TELEVISION / Lauouaof? I nearly bought the Garden Weasel
The abiding vice of most American comedy is its inability to leave bad alone. Now that the right not to be offended has virtually been written into the constitution, there is a sort of terror at the notion that characters might say something spiteful and really mean it. Unresolved hostility or bad feeling makes producers so jumpy that it has to be pasted over with a crisp one-liner or, even worse, drenched in Sentiment Lite. But just as you can swear on cable television (and Larry Sanders makes good dramatic use of the freedom, snagging through the synthetic courtesy of American power politics), you can also admit the possibility that malice and dislike don't necessarily kill a comedy.
The series takes the form of an impeccable simulation of a late-night talk show, a hybrid of Letterman and Tonight. Even the guests are real, so that the on-screen sequences are indistinguishable from the real thing (it doesn't matter that they're mildly satirical because both Tonight and Letterman actually have elements of cocky self-mockery about them). Larry Sanders, though, can show the panic beneath the surface suavity - the neuroses, greed and commercial stupidity of high-ratings network television.
It's also refreshing because its repertoire of laughs is unusually wide for American comedy. Cheers and Roseanne are essentially driven, their comic set-pieces the equivalent of a brilliantly planned and executed touchdown. They have to score regularly if they're to beat the opposition. Larry Sanders is more relaxed; it ambles around the subject and knows you can find rich comedy in a scene which not only has no punch-line but which essentially consists of people leaving things unsaid, as in an edgy boardroom confrontation between Sanders and the ball- breaking female executive who wants him to do live ads on his talk show ('What do we do to keep our advertisers happy apart from giving them hand-jobs?' she demands). Most importantly, as Sanders, Garry Shandling delivers a real performance, not just a stand-up routine - his reluctant attempts to sell an implement called the Garden Weasel ('Garden Weasel? Why doncha just call it the Rat-Stick or something?') brilliantly combined a sense of shame and the comic's neurotic hunger for a laugh . . . any laugh.
Eurotrash (C4), the sexiest programme currently on air, is well-named. It has only two selling points - the campy double-act of Jean-Paul Gaultier and Antoine de Caunes and the guaranteed presence of full frontal nudes. Last night the full frontal nude was a generously endowed male porn star, which wasn't quite what I had in mind when I turned on, but the double-act was as engrossing as ever. There aren't enough vowels in a Scrabble set to transcribe De Caunes pronunciation of 'laugh' (the Reader's Digest version would look something like 'lauouaof'). It isn't just how they say things that is wonderful, though, but the cheerfully infantile nature of what they say. Last night, after several episodes in which viewers had been invited to laugh at Europeans, Antoine decided we might be getting above ourself - 'zat's why tonight we jast want to re-mind you zat you're a very seely and insignifi-cant cantry.' 'Nobody cares about you,' Jean-Paul pitched in, 'you are just a sad leetle island wiz bad food zat we see only when we fly to New York.' 'Nicely put, Jean-Paul.' This is, surely, the acceptable face of European unity.
After giving gay film R-rating despite no sex or violencefilm
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again – it would be immoral to bring it into the world'
- 2 ALS ice bucket challenge co-founder Corey Griffin drowns, aged 27
- 3 James Foley beheading: Fox news presenter Megyn Kelly annoyed by Ferguson update during broadcast about murdered journalist
- 4 Kajieme Powell: Missouri police release video footage of second man killed by officers
- 5 Paul Scholes: Manchester United need five experienced players who can turn round a desperate situation
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC
The Top Ten: Horrible buildings
JK Rowling writes new Harry Potter story on Pottermore: Introducing 'Singing Sorceress' Celestina Warbuck
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Celebrity Big Brother 2014 line-up: Meet the contestants from Lauren Goodger to Kellie Maloney and Audley Harrison
Scottish independence: English people overwhelmingly want Scotland to stay in the UK
Isis threat: Cameron wants an alliance with Iran
Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again – it would be immoral to bring it into the world'
Crisis? What crisis? A visiting US doctor gives the NHS a rave review
Michael Brown shooting: Chaos erupts on the streets of Ferguson after autopsy shows teenager was shot six times – twice in the head
Scottish Independence Referendum: Salmond described as 'arrogant, ambitious and dishonest' by Scottish women