Last night ended up as a Larry Sanders marathon. I’ve been taping them on my Sky+ box, and decided to watch a couple, and just couldn’t stop. Brilliant stuff, some of the best comedy writing there is. It got me wondering why there aren’t more shows on this level. I got to thinking about Garry Shandling’s take on Extras (when he was interviewed by Ricky Gervais, he suggested that the way in which Gervais handled race and disability was pretty lazy and obvious, and that there are more sophisticated ways to handle such topics). I feel that Shandling has a right to be smug in Gervais’ direction, as in Larry Sanders he wrote a far superior office comedy to The Office. It’s meant to be about a talk show, but most of it is based around the office relationships, universal stuff. You’ve got his producer, Artie, who is one of the most incredible characters in all of sitcom, evil and thorougly likeable all at once. In face, most of the characters shift positions, are good and bad in many different ways. Larry can be funny and superior, or weak and needy, sometimes from scene to scene. The one constant is that Hank will always lose, no matter what happens.
I think it’s that depth that is key, you get an overall sketch of what a character will behave like, but you can’t always depend on that, sometimes they let you down, or act beyond themselves, but without being someone that doesn’t fit within that overall sketch. Perhaps the problem with a lot of sitcoms is that the overall sketch is all you ever see of all bar one or two characters, they have to sit within that all the time, and it is a rare moment they will change. That could also be down to the difference between English and American sitcoms, in that the latter have a lot more episodes to play with.
I guess I’m trying to think of a situation or location where I could mimic that depth more fully, not copy it, but somewhere where characters could have room to grow.