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Larry Sanders Show -The Entire First Season, The

Columbia/Tri-Star // Unrated // February 26, 2002
List Price: $50.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Adam Tyner | posted February 27, 2002 | E-mail the Author
Though I was a regular viewer of It's Garry Shandling's Show! during its run on Fox (actually, I was a regular viewer of everything on Fox for the first couple of years of the budding network), I never tuned into The Larry Sanders Show for whatever reason. I was well aware of the very positive buzz surrounding the series, but back in 1992, I was probably too interested in watching Slumber Party Massacre II on Laserdisc or whatever Troma movie I'd fished out of a discount bin that weekend. Despite my complete and total ignorance at the time, Columbia/Tri-Star is making the first of its six seasons available on DVD in this three-disc set. For those unfamiliar with the series, Garry Shandling stars as the host of the titular and entirely fictional late night talk show. These episodes focus on Larry's antics on and off stage, including his relationships with his wife Jeannie (Megan Gallagher), his insecure sidekick Hank (Jeffrey Tambor), his producer (Rip Torn), the rest of the staff behind the show (which includes Jeremy Piven, Janeane Garofalo, and Shandling's real life ex, Linda Doucett), and, of course, a stable of celebrity friends and guests. Ego trips, power plays, the ups and downs of celebrity, network stand-offs...everything you've skimmed in gossip columns and fiery interviews is presented here in one of the more critically acclaimed comedic series the '90s had to offer.

There are thirteen episodes included on this 3-disc set collecting the first season of The Larry Sanders Show, and they are...
  • What Have You Done For Me Lately?: (guest star: Robert Hays) A newly-appointed network exec has some inventive ideas to boost advertisers' interest in the series, but Larry isn't overly enthusiastic about going live commercials on the air for the Garden Weasel.
  • Promise: (guest stars: Dana Delaney, David Spade, William Shatner) It's an unspoken rule that guest shall not appear on competing talk shows back to back. Comedian David Spade doesn't appear to have gotten the memo, and when he puts in an appearance on Leno the night before, Larry's unsure what action to take.
  • Spiders: (guest stars: Carol Burnett, Jon Lovitz, Steve Duchesne, Steve Kutcher) It's every performer's dream to perform in a sketch with the legendary Carol Burnett. It's Larry's nightmare, however, to try to do so in an episode where he's going to be incorporated into a spider wrangler's act.
  • The Guest Host: (guest star: Dana Carvey) While Larry's at home taking a well-deserved vacation, Dana Carvey fills in and is just a little too successful.
  • The New Producer: (guest stars: Robert Morton, Jeff Cesario) Artie's out sick, and his temporary replacement is eager to seize the reins permanently.
  • The Flirt: (guest stars: Mimi Rogers, Michael Richards) Larry and guest Mimi Rogers, who's invited back for another appearance the following night, flirt a little too much for Jeannie's tastes.
  • Hank's Contract: (guest stars: Robin Williams, George Foreman) Hank tends to get a little overdramatic when contract negotiations roll around, and he's digging his heels in the ground for a nice raise and a golf cart.
  • Out Of The Loop: (guest star: Peter Falk) Artie had gone to great efforts to disconnect Larry from the minutiae of life around the office, but the revelation that his head writer is carrying on a heated affair with another staffer leaves Larry wanting to be back in the loop.
  • The Talk Show: (guest stars: Billy Crystal, Catherine O'Hara) Larry and Jeannie have a little spat just before taping an episode, and a discombobulated Larry tries to juggle both his relationship and his show in the same hour.
  • The Party: (guest star: Martin Mull) Jeannie invites Artie over for dinner, and other jealous staffers turn a nice little get-together into a stressful party.
  • Warmth: (guest star: Richard Simmons) When Larry becomes concerned about public perception of his show, he turns to a focus group for help. Hey, if it's good enough for Arsenio...
  • A Brush With The Elbow Of Greatness: (guest star: Bela Shaw) Larry finds himself the victim of tabloid reporting after a woman claims that he rudely pushed her into a magazine rack at a grocery store check-out stand.
  • Hey Now: (guest stars: Bob Saget, Ray Combs, Earl Holliman) An overextended Hank hasn't been pulling his weight lately, and an already fed-up Larry decides it's time to take action after his sidekick nods off on the couch during a show.

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.
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Highly Recommended

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