There are thirteen episodes included on this 3-disc set collecting the first season of The Larry Sanders Show, and they are...
This is not a comedy based around pratfalls, bad puns, weak sexual innuendo, and canned laughter. The Larry Sanders Show is blessed with brilliant writing, a superb cast, and strong, memorable characters. It doesn't pander to try to build a wider audience, avoiding any pathetic attempts to try to elicit a laugh. It's been a while since I've watched a series that I literally could not get enough of, and I watched all three discs in this set in one fell swoop. Though I have a number of episodes of various television series on DVD, there are very few I've found myself revisiting. I'm confident, though, that these thirteen episodes will spend quite a bit of time in my DVD player in the coming months. The Larry Sanders Show is certainly more intelligent and entertaining than most of the dreck on television nowadays.
Video: Fox Home Entertainment's release of the first season of Buffy The Vampire Slayer inspired rather scathing reviews from a number of reviewers due to its less-than-stellar video quality. I'd imagine a similar batch will soon follow for The Larry Sanders Show, which, at least in its first season, didn't boast much of a smooth, glossy appearance. The segments of Larry's series-within-a-series are shot on video and look awfully close to what one would expect from a ten-year-old late night talk show. The majority of each episode, though, is shot on film, and it's these portions that are likely to inspire Buffy-esque vitriol, as they are often grainy and fairly soft. Columbia/Tri-Star has recently given the series the high-definition treatment, judging from the copy on the back of the set's box, and it's from the HD masters that these discs were sourced. Since Columbia/Tri-Star isn't whipping out decade-old video masters, it's very likely that these discs really represent the best that this early season can realistically look. Not much of a leap beyond the usual expectations for a low-budget, full-frame cable series, but these discs certainly appear acceptable.
Audio: The first season of The Larry Sanders Show, as I've already mentioned far too many times, is a low budget cable series and sounds as such. A show that takes place so heavily in and around production offices isn't going to cry out for heavy surround activity or a constantly roaring subwoofer. I didn't spot much in the way of stereo separation, not that I was really expecting anything alogn those lines. The dialogue doesn't offer much of a shimmering, crystalline quality, but it's never difficult to understand. Though the box notes that the soundtrack is in 2.0 surround, it may as well have just been flat stereo, as rears remain largely idle throughout. Much like the presentation of the video, the soundtrack is more than passable and likely a very accurate reproduction of how the series sounded when it first aired in 1992. The requisite Spanish subtitles are included, along with closed captions and subtitles in English.
Supplements: The first disc includes a newly recorded interview with Garry Shandling that runs longer than a typical episode of the series. Tom Shales, the Pulitzer Prize winning television critic for the Washington Post, chats with Shandling for just under half an hour, with discussion encompassing the entire run of the show and not just the first season. Shandling reveals that CBS had offered him the slot after Letterman for a "real" talk show, and that at the time he was debating whether or not he should accept the deal or go for the brass ring and lunge for what would later metamorphose into The Larry Sanders Show. He also contrasts his fictional series with the one that could have been. Pretty much everything imaginable is touched on, from the origins of the series to its final days, and there are some pretty interesting nuggets of information that are tossed around. I wouldn't have guessed that the first episode produced was "Hey Now", which seems so perfectly suited to wrapping up The Larry Sanders Show's inaugural season, for instance. Unlike most of the fluffy interviews that have become a staple on DVDs nowadays, this one is well done and very much worth a look.
Conclusion: The Larry Sanders Show is, I believe, Columbia/Tri-Star's first release of a live-action television series from their considerably large collection. I understand that The Larry Sanders Show doesn't have the same sort of large, widespread fanbase that The Simpsons or Buffy might enjoy, and perhaps the series' smaller audience is what let to the set's $50.95 list price. Even with the usual online discounts, I haven't been able to find this 3-disc set from a prominent U.S.-based e-tailer for under $38 shipped. I really enjoyed these thirteen episodes, and for a ten-spot less, it would more than warrant a strong recommendation. I'm not sure if there's quite enough entertainment value here to warrant such a high price, at least for all but the most die-hard Larry Sanders fans.