‘Sanders’ sans post-HBO market

HBO interested in reruns, but says asking price too high

NEW YORK – Columbia TriStar TV Distribution’s “The Larry Sanders Show” ends its run on HBO Sunday with no aftermarket deals yet for the reruns.

The question of the aftermarket for “Larry Sanders” came up during a press briefing here May 27 with the three principals of the series, Garry Shandling, Jeffrey Tambor and Rip Torn, at an HBO screening room after the showing of the final one-hour episode.

Jeff Bewkes,chairman and CEO of HBO, told reporters that HBO would be very interested in signing a contract to continue running the series, which over its six-year life filmed a total of 88 episodes, including the 60-minute finale.

But sources say CTTD is asking too much money for the reruns, upwards of $400,000 a half-hour. A spokesman for CTTD declined comment.

CTTD has sounded out TV stations in the past to try to presell “Sanders” in off-HBO syndication, trying to convince station G.M.s that despite the profanity, the insider references and the often loathsome behavior of the lead characters, the show will play in Middle America, at least in latenight time periods. Stations would pay no cash but would set aside three or four minutes in each half-hour for CTTD to control and sell to national advertisers. CTTD would also include a simultaneous cash sale to a cable network like Comedy Central, which would share the window with TV syndication.

A reporter asked Shandling in the Q&A whether he shot a second version of each episode, aimed at TV syndication, without the four-lettter words. “We tried doing dual episodes, but all Mr. Torn would end up doing is to change the ‘c’ word to the ‘f’ word,” Shandling said with a smile.

About Shandling’s future, Bewkes said, “I’m confident Garry will do another HBO show.” Without skipping a beat, Shandling said, “I’m already working on this great idea about a funny astronaut.”