[Contains unsafe celebrity-themed night-lights and SPOILERS!!!]
The fourth season of The Larry Sanders Show (1995) was the series high-point for ‘Paula’ and Janeane Garofalo alike… not only did they appear in the majority of the episodes here, but also scored two significant sub-plots of their own (plus several fleeting “love” interests), resulting in an Emmy nomination for “Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series”. Yay! This must have been the season I was remembering when I impulsively/drunkenly ordered this boxset before Xmas, assuming that they were all as Paula-packed as this one was… but the sad truth is that this was the peak of the series, and she/we would never have it this good again. For shame! Still, enough of the kvetching, let’s do some revelling instead: In ep #4.6 Paula hooked up with Artie’s antagonistic son ‘Cully’ (Colin Quinn), who’d landed a job on the show through pure nepotism, and was a terrible fit for the role of Production Assistant (the ungrateful swine also cheated on our heroine with a random blonde Page, so boo to him!). In #4.8 Paula attended an after-awards-show party with ‘Larry’ (Garry Shandling), where she was supposed to ask Jeff Goldblum to be a guest on the show (thus saving her boss the embarrassment of doing it himself, and risking his friendship with the actor), but was too distracted by a tray of canapés to close the deal. D’oh!
In ep #4.10 Paula rode a properly dramatic rollercoaster when her relationship with Larry’s agent ‘Stevie Grant’ (played by Garofalo’s old pal Bob Odenkirk) started impacting on the show, and she was accused of booking a disproportionate number of her boyfriend’s clients. The two of them had several lovey-dovey scenes, as well as a fairly dramatic break up and break down… but despite their reconciliation at the end of the episode, the two of them were never seen together as a couple again… which is a damn shame because they I was really pulling for those two crazy kids! Then in ep #4.11, Paula started behaving like “a colossal bitch” after receiving bad news from her doctor, while also facing a rather ill-timed reunion with a former celebrity fling (guest-star Brett Butler). And finally in ep #4.13, Paula made her first speaking appearance on the show-within-a-show, after Larry had a brainstorm/fart about getting the backstage staff to play humorous versions of themselves on-screen. She was billed as “The Sour Booker”, and got tricked into nervously trying to hide her hypothetical double-chin by a devious ‘Hank’ (Jeffrey Tambor), but still managed to attract enough attention from cute alt-rockers to make the whole debacle worthwhile. Hurrah!
Meanwhile, Penny Johnson Jerald finally got a ‘Beverly’-centric storyline in ep #4.14, when her visiting cousin ‘Clyde’ (Paul Mooney) accused Larry of being a racist (after he refused to sign a public petition in favour of Affirmative Action), and nudged her to look for a new job, with a blacker boss. Of course, she couldn’t leave Larry, because he makes her laugh so much (and paid her better than the other prospective employers would have), so thankfully they were able to hug and make up, after he made a sincere effort to show her some much-deserved appreciation and affection. Bless. Although this was her only major sub-plot, Jerald continued to steal numerous scenes throughout the season, and was particularly adorable in ep #4.13, when the camera-shy Beverly was cast as a supporting player in a lame Waterworld parody skit, after her proposed on-air bit as a “Nosy Black Secretary” was cut by a rueful Larry.
As for the supporting players: Sandra Bernhard appeared in ep #4.3 as a guest on the show, being her usual awesome self… and then returned in the finale (ep #4.17) to fill in for Larry, after he took time off to recover from cosmetic surgery. Apparently this was her twelfth stint as a substitute host, and she pulled in strong enough ratings to get the network suits speculating about having her replace Larry on a more permanent basis! That didn’t happen, of course, but with the season ending on a cliff-hanger, it’s fun to fantasise about an alternative timeline in which Bernhard became the star of the show… and wooed Paula in a super-romantic season-long story-arc that won both actresses multiple awards, and moved the American public en masse to demand the legal recognition of Gay marriage several decades before it happened in our reality! No? Just me, then. Megan Gallagher returned in ep #4.5 as Larry’s now-ex-wife ‘Jeannie Sanders’, seeking closure via a rather unlikely liaison with both Larry and Hank (though thankfully not at the same time). She also made an amusingly ironic (?)comment about never having seen The X-Files, as part of a running gag at David Duchovny’s expense… technically, this cameo predated the launch of Millennium, but I’ve no idea whether Gallagher had been cast on the show or not at that point. Either way, it made me chuckle.
A perturbed Jennifer Aniston appeared in ep #4.10, caught in the crossfire between Stevie and Paula, getting booked as a guest on the show, then un-booked and rebooked at the last minute! Friends cast-mate Courteney Cox was treated far more respectfully when she appeared in ep #4.13, with ‘Artie’ (Rip Torn) bending over backwards to meet her finicky dressing-room demands… though Hank did manage to confuse her with Courtney Love, which must have been a blow to her ego. K.D. Lang* appeared in ep #4.16 as a musical guest on the show, re-igniting a fantastically petty feud with nuisance-neighbour Hank… while Rosie O’Donnell earned herself an Emmy nomination (“Outstanding Guest Actress”) for the same episode, as she fumed at having to drive herself to the lot, park miles away from the actual studio, and then discover that her brand-new car had been dinged by a careless Farrah Fawcett! Finally, Julianna Margulies appeared in ep #4.17, tending to Larry after his totally unnecessary operation (apparently they weren’t dating, so she was simply there in her capacity as an-actress-who-plays-a-nurse-on-TV!)… while Feminist author Gloria Steinem appeared as a guest on the talk-show, enduring Hank’s cringe-worthy attempt to express his own dubious take on gender equality. Eeesh.
* I refuse to support her subversive use of lowercase letters! Names and proper nouns should always be capitalised, dammit! It’s the law!