Sunday, October 11, 2009

'30 Rock' one of many TV shows about TV shows - Sepinwall on TV

In today's column, I talk briefly about the "30 Rock" premiere (full review to come later this week) as an excuse to look back at the long and occasionally glorious history of real TV shows about the making of fake TV shows.


Baylink said...

The show title was actually "It's Garry Shandling's show", wasn't it?

Or did he actually manage to have 2 series?

I liked quite a lot the way they cut between film and 30i origination on that show; a bit that's been used on a few other shows about shows, including the late, lamented (well, by me, anyway) TV101; I think Breaking News did it too.

Alan Sepinwall said...

That's an entirely different show.

Baylink said...

That's why I do computer networks, and leave the television networks to you. :-)

(Though you'd think I could use the computer networks to answer my question; sheesh:

wv: Venesse - a new shampoo

Jeff L said...

And why oh why has Larry Sanders never come out on DVD! The first season came out years ago, a Best Of came out a year or two ago --- and that's it!

Larry Sanders was a show way ahead of its time: a dark comedy with no laugh track and biting satire, available only on HBO. Ratings, I'm sure, were in the basement, but it had a cast of comedy greats (Shandling, Jeffrey Tambor, Rip Taylor, Bob Odenkirk, Janeane Garofalo etc) and sharp writing.

Absolutely appointment TV for me back when it was on the air. Really wish I could watch it all again.

Pamela Jaye said...

I have not read the article yet (though I will sooner than Flash Forward) but I wanted to kiss your feet for not forgetting Almost Perfect. I really liked that show before Moonves destroyed the plot and fired the boyfriend.

Oh wait, you dared not miss it - you were the person that pointed us to Ken Levine's blog. (I'd forgotten)

I love shows about making TV (except Studio 60) and over the years have watched Breaking News, WIOU (interesting subplot weatherman gets - oh crap, I knew the name of his vision problem a minute ago and first time I saw Jayne Brook(e)), I didn't see a lot of TV 101 (darn), didn't really like Pepper Dennis - speaking of Josh Hopkins, early eps of Brothers & Sisters featured a political talk show)
Never watched Gary Shandling (was it on premium cable?)

@_Baylink and I used to "work" at public access (he much longer than I) and he used to work at a couple of cable networks.

Pamela Jaye said...

I missed Good Morning Miami. A show I liked, love Feuerstein, can't find pilot of Royal Pains, but if you watched 3 eps in a row, it got repetitive.

jblount said...

larry sanders was a big hit basically for hbo wasn't it - lots of acclaim, buzz, press, broke the emmy barrier in being a non-network show getting nominated for the big awards. and why hasn't larry sanders properly come out on dvd? have the two halfassed attempts and the (i'm guessing) poor sales attached to them hampered any shot at a proper season by season rollout? is it the above plus (the usual 'why no dvd' reason) music rights? the show doesn't seem to have quite the rep it did at the time when it was routinely mentioned in the same breath as seinfeld or the simpsons for best comedy of the decade and i'm guessing that because it's been so nearly impossible to watch since it went off the air. still for my money third best series hbo has aired (after the wire and sopranos) and easily best comedy.

Pamela Jaye said...


"Sorkin's uncomfortable polemic about all he had grown to hate about popular culture, politics and religion"

would it have played better if he could somehow made it into a farce or send up, rather than his own personal whine-fest? Has this been done? (didn't watch Shandling, but I do watch 30 Rock - they mostly gripe about the parent company NBC, KMart or whatever, do they ever cover S&P? Love the show but don't remember a lot, apparently. I did really love the fake Janis Joplin stuffpera)

Pamela Jaye said...

There were a couple of fun bits in Almost Perfect - the ep where Gary directed (and destroyed the sets by the injudicious used of the acronym N.O.W.) and the one Kim directed where Mike was an extra.

I'm sorry to have missed Grosse Pointe, alas Lateline wasn't whatever I expected it to be (but I'm the girl who was disappointed by the Ruttles, so probaby it was just me.)

Pamela Jaye said...

hmm... Shandling/Sanders/music rights - I have no inside scoop but an article I read recently implied studios are woring on these things - Ally McBeal popped up in my Target cirular last Sunday, without my having seen the press release, of any of the previous mentions.
This is my 2nd favorite show of all time & #1, Quantum Leap, was destroyed by the studio not pursuing the music.
So far I've only watched ep 1.06 and the extras.

I miss Peter MacNicol and wonder what show I'm not watching that he might be in now.

and yes, I found the answer to my Shandling/cable question. sorry.

amyp3 said...

I haven't read the whole article yet, but I can't even see the title "Sports Night" without still sighing over the premature ending of a past favorite. (I had a beef against West Wing for the longest time because it had been Sorkin's favored child.)

But of this notion that TV programs about TV are too "insider-ish," Canadian critic, Bill Harris commented that's like saying "CSI" is too police insider-ish or "The Office" is too paper-company insider-ish.

Or my favorite example, referring to a Canadian show, that "'Being Erica' is too time-travel insider-ish."

Paul Outlaw said...

Beggars and Choosers—ahead of its time...

JT said...

HBO feels that TLSS would not sell enough sets to warrant releasing the rest of the show. that first season sold nothing. the only place to see the show is if they ever rerun it on HBO or find it online. That's it.

Zack Smith said...

I sort of regard THE FAMOUS TEDDY Z as an insider-y show, though it mainly dealt with movies (there was a very funny episode that showed up online last year about pitching a show idea to the network, though).

Part of the problem might be that most TV shows aren't about jobs, period. Doctor, cop and lawyer shows, yes, but when you step outside of procedurals, most shows are so much about the relationships of the characters that they never seem to do any actual work at all. In most cases, the characters have some vaguely-defined but cool-sounding job that they are apparently good at doing, but rarely affect their lives unless they date a co-worker or they get laid off.

NBC was particualrly bad at this in the 1990s, leading to my favorite moment on FRIENDS where Monica and Rachel don't know the answer to the trivia question "What is Chandler Bing's job?"

Many people might think, "Oh, it would be fun to be a newscaster or a professor or an architect..."
(yes, I'm thinking of a specific show there), but I'm guessing very few even think of the specific people who write television shows. And when you have programs like these, they often heavily focus on those jobs, more so than shows that just give the charactes a generic cool-sounding occupation.

Just a theory. Props for recalling GROSSE POINTE and ALMOST PERFECT, which were both highly underrated.

Anonymous said...

Ah, Max Headroom - that was a a a a a sh sh sh show.

And speaking of "The Comeback", wasn't the sitcom suppose to star Lisa Kudrow's character but she ended up being the old lady next door. I wonder if something similiar will happen to Dharma on "Accidently On Purpose"?


Anonymous said...

Hi, Alan,

This isn't really related to the subject at hand, but since you tweeted about your 'urge to kill over "push the envelope"' I'ma go ahead'n ask:

In your column, you wrote about Lateline, '"SNL" alum and future U.S. Senator Al Franken...' and what I want to know is, do you have something against using the word alumnus? That substitution bugs me no end.


leor said...

how timely is this: a sporcle game based on this exact theme!