HBO will honor the memory of Garry Shanding in The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling, a two-part documentary from Judd Apatow about the comedian and star of It’s Garry Shandling’s Show and The Larry Sanders Show. The project stemmed from the memorial service Apatow produced for Shandling in 2016.
Described by people who knew him as a similarly neurotic character in real life as the one he was known for portraying on screen, life was not always simple for Shandling. He faced two particularly dark moments in his life: a lawsuit filed against him by his former girlfriend and “Larry Sanders” co-star Linda Doucett, who maintained that she was fired when their relationship ended; and his own high-profile $100 million action against manager-turned-Paramount Pictures chief Brad Grey. The suit claimed that Grey leveraged their relationship to benefit himself and other clients.
”I think he was very surprised how brutal show business could be. I don’t think he saw it coming,” said Apatow, who was both an admirer and a personal friend of Shandling. “I think in a lot of ways he was naïve in a business sense. He was very trusting and when he felt he was being taken advantage of it really rocked his world.”
”Later on, Garry got himself in a very ugly lawsuit where he felt his reputation was being smeared,” he added. “People tried to say he was crazy. He was walking off his show and a lot of that was created to destroy his credibility. I don’t think he saw that coming. He felt it was standing up for himself and what he thought was right. Yet all his paranoia about show business and about how dark it could be actually turned out to be way worse than even his paranoid fantasies about it.”
Shandling sued Brad Grey for $100 million, alleging, among other things, that Grey took fees from HBO both as Shandling’s manager and as the executive producer of The Larry Sanders Show; and made television deals by trading on his relationship with Shandling without cutting in his client.
The four-and-one-half hour documentary—which will feature four decades’ worth of television appearances, personal journals, private letters, home video and audio footage and interviews from friends, family and colleagues—debuts on HBO on March 26 and March 27.
”Garry spent his life trying to heal himself, trying to be a better and kinder person,” said Apatow. “The Larry Sanders Show kind of paved the way HBO could be and it was an example of what happens when you do very high-quality work. Garry’s show was one of the first shows of that level of quality at HBO. When I told HBO I did not think I could do the type of documentary they were known for, they were very open into a deeper dive into Garry’s life.”
In response to one member of the press who questioned the length of The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling, Apatow quipped, “O.J. got seven hours and he murdered people. So don’t you deserve more time for not murdering people?”