Gary Shandling’s The Larry Sanders’ Show is one of the greatest shows in the history of television, a brilliant, hilarious, and dark deconstruction of a late-night talk show. It’s basically about what goes on behind-the-scenes of a show like The Tonight Show, from the cranky host to the disgruntled, miserable sidekick to guests who are drunk or who have an ax to grind with the host. The series basically put HBO on the map back in the ’90s and launched a thousand careers, including that of Judd Apatow, who launched a thousand more careers.
Last night, for its Fifth Anniversary show, Jimmy Fallon’s The Tonight Show eschewed the typical pageantry of these anniversary shows and, instead, paid homage to The Larry Sanders Show by … becoming The Larry Sanders Show. In some ways, it works even better, because Jimmy Fallon is not mocking a fictional talk show host; he’s mocking himself. He’s satirizing his own persona, and I imagine there’s more than a grain of truth to some of it.
Here’s the opening segment, where Fallon mopes around listlessly ahead of the anniversary show. Ben Stiller is ranting and pissed because his “surprise” has been ruined (here is his surprise), there are cockroaches in the building, Tina Fey is pissed at Fallon, and Fallon is annoyed with Higgins for promoting his out-of-print book to the audience.
The best segment is this one, where Tina Fey — while a clip is airing and during a commercial break — expresses her disgust with Fallon and his “pill-popping,” makes fun of his weight gain, and whispers angrily to him, “Trump got elected because of you.”
Here, the writers’ room takes the piss out of Jimmy by writing his Telemundo promo. It’s in Spanish, so Fallon has no idea what he’s saying. “For a while, I appear to be a happy clown man. What you do not know is that I cry in my sleep every night. My loins ache for your approval. My desperate need for your attention is an illness.”
Finally, here’s Fallon yelling at 15-year-old Robert Irwin backstage, not realizing that his mic is on.
I hate to admit it, but that was good, smart television, and I am guessing that other late-night hosts are kicking themselves for not thinking to do it first.