“Office Romance”/“The Mr. Sharon Stone Show” (season three, episodes seven and eight, originally aired Aug. 3 and Aug. 10, 1994)
Larry was married in season one, reunited with this first ex-wife in season two, but the third season of The Larry Sanders Show is when Larry first starts to take advantage of the ceaseless buffet of potential partners his job provides. He came so close to finally making it happen with Mimi Rogers in “You’re Having My Baby,” but with this pair of episodes, Larry hits the big time: ditzy office goddess Darlene (“Office Romance”) and an A-list actress (“The Mr. Sharon Stone Show”).
The Larry Sanders Show frequently references real life, though usually in the form of jokes or stories relating the world of late-night television. In the case of “Office Romance,” it’s the real relationship Garry Shandling between Linda Doucett. They lived together for six months and were briefly engaged, and just like in “Office Romance,” things didn’t end well: She would leave the show after the third season and later file a sexual harassment and wrongful termination suit against Shandling and his then-manager Brad Grey.
But at the time of “Office Romance,” that was all in the future, and Shandling and Doucett’s off-set relationship was fodder for another episode of The Larry Sanders Show with parallels to real life. In this case, Larry gives Darlene a ride home after work one night, and upheaval follows in short order: Hank gets protective, Beverly tells Larry “it ain’t dipped in gold,” Phil—who was secretly hooking up with Darlene—pursues Paula out of spite, and Artie watches over it all, having bet Larry that it would end poorly. One of the best moments in either episode occurs when Larry tells Artie about giving Darlene a ride home. Artie says nothing, but the look on his face just kills. He sits down quietly before saying, “I drove Phil home once. It meant nothing.”
Larry tries to do the right thing, or at least he says the right things to Darlene about office relationships never working, but each time he tries, they end up making out—with Larry awkwardly trying to cover when they get caught by saying, “Congratulations, Darlene, and good luck.” Sure, on a theoretical level everyone understands office relationships can be destructive, especially when it’s a boss and a subordinate. On a practical level, when there’s an attractive, willing person on the other end, well, those good intentions go out the window.
Eventually, Larry realizes that dating Darlene would cause too much havoc around his office—which would, more important, be a hassle for him—and he ends things before getting to partake in that insane tantric sex Darlene likes so much. But he’s also undone a bit by his own ego, once he learns that Phil and Darlene had a secret relationship.
Ego plays a role with Darlene, but completely sabotages Larry’s relationship with Sharon Stone. When “The Mr. Sharon Stone Show” aired, Stone was riding high after the controversial Basic Instinct and another racy performance in 1993’s Sliver. An Oscar nomination lurked around the corner for Martin Scorsese’s Casino. She couldn’t be a hotter commodity, which spells trouble when she and Larry form a tenuous relationship.
Artie, as always, puts it well: “If you’re in a show-business relationship, and the woman’s more famous than you are, she’s the one with the dick.” He can speak from experience, having dated Jacqueline Bisset back in the day. As in “Office Romance,” Artie delivers the best moment of the episode, this time when he cringes while telling Larry that Stone is more famous than he. (It speaks to Larry’s delusions of grandeur that he wouldn’t realize that a beautiful actress on a hot streak is significantly more famous.) Or, as Larry’s agent explains via the second law of thermodynamics: “Heat always passes from a hotter body to a colder body and not the other way around.” Larry’s the colder body. (“She must be wild in bed,” he says. “Isn’t she wild?” Sadly, Larry wouldn’t know.)
Larry endures a few humiliations over the course of “The Mr. Sharon Stone Show,” just as Artie predicted. (“Your ego is going to get the shit kicked out of it, pal.”) The ratings for the Sharon Stone episode were higher than his first episode back after Larry’s aborted retirement. When a camera guy following Stone recognizes him, it’s not because Larry’s famous, but because he’s standing on the guy’s cable. A TV Guide reporter isn’t interested in the late-night wars, but Larry’s date the night before with Stone. His agent wants to make sure the press gets lots of photos of them together. Even his own audience is preoccupied with it, as someone yells “Oh, Sharon!” during Larry’s monologue. And Hank—Hank’s even more desperate than usual:
“Let me explain something to you. I know that never in this lifetime will I enjoy the act of lovemaking with someone of Sharon Stone’s caliber. I know this, and I accept this. So I’m asking you just to take pity on me. Please, just take pity and share with me some of God’s bounty that He has obviously seen fit to bestow on you.”
At this point, Larry hasn’t dated too many starlets, and the whole experience leaves him impotent, literally. When the time comes to finally seal the deal with Stone, Larry endures one final, boner-killing humiliation: While Sharon Stone has also been invited to the same presidential dinner as Larry, she’s sitting at the table with the president and first lady, whereas Larry’s back at table 20. Only when Larry turns his show on, to remind himself of his own fame and to have some tiny bit of power, can he feel sufficiently re-masculated—which leads to this great exchange with Artie the next day:
“Are you actually trying to tell me you couldn’t get an erection until you turn your own goddamn show on?”
“Oh, this has nothing to do with being famous. I can show you a list of women this long that aren’t famous that I haven’t been able to get it up with!” Beat. “That came out wrong.”
Barely a few days into a relationship a million guys at the time (and probably now) would kill to have, Larry can’t handle it. “I have no identity in this thing!” he complains, adding he needs to just date someone outside of show business who can “nurture” him. (“You know I had the same exact conversation with both of your ex-wives,” Beverly says.) That’s really code for needing to date someone less famous than he, so he doesn’t have to cede any of the spotlight. As it plays out over the proceeding five seasons, he isn’t terribly successful.
- Artie and Beverly?!
- The deleted scene from “Office Romance” is Hank trying to console Darlene after Larry breaks it off for good, but succeeding in only making her feel worse by telling her that Larry and Beverly hooked up. “Although some of the details are fairly interesting. You know the VCR filing cabinet?” [Nods.] “You know how small that is? Can we talk?”
- An ongoing theme in “The Mr. Sharon Stone Show” is the incredibly inappropriate conversations the male staff members (“staff” “member,” durrrr) have around the female ones. Calling someone “the grand high exalted pussy master” is a one-way ticket to an HR write-up, Hank! (Not that we’ve ever see an HR person.)
- When Larry’s walking Stone backstage after her interview, she compliments him, but he says, “Trust me, I hate myself.” Garry Shandling would often say “I hate myself” after takes.
- Great quick joke: Phil was the guy Darlene told Paula about who said he could speak French, but was just making up words.
- I had to look up Julianne Phillips on IMDB, because I didn’t know who she was at the end of “The Mr. Sharon Stone Show.” At the time she was riding high on the NBC series Sisters. (I only recognized her from Fletch Lives.) She left that show before its last season in 1995, and hasn’t acted since 1997. Oh, and she was married to Springsteen.
- Artie, after Larry says he’s skipping the corporate retreat: “If you really mean it this time, I’ll cancel the ranch. And the rest of us can sit in a sensory-deprivation tank and see who takes a shit first.”
- Paula, after Phil tries to say he likes her new hair: “I thought you said it made me look like Pat Benatar’s shorter, fatter sister.” Ugh, it’s so sad that she was planning to ask him out at some point.
- Artie: “Here’s the fancy keychain I just got. It’s got a flashlight, compass, stopwatch. I can do anything with this but fuck myself.”