Monday, March 28, 2016

Remembering "It's Garry Shandling's Show"


R.I.P. Garry Shandling. Back in 1997 I wrote a tribute to his great 1980s series "It's Garry Shandling's Show" for my job at the time, the weekly TV trade Electronic Media. We named the series one of the "10 Shows That Made Cable," and it's easy to forget now how landmark it was.

From Electronic Media, July 21, 1997, here's my story, written in the style of the show's self-referential theme song:

This is the story about "It's Garry Shandling's Show."

This is the article that mentions how "Garry Shandling" became one of the first network-quality sitcoms on cable, helping establish a new outlet for creative talent and spur original series development for cable outlets.

This piece also notes that "Garry Shandling" became the first cable show to make the transition to network television, when Fox picked up reruns of the Showtime series in 1988.

This paragraph describes how "Garry Shandling" originally landed at Showtime. The show had originally been developed for primetime, but was rejected by all three (at the time) broadcast networks.

"They thought it was too unusual for primetime TV," said Brad Grey, who executive produced the show, in the fifth paragraph of this story. "[Showtime] was a very comfortable environment, we had total creative freedom. We got to do something rather bold compared to what was on the networks."

Here's the obligatory show description: "It's Garry Shandling's Show," which debuted in the fall of 1986 on Showtime, starred Mr. Shandling as a fictional version of himself--a successful comic with several neuroses.

The show parodied the sitcom format, with Mr. Shandling opening each show by speaking to the camera and regularly pausing from the action to make an observation or interact with the studio audience.

This article will now surmise that cross-pollination has become common between cable and broadcast TV, such as "Politically Incorrect's" move to ABC, in part because "Garry Shandling" forced executives to notice what was being done on cable.

"Cable has flourished since then, it's another venue to distribute half-hour TV," Mr. Grey said.

This article's almost done, but to wrap things up: These days, Mr. Shandling stars in the critical hit "Larry Sanders" on HBO, while other cable networks such as USA Network and Turner Network Television, and even niche channels like MTV and Nickelodeon, produce much original programming.

Still, "There hasn't been a cable or pay-TV series that's had the same level of success financially in the back-end as primetime," Mr. Grey said. "For that reason, some of the major studios shy away from it because the money hasn't proven to be there yet."

--Michael Schneider

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