Robert Hampton

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23rd March 2010

Get into the Flashback Booth
Posted by at 4.58pm | Television | No responses

It was Autumn 1996 (I think) and your humble webmaster was flicking around the channels on his Telewest analogue cable box (Channel 7 is YOUR local channel!), alighting on the nascent Paramount Comedy. This was a time before the channel could rely on Frasier and South Park to prop up its schedules, and instead relied on two main sources of programming: old US sitcoms from the 1970s, and old US sitcoms from the 1990s which were cancelled after 7 episodes.

Amidst all the rubbish was the occasional gem, and the one I discovered that cold October night was It’s Garry Shandling’s Show, a wonderfully surreal sitcom starring the titular comedian and his neighbours. What marked this show out was that all the characters “knew” they were in a sitcom — cue much fourth-wall breaking and subverting of the genre. It wasn’t unusual to see the show play around with time (“It’s now two weeks later!”) or turn the cameras around to get the audience involved: one memorable episode saw the audience invited to Garry’s mother’s birthday party, only to give her a heart attack when they yelled, “Surprise!”

Running for four seasons from 1986-1990 (and originally screened in the UK on BBC2), it was somewhat overshadowed when Shandling made The Larry Sanders Show in the following decade, and nobody really seems to remember this show. There’s not even many dodgy clips on YouTube to jog the memory.

But I have found a morsel of Flash video goodness for you, so while you’re waiting for that essential DVD to arrive, here’s the ace opening titles in full, setting the tone for everything that follows:-