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The Entire First Season
review by Zach B.
Running Time: 322 minutes
Starring: Gary Shandling, Jeffery Tambor, Megan Gallagher, Wallace Langham, Jeremy Piven, Linda Doucett, Janeane Garofalo and Rip Torn
Retail Price: $50.95
Features: Gary Shandling Talks... "No Flipping"
Specs: 1.33:1 Full Frame, English Dolby Surround, English Subtitles, Spanish Subtitles, English Closed Captions, Episode Selections, 3-Disc Set
Released: February 26th, 2002
Throughout the course of television, there have been many funny shows, but in a rare case, a funny show that is quite satirical and actually lasts more than a season. When I think of satirical shows that poke fun at something, usually the media, I think "The Larry Sanders Show." Truly one of cable television's greatest triumphs, like a good deal of cable shows, there is stuff here that you couldn't get away with on network television. Besides that, I still think that "The Larry Sanders Show" is one of the best shows to air in the 1990s, and one of the funniest of all time.
For those who don't have cable or never caught the show during its 1992-1998 run, it's a behind-the-scenes look at a fictional late night television talk show. That show, of course, is called "The Larry Sanders Show." Comedic genius Garry Shandling plays Larry Sanders. I guess you could say that Sanders is a celebrity stereotype. He knows how to suck up to those he needs things from, berate those around him, be stubbon, be a nice guy and yes, he's been married and divorced... twice!
What I like so much about "The Larry Sanders Show" is that if you've never seen it before, you can just easily get into it. That is a hard thing to accomplish in the television medium, since a good deal of series set plotlines and characters up and if you watch way after the show has premiered, you don't always know the background information so you don't get everything. Here, the show presents everything to you just right. I mean, take a look at the pilot episode "What Have You Done For Me Lately." It plays out like all the other shows more or less. There is no formal setup or anything... it's the characters just being themselves and getting through something.
When I think of Garry Shandling, "Larry Sanders" just comes to my mind. It's not that I typecast the man in the role, it's just that Shandling, who co-created the show and co-wrote a good deal of episodes, is just so great in it. He embodies Larry to the fullest, probably because Larry in a lot of ways is him. He knows where to take the character and nails him. The rest of the supporting cast, especially acting vets Jeffery Tambor and Rip Torn, do solid work here. The writing is always witty, sharp and gives the show room to keep being funny. It takes great shots, just as anything satirical should do. There is just a lot of comedic brilliance to be found all over the show.
So yes, I'm thrilled that this hilarious show is finally in our favorite format. Kudos to Columbia/Tristar for releasing the complete season. The first season, which originally started to air in the summer of 1992 includes "What Have You Done For Me Lately", "Promise," "Spiders," "The Guest Host," "The New Producer," "The Flirt," "Hank's Contract," "Out of the Loop," "The Talk Show," "The Party," "Warmth," "A Brush With the Elbow of Greatness" and "Hey Now." Enjoy.
All the episodes are presented in their original 1.33:1 full screen aspect ratios, as filmed and aired on television. There's nothing impressive here as these transfers are slightly above average. The filmed portions of the show are pretty grainy and look rather soft. Detail is decent, while color seems a bit drained out and fleshtones are weak. There's also some artifacting, noise and a somewhat muted tone to it all. There are marks on the prints as well. Much better are the videotaped talk show portions each episode features. Things are a lot crisper, sharper and brigher. They're not perfect, but they feel as if they have more life to them and that you were watching a real episode of the talk show (which is the desired effect). These episodes are only about ten years old, so hopefully future seasons will look better.
You have English Dolby Surround tracks for each episode, but they aren't much. The show is pretty dialogue driven, but there are segments which require effects and music (mainly on the talk show portions themselves). While there is some life in those, there isn't much. Fidelity is pretty low, and while the dialogue is pretty clear and you can hear it, I just felt it could have sounded even more clear and bring its own ambience. Still, what's here does justice to the rest of the material. You have English closed captions, English subtitles and Spanish subtitles if you need them.
I would have loved for commentaries from the show's writers and directors, but here all we have is a strong 26 minute piece entitled Garry Shandling Talks... "No Flipping." Washington Post writer Tom Shales interviews Shandling about the show. Shandling is quite informative and insightful here, talking about the show's actors, why he wanted to do the show instead of doing another talk show, creating the show and more. If you're a fan of the show, this is a must watch and does not disappoint at all.
It's great to see Larry on DVD, but I am a little disappointed with this first season. Hopefully future sets will have better presentations and more supplements for more bang for the bucks. Still, if you love great television or love this show (I love both), then this is worth owning in your collection. If you've never seen the show and like some fun poked at the television industry and good comedy, be sure to check it out.