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The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling

The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling

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  • Premiered: 
    March 26, 2018
    (Click date to see TV listings for that day)

  • Network: HBO
  • Category: Series
  • Genre: Biography
  • Type: Live Action
  • Concept: 
  • Subject Matter: Entertainment
  • Tags: celebrity

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Plot Synopsis

Executive produced and directed by Judd Apatow, this two-part, four-hour documentary explores the life of Garry Shandling. the legendary comedian who was Apatow's mentor and friend. Interviews from nearly four dozen of Shandling's friends, family, and colleagues, and four decades' worth of television appearances are balanced by a lifetime of personal journals, private letters, and home audio and video footage. The two-part features conversations with more than 40 of Shandling's family and friends, including James L. Brooks, Jim Carrey, Sacha Baron Cohen, David Coulier, Jon Favreau, Jay Leno, Kevin Nealon, CONAN O'Brien, Bob Saget, Jerry Seinfeld and Sarah Silverman, and four decades' worth of TV appearances, along with personal journals, private letters and candid home audio and video footage that reveal his brilliant mind and restless soul.

From childhood tragedy to heartbreak, professional betrayal and unexpected physical trauma, to his emergence as a powerful teacher, friend and guiding spirit for a new generation of talent, Apatow's documentary not only chronicles one man's ability to survive the ups and downs of a life in show business, but also offers a profound investigation into the power of comedy to elevate the human spirit. Shandling experienced a normal existence growing up in Tucson until age ten, when his older brother and only sibling, Barry, died from cystic fibrosis. His parents barely discussed their older son's passing, and his mother, Muriel, began clinging to her younger son, developing an intense and sometimes troubling bond that would later generate some of his comedy material. Shandling's unlikely path towards success, through an encounter with George Carlin and an impulsive move to Los Angeles after college, took a turn in 1976, when he was involved in a serious traffic accident, resulting in a near-death experience. Shandling made the leap from the pinnacle of stand-up success, appearing on THE TONIGHT SHOW STARRING JOHNNY CARSON, to develop his comic persona into something that would redefine television comedy. Realizing that one of his strengths as a standup was simply the ability to "talk to people," he created a show where talking to the audience was the central focus -- "a show that allows Garry to be Garry," as his journals read. IT'S GARRY SHANDLING'S SHOW was a decade ahead of its time, the first modern "meta"-sitcom that brought him a new legion of devoted fans and elevated his profile in the industry.

Part 2 offers an extensive examination of THE LARRY SANDERS SHOW, his landmark HBO comedy series. Colleagues remember the demands of producing material that met Shandling's high standards, while his diaries reveal an ongoing struggle with complacency and search for authenticity. But in the wake of the show's success, soul-wrenching tragedy, fueled at times by Shandling's own demons, played itself out. Sanders and Doucett broke up and he fired her from the show, leading to a lawsuit, which in turn raised financial questions that led Shandling to sue his manager, Brad Grey, for $100 million, a case that took years to resolve and cost him many friendships, as well as threatening his ongoing pursuit of spiritual peace. After THE LARRY SANDERS SHOW ended, Shandling's neuroses and insecurities became more evident, as he worked through UNEXPECTED emotional, physical and professional crises. The ailing Shandling found solace in community. Sunday morning basketball games on his home courtyard brought friends together and kept him emotionally connected, while a mentorship of younger comics gave his life fresh meaning.

THE ZEN DIARIES OF GARRY SHANDLING premieres Monday, March 26, 2018 from 8-10pm ET/PT on HBO, and concludes the following night.