“Broadcast Nudes” (season 2, episode 11; originally aired 8/4/93)
Behold the airhead: a staple of sitcoms since situation met comedy. Usually attractive, almost certainly female, and typically two-dimensional. Also known as a bimbo. Goes by the name Darlene on The Larry Sanders Show.
For all of its skewering of show business, The Larry Sanders Show is, at its core, a workplace comedy, and it’s not above using archetypes. Darlene is the bombshell with half a brain, who actually thinks Hank is only in his 30s and doesn’t quite understand how pagers work. She exists mostly as a punchline/naïf among the show’s cabal of cynics. Like her fellow sitcom airheads, Darlene doesn’t grow—or really go anywhere—as a character, then abruptly leaves after three seasons with a sort of “Poochie was called back to his home planet” sendoff. (That had more to do with Linda Doucett and Garry Shandling’s personal relationship breaking up—later prompting her to sue Shandling and producer Brad Grey for wrongful termination and sexual harassment. She reportedly settled for $1 million.)
Darlene’s limited character arc probably has as much to do with Doucett’s seemingly limited acting abilities as it did the function of her character, but in “Broadcast Nudes,” she sort of gets her own episode. After a youthful-looking (compared to today) Hugh Hefner notices Darlene when he’s a guest on the show, Hank essentially pimps her out to Playboy in exchange for an interview in the magazine. His lame pitch to Hef? An article called “The Sidekick’s Sidekick,” which would feature Darlene. And by feature her, he means “show naked photos of her.”
Hank sells it to her as some misbegotten “Cat’s In The Cradle” attempt to finally make his father, “a charter subscriber to Playboy,” proud. “Your dad’s passed away, isn’t he, Hank?” Darlene asks. “We think so,” Hank says. “We’re not sure. He left around 7. Anyway, I know wherever he is, he’s watching.” The always impressionable Darlene isn’t sold, and rightly so. Hank’s basically her creepy uncle coaxing her to take her clothes off down in the basement on Christmas night, saying “This will be our little secret, okay?”
Or maybe Hank is more like The Amazing Clifford (!), Darlene’s old boss when she was a magician’s assistant. After she takes some test photos for the magazine, Paula and Beverly interrogate Darlene, who confesses she’s doing it for Hank.
Darlene: “If it wasn’t for Hank, I would still be being sawed in half by The Amazing Clifford for two shows a night.”
Beverly: “You know what, Darlene? The more I hear about this, it sounds like there’s very little difference between Hank and The Amazing Clifford.”
Paula: “Clifford probably dresses better.”
Artie, ever wise, sees trouble, but it’s Jeffrey Tambor who scores the line of the episode: “Artie, it’ll be very tasteful. No bush.” But the whole plan blows up when Phil and Jerry get Darlene’s test photos, and Hank can’t help himself but look. She naturally walks in on him, so cue his pleading with her from outside the ladies’ bathroom.
Hank: “C’mon Darlene, this is Playboy we’re talking about! We’re not talking Hustler or Penthouse or Swank or Juggs or Screw!”
Artie: “You promised me that you would keep this low profile!”
Hank: “I am.”
Artie: “Ah bullshit! Shouting out the names of some of this country’s finest men’s publications outside the ladies’ crapper is not low profile!”
Hearing Rip Torn use the word “crapper” is one of the joys of The Larry Sanders Show, and we’re treated to it twice in this episode. (He first says it in a scene at Larry’s house, which is being prepared for an Architectural Digest shoot. The best place for the African violet plant he brought? The crapper, naturally.)
Darlene eventually seeks out Artie for his advice. “You gotta use what you’re born with,” he says. “Now look at me: I’ve got a face that would crack a mirror. That’s why I’m a producer.” If she wants to pose, she should do it for herself, not Creepy Uncle Hank. “Then I can do it… for myself,” she says happily. “I can’t wait to tell Hank!” Oh Darlene. At least you have your looks.
The Darlene-pictorial story aside, “Broadcast Nudes” was always really about Hank and his desperate need for validation. The focus pivots to him after he and Darlene reconcile. When she comes to his office, he’s glumly lying on his sofa in the dark, because Playboy shot down his “Sidekick’s Sidekick” idea. “It is not a circa 1975 idea! It is money in the bank, Frank!” But when she says she’s accepting the magazine’s offer for a pictorial, he immediately sees an opportunity: Darlene should demand an interview with Hank as a condition of her participation.
Next we see Darlene trying to console Hank from outside the bathroom, because Playboy of course shot down that idea. Maybe she could wear a shirt for the Lookaround Café? “You see, it’s very hard to pose nude and wear a T-shirt at the same time. That is downright impossible,” Hank says. “Great, now I’ve become pissy.”
Still, he could maybe weasel his way into the Architectural Digest shoot at Larry’s house. Before Larry can kibosh it, the photographer is having Hank sit on the sofa with him and Francine—who fought against being photographed at Larry’s house the whole episode—where Hank flaunts a Lookaround Café T-shirt, naturally.
Darlene’s Playboy spread arrives the same time as Architectural Digest and obviously trumps it. She was even able to wear a torn Lookaround Café T-shirt in it. But a grease fire at the place will now delay the opening another 10 months. Oy. But hey, Architectural Digest is in! He had his picture taken for it!
“No bush” was excellent, but Hank’s angry outburst upon seeing he was cropped from the photo perfectly closes “Broadcast Nudes.” “Those fuckers!” he yells, looking in the direction of Larry’s office. “FUCKERS!… Buncha fuckers!” Faintly, from the distance, we hear Artie: “Low profile, Hank!”
- Linda Doucett did end up posing for Playboy, and a Google image search shows it was just as tasteful as Hank promised.
- The other storyline of the episode is Larry asking Francine to be in the photos for Architectural Digest, but really asking her to move in. She’s never been asked, and she also doesn’t want anyone to think she had anything to do with decorating his place. As well as things are going between her and Larry, she isn’t entirely confident in their future. With good reason.
- More Rip Torn gold: When Francine suggests Artie be in the Architectural Digest photos with Larry, he says, “Larry, me in a decorating magazine? Oh no.” His delivery kills.
- “Artie, they cut me out, those cocksuckers.” “Oh, I’m sorry, Hank. It’s America’s loss.”