The recent scramble on the late-night talkshow circuit to pick up the fallout from Johnny Carson's departure has primed the pumps for this very fast and funny take-off of life after prime time.

The recent scramble on the late-night talkshow circuit to pick up the fallout from Johnny Carson’s departure has primed the pumps for this very fast and funny take-off of life after prime time.

Created by Garry Shandling and Brad Grey, “The Larry Sanders Show” takes in the world of an insecure night-time talkshow host (Shandling) who strives to be No. 1 but never forgets to look over his shoulder as he weaves his way through a maze of sharks dressed as network exex, guest stars who lie through their teeth and producers who’ve made it an art to talk out of both sides of their mouth.

And who better to take on this somewhat beleaguered everyman role than Shandling, the consummate master of introspection. Sanders not only constantly tries to read between the lines, but also delivers them with acidic regularity as he, too, tends to sharpen the knife when people’s backs are turned.

With writer Peter Tolan (“Murphy Brown”) as co-exec producer and scripter, and director Ken Kwapis skillfully at the helm, “The Larry Sanders Show” is an often ruthless but hilarious skewering of the names and faces that have lulled a nation to sleep for 25 years.

Like amiable sidekick Hank (Jeffrey Tambor), who laughs at Sanders’ jokes on-air and makes bucks on the side doing commercial spots for the show’s advertisers. Or quick-thinking producer Arthur, wonderfully realized by Rip Torn. Haven’t we seen these men somewhere before?

That question’s often asked as Sanders comes face-to-face with such real-life celebs as Carol Burnett–who promptly whispers behind his back that he has no comic timing–Robert Hayes and a shy Dana Carvey, who finds that making small talk while the credits roll can be tough.

It’s a clever melding of real-life and on-camera stuff that’s down and dirty and diabolic in its intent. Pushed into HBO’s late-night slot, it may need some promotion given a somewhat dull-sounding title, but the show is an absolute gem.

The Larry Sanders Show

(Sat. (15), 10:30-11 p.m., HBO)

Production

A Brillstein/Grey Production for HBO. Exec producers, Brad Grey, Garry Shandling; co-exec producer, Peter Tolan; exec consultant, Sandy Wernick; producer, John Ziffren; created by Shandling, Dennis Klein; director, Ken Kwapis; writer, Peter Tolan.

Crew

Camera, Peter Smokler; music, Frank Fitzpatrick; sets, Kathy Cahill.

Cast

Cast: Garry Shandling, Rip Torn, Jeffrey Tambor, Jon Lovitz, Megan Gallagher, Wallace Langham, Jeremy Piven, Penny Johnson, Janeane Garofalo, Linda Doucett.
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