“Arthur’s Crises”/“End Of The Season” (season three, episodes 16-17, originally aired Oct. 5 and 12, 1994)
Season three of The Larry Sanders Show began with Larry in exile, able to convince the network to take him back only after Arthur concocts a lie about Larry heading to Montana to kick his pill addiction. Yet over the course of season three, the lie becomes a reality, as the season’s 17 episodes sprinkle in references to Larry turning into a pill-popper, enabled by Beverly and a slew of doctors, and nudged down the path to darkness by Hank, who helpfully praises the combination of one of Larry’s yellow pills and a shot of bourbon. By the time the finale, “End Of The Season,” rolls around, Larry’s popping pills every hour, taking a recommended dose, Beverly notes, for someone who weighs 1,500 pounds. (“I’ve never been so insulted in my life,” says the man who’s obsessed with the size of his ass.)
The addiction plays out simply, but let’s take a step back to “Arthur’s Crises,” which revisits a favorite topic of The Larry Sanders Show: Larry’s utter dependence on Artie. The Master is currently banging the vice president of late-night programming for CBS, Donna Lasner (Linda Gehringer, a.k.a. Helen Givens from Justified), and when Larry finds out Artie’s meeting her for lunch, he immediately freaks out. Tom Snyder, who had taken over the 12:30 slot after Larry in “Life Behind Larry,” has jumped ship to CBS to do the 12:30 show following Letterman (just like he did in real life), and Larry suspects the network wants to poach Artie to produce the show. That isn’t the case at first, but soon enough, Donna offers him the job. In a deleted scene, Donna explains that the show’s producer had a heart attack, so she suggested Artie to her bosses. He immediately demurs, but she asks him to consider it, because she’ll look bad if he dismisses it out of hand.
The deleted scenes in “Arthur’s Crises” are informative that way. In the version that aired, Artie just mentions to Larry that he has to look like he’s considering it for the reasons Donna mentioned, not that Larry buys it. Without the scene between Donna and Artie, it could look like Arthur actually was considering it, and just telling Larry what he wanted to hear. But he turns Donna down right away in the deleted scene. (As we all know, Artie can’t move to New York anyway, because he “did some work for some people” there when he was young.) Also, he doesn’t think he’s welcome at CBS, ever since he “pissed in Larry Tisch’s pool on Labor Day.” (Tisch was CEO of CBS from 1986 to 1995.)
Another deleted scene shows Larry’s escalating pill addiction (and Beverly’s enablement). In “Headwriter,” we learned that Larry takes a drive through the canyon at 4 p.m. every day to clear his head for the show, but in this deleted scene, Larry’s pre-show routine entails a walk with Arthur to center himself. But because Arthur’s at lunch, he can’t walk with Larry and take care of the important task of interacting with people for the star. (He’s the one who waves at people when they wave to Larry! Larry had to say hi to “over 20 people”!) As Larry gets more worked up, Beverly just whips out the prescription bottle, and he pops one without even thinking about it.
Aside from its parallels to real life, “Arthur’s Crises” is pretty typical Larry Sanders Show, with Larry completely incapable of making any decisions about the show. (How many songs should Clint Black play? Says Larry: “I can’t take that kind of pressure.”) There’s some typically amusing bickering between him and Arthur: “I just received an offer. I’m considering it, and if you can’t live with that, sonny boy, tough titty!” “You didn’t just say tough titty, did you?” “Tough. Titty.” And then there’s the inevitable reconciliation.
The best scene is the final one, with the two of them getting a little shitfaced in Larry’s office after the show and rewatching Clint Black’s performance. Black comes in to say good-bye, and when Larry and Artie mention how happy he seems, Black credits it all to the balance his wonderful wife has brought to his life. “You just need to find your Lisa,” he tells the pair. (“Fuckin’ beautiful,” soused Artie says.)
