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"The Larry Sanders Show" Hey Now (1992)

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Season 1: Solid start with some good laughs but not as sharp or as funny as I expected

Author: bob the moo from United Kingdom
5 January 2013

In the UK The Larry Sanders show was only ever something I heard about; if I could be bothered to stay up to watch Seinfeld in the graveyard shift that BBC2 decided to put it, then I can't remember even staying an extra 30 minutes to watch this show, which was on even later. The accepted wisdom was that the BBC was doing a bad job with two brilliant sitcoms and I always intended to check it out. Please remember that this was before TV on demand, the internet and all the other things that make media so accessible today – and indeed I'm pretty sure that my family didn't own a VHS when this started. Anyway, a couple of decades later and I finally get around to it.

I didn't approach it with great reverence though, or with the assumption it would be perfect or that it had to impress me – I did simply sit to watch it and in a way I was a little underwhelmed. The show does deserve credit for its influence and the intelligence behind the idea, but the first season shows signs of a show with real potential, certainly not one that is brilliant from the very start. I read a lot of the praise for the first season on this site and was surprised by it – maybe you had to be there at the time to feel its impact the most? Anyway, despite this I did still enjoy the show because it has a natural energy to it and the characters offer a lot in terms of getting inside their heads and drawing out good dialogue. This doesn't happen as often as it should do although when it does it can be very funny. Hank and Arthur are probably the ones with the strongest lines throughout the season and I liked them both a lot, but for me the rest of the characters seemed too basically drawn – even Larry.

With Larry I was surprised there was not more development done with him – he had a basic character here and the manner of delivery (which is slow rather than rapid fire) makes it feel a bit lethargic around him at times. This is just how I saw it so please don't feel you have to send me abuse about this, but the season mostly lacked sharpness and energy for me. I liked the ideas and I liked specific moments but as a whole it never really got up a good consistent head of steam – so my interest never really turned into enthusiasm and my occasionally laugh never rolled into the next one. The cast are good and given the names here in young roles, there is talent across the board and I do look forward to the next season because I suspect that, like all shows, there is always a season of bedding in, finding feet and identifying what works and should be strengthened and what doesn't that should be reduced.

Season 1 is a slow burn; it deserves credit for its influence and it has frequent good setups and dialogue, but yet it didn't soar or spark for me. There is more than enough potential here to make sure I pick up the second season at least, but those coming to this season off the back of the hyperbolic word of mouth should perhaps take a minute before jumping in.

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