Mar 25, 2016

It's Garry Shandling's Show

I was saddened to hear of the death of Garry Shandling, the 66-year old comedian best known for The Larry Sanders Show (1992-1998), and before that, It's Garry Shandling's Show (1986-1990).

In West Hollywood we watched It's Garry Shandling's Show on Showtime every Wednesday night.

It was a precursor to Seinfeld and a throwback to the old radio sitcoms where the characters were aware that they were characters and commented on their own plotlines.  Garry played "himself" as the star of a sitcom about a comedian.

His George was the nebbish next door neighbor Pete (Michael Tucci), who had a wife and a nebbish teenage son, Grant (Scott Nemes).

His Elaine was "platonic" neighbor Nancy (Molly Cheek), who dated and eventually married Ian McFyfer (Ian Buchanan).

His Kramer was Leonard Smith (Paul Willson), the owner of his condo.

There was a steady stream of other friends and associates, including a lot of Garry's girlfriends, and a lot of celebrities playing themselves: Rob Reiner, Tom Petty, Martin Mull, Red Buttons, Chevy Chase, Norman Fell, Jeff Goldblum, Gilda Radner.

Plots were mostly about "nothing."  Garry babysits.  Garry gets a pet.  Jeff Goldblum visits.

Sometimes they were elaborately self-referential:

Grant wins a trip to Hollywood, where he goes to a taping of the show.

Grant is accused of beating up a kid at school, but the a member of the studio audience saw what really happened, and tells the principal.

Not a lot of beefcake except for an occasional bulge, and no explicit gay content, but lots of subtexts.
1. Garry and Pete had a nice bromance going on.
2. Grant rarely expressed interest in girls, and often came across as a gay kid.  Notice his obvious interest in Garry's basket in this shot.

Besides, it had a great theme song:

This is the theme to Garry's show, the theme to Garry's show. 
Garry called me up and asked if I would write his theme song. 
I'm almost halfway finished, how do you like it so far?
How do you like the theme to Garry's show?

See also: 10 Things I Love and Hate about Seinfeld.

Mar 21, 2016

Greatest American Hero

None of the science fiction comedies that filled the airwaves in the 1970s and 1980s (Automan, My Secret Identity, The Powers of Matthew StarMisfits of Sciencewere entirely heterosexist; the bumbling hero is usually "allergic to girls" or "shy around girls."  But The Greatest American Hero (1981-1983) went even farther, portraying not only a lack of heterosexual interest but intense homoerotic buddy bonding.

It starred curly-haired blond William Katt, who had previously displayed ample buddy-bonding (and a pleasantly muscular physique) in Big Wednesday (1979) and the Broadway musical Pippin (1981).

He played mild-mannered teacher Ralph Hinkley.  The show premiered on March 18, 1981, and on March 30th, a man named John Hinkley tried to assassinate President Reagan. Skittish producers fudged on his name for the rest of the season, and finally gave up and changed it to Hunkley.

While driving in the desert, Ralph and FBI Agent Bill Maxwell (Robert Culp of I Spy) encounter a UFO.  Its occupants assign them the task of fighting evil, and give Ralph a special flying suit.  Unfortunately, he loses the instruction book.

Plots veered between the realistic and the ridiculous.  The kids in Ralph's class get a piece of the action, as does attorney Pam Davidson (Connie Selleca), who eventually marries Ralph.  But in spite of the "fade out kiss," Ralph's main emotional connection is with Bill.  And since Bill doesn't have any superpowers, he gets captured by the bad guys quite often, prompting a daring rescue and a "my hero!" moment.

Since Ralph was always putting his uniform on and taking it off, there were many shirtless scenes, revealing a physique quite a bit more muscular than one would expect for any mild-mannered schoolteacher.  Katt appeared fully nude in Playgirl magazine in 1982.

In its second season, Greatest American Hero was put in a Friday night time slot -- when teenagers were usually out -- and opposite the mega-hit Dallas -- so ratings declined, and it was cancelled.

Robert Culp was not dismayed -- he had already been on tv for many years.  William Katt went on to star in the buddy-bonding horror movie House (1986), plus several  Perry Mason movies (his mother, Barbara Hale, played the attorney's secretary in the original series).  He's still working constantly, with eight projects in 2010 alone.
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