IFC was already on my happy list for putting repeats of “Freaks and Geeks” and “Undeclared” into a rotation that already included “Arrested Development” and “Monty Python’s Flying Circus,” and now the channel is adding even more awesome comedy reruns.
Starting January 3rd, “The Larry Sanders Show” (the seminal HBO comedy starring Garry Shandling as a neurotic late-night talk show host and Jeffrey Tambor as his idiot sidekick) will go into heavy IFC rotation, airing Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 11 p.m. Two nights later, “The Ben Stiller Show” (a short-lived FOX sketch comedy series that gave early breaks to Janeane Garofalo, Bob Odenkirk and Andy Dick) begins airing Wednesdays at 10:30 p.m., and on January the 7th, “Mr. Show with Bob and David” (Odenkirk and David Cross’ avant garde HBO sketch show) begins a run Fridays at 11:30 p.m.
IFC also announced that reruns of “Action!” – the short-lived FOX comedy starring Jay Mohr as a vicious, foul-mouthed movie executive – will come to the channel towards the end of 2011.
There’s a lot of overlap in the talent for these shows, particularly the first three. Judd Apatow wrote on both “Ben Stiller” and “Larry Sanders,” Odenkirk acted on all three and worked with Cross on “Stiller” and “Mr. Show,” etc. And there’s an obvious spiritual kinship between “Larry Sanders” and “Action.” I enjoyed all those shows to varying degrees – I still quote from various “Ben Stiller Show” sketches nearly 20 years after FOX canceled it – and am using this occasion as an excuse to embed some of my favorite scenes from each that were available on YouTube:
First, here’s what I would argue was the peak of “The Ben Stiller Show” from a parody standpoint, “Die Hard 12: Die Hungry”:
Apatow and Odenkirk have both talked to me about how the show would have needed to move past pure parody had it lasted longer, and there was some movement in that direction in the final episodes. (There’s a weird sketch called “The Legend of TJ O’Pootertoot” that I unfortunately couldn’t find.) And while I can see that, it’s the parodies that have stayed with me the longest, whether it’s this mash-up of “Lassie” and Charles Mason:
Or my wife’s favorite sketch (mainly because I make her listen to Bruce Springsteen too often):
Way too many great “Larry Sanders” moments to choose from, but here are two, both from the series finale. First, Jim Carrey giving Larry a Bette Midler-style serenade that turns ugly:
And second, a payoff to the long-running gag about David Duchovny having a heterosexual crush on Larry:
From “Mr. Show,” here’s the children’s show “The Altered State of Drugachusetts”:
And finally, from “Action,” Mohr’s Peter Dragon (not-so-loosely based on “Action” producer Joel Silver) getting a pitch from an agent (played by actual agent Gavin Polone, best-known these days for being part of Conan O’Brien’s management team):
I’m sure everyone has their favorites, so feel free to link to others in the comments.