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Very often, Larry Sanders is so funny I have to choke back a guffaw lest I miss the next punchline.And I can’t think of another sitcom that repays taping and repeated viewing as well.5 THE SIMPSONS (Fox) Unappreciated now because the media celebrated Bart-mania years ago, The Simpsons continues to be the most reliable satire on network TV.The season opener, in which Homer and family left Springfield to work and live in a happy-faced, fascist corporate community was such a dead-on critique of the Disney empire, I swear I heard Rupert Murdoch chuckling.David Duchovny’s Fox Mulder and Gillian Anderson’s Dana Scully now give off a united glow that says to the world, ”We’re right, you’re wrong, back off.” There’s no denying that The X-Files is more uneven these days (that episode where Mulder was remembering past lives was more heartburn commercial than X-File), but this is one series in which such erratic-ness is less a sign of creative exhaustion than of an admirably heedless faith in flaky flukiness.3 THE LARRY SANDERS SHOW (HBO) Garry Shandling is TV’s purest artist, quietly yet aggressively laboring over an unmatched portrait of show-business egotism.Representing a final flourish of ’90s irony, it’s a deconstruction of talk shows that’s now even better than David Letterman’s.
The results are dumb, sure, but also lacking in Baywatch’s blithe goofiness.
I’m thinking not only of the racism embedded in the soul of Andy Sipowicz (the earthshakingly good Dennis Franz) but of the increasing complexity of Bobby Simone (Jimmy Smits).
Whether Bobby was cruelly slapping around that squirrelly little creep Henry (Willie Garson), or finding himself unable to resist the little-boy selfishness that’s been mucking up his relationship with Diane (Kim Delaney), Smits somehow managed to make every flicker in Bobby’s mind register on his stoic face.
9 SEINFELD (NBC) Last season’s concluding episode, in which George’s fiancee Susan died a ridiculous death (poisoned by the glue on cheap wedding-invite envelopes), was widely decried for its coldheartedness.
I laughed at the episode and at the protests — what, from writer-cocreator Larry David you expected warmth?