself, if possibly no less insecure. And each was born in premium cable and helped establish it as a venue for quality work long before Tony Soprano first decided to see a psychiatrist.
The second of the two series, "The Larry Sanders Show," which ran on HBO from 1992 to 1998, starred Shandling as the talk-show host he might have actually become if the success of the first series, "It's Garry Shandling's Show," hadn't led him to decline an appointment as one of Johnny Carson's official "Tonight Show" alternates. (The other was Jay Leno.) "Sanders" was one of TV's best shows ever; its documentary feel and difficult hero set the tone for a generation of cable (and, more recently, network) comedies, few of which have managed -- or attempted -- to be as real.
"It's Garry Shandling's Show," which ran on Showtime from 1986 to 1990 (and for some of that time was also broadcast by Fox), was something else again, a three-camera sitcom as Luigi Pirandello might have imagined it -- embracing, exposing and pulling apart the conventions of the form. (The show's aesthetic is reflected in its opening theme: "This is the theme to Garry's show / The opening theme to Garry's show / This is the music that you hear as you watch the credits"). If it was not as nuanced or consistent as "Sanders," and too weird to be really influential, it was ambitious in its own way, and mostly very funny. And as of today, its four-season, 72-episode run is available on DVD.
Here Shandling plays a comic named Garry Shandling who is and is not the person playing him. He addresses himself in often rapid turn to the studio audience, to the camera and to the other actors. And while this triple consciousness is unusual for a sitcom, it's precisely how a talk show divides his attention: guests, studio audience, people at home. So when one episode actually morphs into a talk show (with Tom Petty, recurring as himself, among the guests) it's just a matter of arranging the bodies on a couch. Yet only Garry is allowed to live in this multiple space -- when guest star Gilda Radner drops by one day, he chides her for looking at the camera: "I'll bop you."
If this were a senior thesis instead of a DVD review, I might write that the show deconstructed situation comedy or was postmodern in its meta-fictional self-awareness. But that is just a fancy way of saying that Shandling and co-creator Alan Zweibel pulled back the camera an extra step, not just breaking the fourth wall but dollying back through it to include the studio and all the people in it -- the audience itself became a character. If there had been a way to somehow show the "people at home," they no doubt would have been on-screen as well. Instead, we get to watch Garry watch himself watching himself watch himself on television. "You have to learn that there's more to life than just life," Garry tells his neighbors' son (Scott Nemes). "This is a TV show. Look, there's a camera and everything."
All sorts of things happen here. A live election-night special (Bush versus Dukakis) features "Soul Train" host Don Cornelius as an analyst-announcer, possibly just to let Shandling say "Oh, Don," as Jack Benny addressed his own announcer, Don Wilson, on "The Jack Benny Program" -- this show's nearest ancestor. Reaching puberty becomes the occasion for a musical. Howard Sprague (Jack Dodson) of "The Andy Griffith Show" moves in next door and charms everyone with his folksy ways. ("Sheriff Taylor's Aunt Bee used to tell us people are less for judging others," he says.) The cast visits Shandling Land, a theme park based on Garry's quirks and obsessions.
And yet for all its abstractions, it's a warm show. Where Larry Sanders keeps the world at arm's length, the Garry Shandling of "It's Garry Shandling's Show" is at the center of a supportive, if sometimes troublesome, group of friends whom he supports and troubles in turn. The humor is cerebral, but -- unlike "Seinfeld," say -- it is cerebral with heart. And where episodes of "Sanders" would often go out on a moment of discomfort -- the dominant note for clever comedies over the last decade -- "Shandling" likes a happy ending, sincerely, and without irony.
To watch some clips from It's Garry Shandling's Show go to http://www.youtube.com/results?search=Search&resnum=0&oi=spell&search_query=it%27s+garry+shandling%27s+show&spell=1&sa=X
For Tim's TV Showcase go to https://timstelevisionshowcase.neocities.org/garryshandling.html
For a page dedicated to a strange crossover with The Andy Griffith Show go to http://www.poobala.com/andyandgary.html
For an Article on It's Garry Shandling's Show go to http://www.trunkworthy.com/this-is-the-article-about-its-garry-shandlings-show/
For some It's Garry Shandlings Show-related interview videos at the Archive of American Television go to https://interviews.televisionacademy.com/shows/its-garry-shandlings-show
For another Review of It's Garry Shandling's Show go to http://www.museum.tv/eotv/itsgarrysh.htm
To watch the opening credits go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8cWbkWTYwTw
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Keywords: It's Garry Shandlings Show Cast (Links Updated 7/18/18)