Maybe they already have. “I think you’re my Lisa, and I think I’m yours,” Larry tells Artie after Black leaves. Says Artie: “Oh Gina, what the fuck?” (At least I think he says “Gina”—it’s a little hard to tell. I can picture Artie calling someone by a generic women’s name, considering how often he calls staff members “sweetheart.”)
But Larry’s Lisa can’t save him from his pill addiction, as we learn in “End Of The Season.” The Man Who Knows All apparently doesn’t realize the extent of Larry’s problem, as he pointedly asks Beverly later how long Larry’s been taking the pills hourly. Perhaps Artie’s just out of his depth; if it were booze, he could steer Larry the right way, because the man knows all about the bottle. But pills? Better call Roseanne Barr.
In previous episodes from season three, Larry’s taken pills here and there, but never seemed hooked—and he’s never been such a raging asshole because of it. On set for a rehearsal, he bitterly complains that his seat is a quarter-inch low, then acidly calls Hank a “talentless, fat fuck.” After Larry storms off stage, Artie asks Roseanne—that night’s guest and an old friend of Larry’s—to help set Larry straight.
They can’t just send him to rehab, because they’ve already used that excuse with the network—which seems quaint in 2013, when some stars make repeated trips there to clean up. So Larry has to kick the pills at home, Trainspotting style, only instead of hallucinating game shows about AIDS, he has to watch Pat Sajak do a more than capable job filling in for him. “They made me book him because he’s the only one who doesn’t threaten Larry,” Paula whispers to Darlene later. “That’s not nice. He does so threaten Larry,” Dalene says. (The others who definitely threaten Larry: Martin Mull, Mike Myers, Tony Danza—and we can assume, Dana Carvey.)
Another great whispered exchange during that meeting happens when Phil confirms what Larry said to Hank on stage: “Yes, very hurtful, not entirely accurate. I’ve lost upwards of 14 pounds.” “Oh, so ‘talentless fuck’ would’ve been more appropriate?” Everyone scores off Hank this episode. Artie doesn’t give him to air his grievance with Larry during their group meeting later, and when Darlene says it upset her that Larry called Hank a “fat shit,” Artie says, “No, Darlene, it was a talentless. Fat. Fuck.”
Under Roseanne’s watch, Larry kicks the pills and even gets to the source of his problem: Turns out Jeannie, Larry’s second wife, has since remarried and had a child (something she always wanted from Larry, but he couldn’t handle). I guess that marriage doesn’t last, considering their encounter a few seasons later. He doesn’t want to tell his staff about his problem, even though he confessed to the entire country on television at the beginning of season three. “That is different,” he tells Roseanne. “First of all, I didn’t have a drug problem. I was lying because I was covering a nervous breakdown. Number two, it was on television so it doesn’t mean shit.”
What else won’t mean shit, as we will learn at the beginning of season four, is Larry’s left-field proposal to Roseanne during this episode’s painfully awkward closing scene. Doc Brown called it Florence Nightengale Effect (“It happens in hospitals when nurses fall in love with their patients”), but in this case, it’s more Larry acting on his feelings for his nurse. He wants to be with Roseanne, so he proposes (“I don’t really want your time slot. I want you,” oof.), then the two share a kiss so devoid of chemistry that it’s kind of spectacular in its way. What a bizarre way to end the season. Good thing it won’t take!
- Tom Snyder hosted The Late Late Show for three years. Then Craig Kilborn took it over, to great success. [Checks Wikipedia.] Oh wait, no.
- I like to imagine Artie pissing in this pool.
- Hey, Darlene can sing! But she can’t dress herself.
- Larry is wearing Uggs when he’s sitting with Artie on his sofa during his home confinement. Uggs! I didn’t even know those existed in 1994.
- Artie knows how to get under Larry’s skin:
“Here’s your fuckin’ suit.”
“Where are the pants?”
“They’re letting them out in the butt.”
- “When did Sajak get so fuckin’ funny?”
- These two episodes are as full of great quotes as their predecessors, but I’d be satisfied watching Rip Torn say “tough titty” on a loop.
- Thanks, as always, for reading, everyone.