“Out Of The Loop” (season 1, episode 8, original airdate Oct. 3, 1992)
Opening credits guests: Treat Williams, Helen Gurley Brown, Paula Poundstone
Hank’s introduction of Larry in the opening credits: “Because he’s so pumped up with adrenaline, it would be a shame to waste it…”
What can be said about “Out Of The Loop” that Noel Murray didn’t already say in one of his typically terrific installments of A Very Special Episode? Not much, I think, so let’s keep this one brief. Read Noel’s column if you haven’t already.
• Marjorie Gross wrote this episode. She was also a producer on Seinfeld and wrote a few of its great episodes, such as “The Secretary,” “The Fusilli Jerry,” and “The Understudy.” She also wrote for Get A Life, Newhart, and even Square Pegs. Sadly, she died in 1996 at age 40 from ovarian cancer.
• I loved the Abbott and Costello rhythm of this exchange between Larry and Artie, which is emblematic of the kind of pointless conversations that take place in offices everywhere every day:
“Do you ever notice that we get caught up in a certain kind of thought process?”
“Yeah, thought process.”
“What thought process?”
“Like the thought process we’re involved in right now. I think we should try to catch it and put a stop to it.”
“Fine, put a stop to it we shall do.”
• Man, I’d love to see an issue of Hank’s newsletter. The Hank’s Thoughts column he dictates in this episode reminds me of Jackie Harvey: “It’s October, and we all know what that means. If Princess Di were here, I’d tell her, ‘Hang in there!’ I’d kill for a Dreamsicle right now. Maybe it’s me, but I think Sharon Gless should be on TV every night. If I had my druthers, there would be no more world hunger.”
• Hank, watching Jerry bang Sally in his car: “Wow, I thought I had a hairy ass!”
• The shallowness of people in show business is a frequent target on The Larry Sanders Show, and this episode offered another funny example: Sally is turned on by Jerry only because he’s the head writer of the show. Every time they have sex, she makes him repeatedly say “I’m the head writer!” But who are we to question her? Fucking Jerry led to the job as a talent coordinator for Saturday Night Live.
• Larry, picking up the phone as Jerry and Phil fight in his office, “Hello? Meeting?” Such a wuss.
“The Talk Show” (season 1, episode 9, original airdate Oct. 10, 1992)
Opening credits guests: N/A
Hank’s introduction of Larry in the opening credits: N/A
“The Flirt” gave us insight into Jeannie and Larry’s marriage, and with “The Talk Show,” the countdown until its dissolution has begun. The show skips the usual intro with Hank this week to go straight to Jeannie and Larry arguing backstage. Larry’s trying to prepare for the imminent beginning of the show, and she’s trying to convey how deeply unhappy she is. “The only way I’m going to talk to you is if I’m booked on the show as a guest.”
All of this occurs in front of everyone backstage, establishing a theme that will continue through “The Talk Show”: Larry’s private life is not so private. “My life is falling apart,” Larry says to Artie later. “I’m glad there are these TV cameras here to cover it. This is like the Hindenburg. How much longer ’til you start shouting ‘Oh the humanity!’”
We’ve talked about Jeannie not understanding Larry’s world before, but during the first part of “The Talk Show,” it’s hard not to feel sympathetic toward her. Even though Larry is clearly distracted by the preparation for that night’s show, you get the sense he treats their problems dismissively even when he doesn’t have to go on the air in a few minutes. He’s so clueless that he doesn’t know that she’s been sleeping all day for weeks. When she says she’s planning to go home to Chicago for a while, it finally registers with Larry, who leaps from distracted to full-blown panic.
There’s a time and a place to tell someone you’re leaving, and minutes before he hosts a talk show isn’t it. But you get a real sense that Jeannie doesn’t know what else to do. “Your career overshadows our life together,” she says when Larry hurries backstage after the monologue. “They get you for eight minutes, and I get you for 90 seconds. That’s pretty much the problem in a nutshell.”
