– following my umpteenth multi-season binge I have to lock “Larry Sanders” in as my second favorite tv program ever; it pulls off the show-within-a-show concept masterfully, presenting top tier Hollywood parody along side deft exploration of humanity’s awkward, painful flashes (Garry Shandling says “Sanders” is really about people searching for love, and he’s right)
– my first favorite tv program ever is “Space Ghost: Coast to Coast,” which takes the “Sanders” concept and swaps humanity for outer space-themed absurdity (elsewhere in my top five: “The Simpsons,” “Duckman”)
– for a program that ran from ’92 until ’98 it’s hard to sniff out any super dated aspects of “Sanders”; that said, it’s trippy to see the episode where they let a pre-“Daily Show” Jon Stewart take over for Larry and he runs everything into the ground, considering he did the exact opposite in real life
– I’m never prepared for that Garry Shandling/Roseanne make-out scene, and I mean that in the best way; you really get caught up in their attraction (similarly, the Mary Lynn Rajskub/Jeffrey Tambor kissing scene that you expect to be weird turns out very sweet)
– so many great little character flourishes pop up once and are never mentioned again, like Artie’s enjoyment of Pod era Breeders and the fact Paula cuts Darlene’s hair
– watch this show for too long and your head will reverberate with all of Rip Torn’s thunderous growling
– my brain would collapse into its own black hole if you asked me to name my favorite “Sanders” guest star; David Duchovny’s up there, Roseanne’s up there, Bruno Kirby’s up there, Paul Mooney, the Butthole Surfers, Wu Tang Clan, Kevin Nealon…I can already feel neurons dying
– if the holodeck from “Star Trek” was real I’d spend a stupid amount of time lounging around Larry’s office
– my favorite line from this series and possibly from television as a whole is when an exasperated Larry tells Artie, “You know, talking to you is like talking to you”; that’s a top three contender for inscription on my headstone
Take me to your dealer.
Starring: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Kristen Wiig, Seth Rogen
Directed by Greg Mottola
Finally, we have the movie Project: ALF should have been, a rollicking multiple-state adventure with a discernable budget and some non-negotiable star power. It’s a shame they wasted it all on an extraterrestrial so many lightyears behind his furry Melmacian forbearer in terms of charm, wit, and presence. Paul substitutes hack jokes and lazy pop culture references for character development, so we’re stuck with cinema’s least interesting pot-obsessed surfer-bro outsider since…well, Seth Rogen, the very guy who voices Paul. To think, they spent all that time and money on special effects when they could have achieved the exact same emotional results pouring Rogen into some cheap grey spandex.
Paul stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost as two UFO-obsessed Brits traveling across America in an RV after a visit to San Diego’s nerd mecca Comicon. A mysterious car crash in the desert introduces the pair to Paul, a rather assimilated alien (he wears pants despite having no genitals) recently escaped from Area 51 who needs a ride to the faraway spot where his race’s mothership is planing to pick him up. Pegg and Frost reluctantly agree to ferry Paul north and experience the myriad problems that come with harboring an otherworldly creature—namely, shielding their new friend from zealous Federal agents and assorted ignorant small town folk.
Matters become even more complicated when Kristen Wiig, playing a devout one-eyed Christian, stumbles upon Paul while our heroes stop for an evening’s rest at her trailer park. Suddenly theological debates are erupting in the midst of this wacky R-rated E.T. redux. Luckily, Paul handles that situation as lethargically as everything else, and in no time we’re back to the cycle of weak sci-fi references and cloying catchphrases (all ported from far better movies) the filmmakers tried to prop this mess upon. At least a couple of the ending explosions manage to look more impressive than your average piece of stock footage.
Jason Bateman, Bill Hader, and Joe Lo Truglio make the most of their roles as the nasty FBI agents chasing Paul down, but again the script (penned by Pegg and Frost in a surprising misfire) does them no favors. The only actor running on all cylinders here is Jeffrey Tambor. Playing a mysterious and bitchy graphic novelist the main characters worship, Tambor shoots off Paul’s only funny tit joke and disappears until the end credits. Of course, the fact they got Jeffrey Tambor and only used him for a tit joke tells you everything you need to know about this movie.
FINAL SCORE: One pot-smoking alien (out of four).