Also the problem in a nutshell: Larry had promised to come back and talk to Jeannie after he cut the monologue short, but he goes to Artie first. You can argue that Larry’s frightened and needs Artie’s advice, but that’s also the problem: He can’t deal with this problem on his own—worse, Artie treats marriages as disposable, so he’s not the best person to ask for advice. As he later says matter-of-factly about Jeannie’s trip, “If they cross two or more time zones, that’s the rule of thumb—probably gone for good.”
As stressed as he is about his decaying marriage, Larry is still Larry: Talking to Catherine O’Hara during the first commercial break, he can’t help but gossip about his soon-to-be rival talk-show host Chevy Chase. “Can you picture him hosting a talk show?”
Speaking of Jeannie not understanding Larry’s world, we get a couple of good reasons for her to avoid it at all costs when we see the ladies and Artie trying to make her feel better. Surrounded by Darlene, Beverly, and Paula, Jeannie gets some unsolicited advice: “Jeannie, look at the bright side,” Darlene says. “You have a beautiful home, you have great cars, you never have to worry about paying bills. Sure he ignores you, but nothing in life is free.” The other two don’t have anything better to offer, and neither does Artie: “Larry’s a good man, but he is a performer, and you should try to think of a performer as a small, helpless child.”
“No, Artie—you know I have sex with him,” Jeannie responds. “I’m so sorry,” Artie says quickly.
If this is the world in which Larry operates, can a non-showbiz person from Chicago co-exist with it? It really doesn’t look that way, especially when Larry decides the way to solve their problems isn’t to talk, but to book a spur-of-the-moment trip to Maui. With sweeps coming up, that’s not possible, either.
Larry can’t deal with his situation like a normal person, and he somehow manages to turn that into an advantage: He brings Jeannie on set like an interview guest. After blowing the first part of his Billy Crystal interview with dated references and questions—Crystal is there to promote Mr. Saturday Night—he recovers in the second part. But instead of showing a clip, which they’ve lost anyway, he calls Jeannie up on stage. It’s a sweet gesture that clearly surprises her. To show he’s serious, he even bumps Kim Basinger during sweeps to have Jeannie back.
There’s no indication that the gambit paid off. In the last shot of the episode, Larry and Jeannie stand looking at each other uncertainly, before Artie bounds up on stage and says “This is the best show we’ve ever done!”
Turns out it’s a Band-Aid—one that gets ripped off in the next episode, “The Party.”
• Younger readers probably don’t know about it, but Chevy Chase had a short-lived talk show—it lasted only six weeks—on Fox in the fall of 1993. That was the peak of the late-night wars: Leno on The Tonight Show on NBC, David Letterman debuting opposite him on CBS in August of ’93, Arsenio doing well in syndication. Fox had made an offer to Letterman, but the network wasn’t nearly as powerful in 1993 as it is now, so Letterman didn’t take it seriously. Fox sunk everything it had into The Chevy Chase show, enlisting Lucie Salhany—who had brought Arsenio to Paramount—to make the show a hit. It would go down as one of late night’s biggest fiascos. Bill Carter wrote this about the show in The Late Shift:
Chase came on with an opening show so excruciatingly awful that it became an instant television classic—of the wrong kind. With an opening that simulated vomiting and a mawkish display of mutual congratulations with his onetime costar Goldie Hawn, Chase lost all credibility as a talk-show host in just one night. Only masochism and massive investment induced Fox to keep Chevy on the air for six weeks.
• Crystal says during a commercial break that he wrote and directed Mr. Saturday Night, in addition to starring in it, so he’s in bad shape if the film isn’t a hit. It wasn’t. Going up against The Last Of The Mohicans for its opening weekend, it was thoroughly trounced. Captain Ron, which had been out for two weeks, even beat it. The film would be dropped from theaters in three weeks, grossing only $13 million.
• Beverly to Larry and Jeannie: “You guys are pathetic. This is so unprofessional. You wouldn’t catch black folks doing this. The man takes charge, and the woman gets what she wants without making a fuss.”