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HTF DVD REVIEW: "It's Garry Shandling's Show" - The Complete Series


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#1 of 17 Richard Gallagher

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Posted October 16 2009 - 02:55 PM



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“It’s Garry Shandling’s Show” – The Complete Series


 

Studio: Shout! Factory

Years: 1986-1990

Rated: Not Rated

Program Length: 1875 minutes

Aspect Ratio: 4:3

Languages: English Dolby Digital Stereo

Subtitles: None


The Program

 

Fans of television shows on DVD are an apprehensive lot, and justifiably so. All too often they have spent their money to start collections of favorite programs, only to find that the DVD releases of those shows will stall or stop completely. It has reached the point where uncertainty has made some consumers gun-shy about purchasing even the first season of a favorite show, because they want some assurance that the entire series will be released. But, as we have seen, if the first season does not sell well, there may never be a second season. I sympathize, because I own several incomplete sets of TV shows, some of which have not seen a new release in years.

 

Thankfully we have Shout! Factory, a company which seems to be committed to releasing complete series of television programs on DVD. The best way to do this, of course, is to release an entire series in a single box set. That is exactly what Shout! Factory has done with “It’s Garry Shandling’s Show,” one of the more unique and original situation comedies ever seen on television. You know you are in for something different as soon as you hear the lyrics to the show’s theme song:

 

This is the theme to Garry’s show,

The theme to Garry’s show.

Garry called me up and asked if I would write his theme song.

I’m almost halfway finished,

How do you like it so far?

How do you like the theme to Garry’s show?

 

This is the theme to Garry’s show

The opening theme to Garry’s show.

This is the music that you hear as you watch the credits.

We’re almost to the part of where I start to whistle.

Then we’ll watch “It’s Garry Shandling’s Show.”

 

This was the theme to Garry Shandling’s show.

 

In 1986 Garry Shandling was a rising star in the ranks of comedians, and he had several options available to him. He had an opportunity to develop a sitcom for NBC, and Johnny Carson wanted him to become the permanent guest host of The Tonight Show. Instead, Shandling turned to the fledgling cable channel Showtime, which offered him the chance to do a show over which he would have complete creative control. The result was one of the funniest sitcoms ever seen on television, and it holds up remarkably well two decades later.

 

The premise of the show is simple – Gary Shandling plays himself, surrounded by a small but amusing cast of friends and associates. Among them are his neighbor Nancy (Molly Cheek), friend Pete Schumaker (Michael Tucci), and Pete’s son, Grant (Scott Nemes). In Season Four we are introduced to Garry’s girlfriend, Phoebe Bass (Jessica Harper). Along the way we encounter a Who’s Who of guest stars – Vanna White, Rob Reiner, Tom Petty, Jennifer Tilly, Carl Reiner, Jeff Goldblum, Gilda Radner, Martin Mull, Chris Isaak, Dabney Coleman, Dan Aykroyd, and Bob Newhart, just to name a few.

 

This is the lineup of episodes:

 

Season One

 

The Day Garry Moved In (commentary by Garry Shandling & Alan Zweibel)

Grant Gets Broken

Garry Throws a Surprise Party

Foul Ball

The Graduate (commentary by Garry Shandling & Alan Zweibel)

It’s Garry’s Problem, But It’s JoJo’s Show

Garry Met A Girl Named Maria

Grant’s Date

Pete Has An Affair

Fate (commentary by Ed Solomon)

The Morning After

Sarah

Laffie

Dial L For Laundry (commentary by Tom Gammill, Max Pross, Garry Shandling & Alan Zweibel)

Dinner with Garry

Force Boxman

 

Season Two

 

Who’s Poppa?

No Baby, No Show (commentary by Garry Shandling and Alan Zweibel)

The Fugitive

The Schumakers Go To Hollywood (commentary by Tom Gammill, Max Pross, & Ed Solomon)

Nancy Gets Amnesia

Angelica, Part 1

Angelica, Part 2

It’s Garry Shandling’s Christmas Show

Killer Routine

Mr. Sparks (commentary by Tom Gammill & Max Pross)

The Soccer Show

Our Town

Save the Planet

The Grant Shuffle

Go Go Goldblum

Garry Falls Down A Hole

Mr. Smith Goes To Nam (commentary by Alan Zweibel)

 

Season Three

 

Goin’ Places (commentary by Tom Gammill, Max Pross, Garry Shandling & Ed Solomon)

Pete’s Got A Secret

What’s Happening To Me? (commentary by Tom Gammill, Max Pross, Garry Shandling & Alan Zweibel)

Live Election Show

The Natural (commentary by Al Jean, Michael Reiss, & Garry Shandling)

Home Sweet Home

Vegas, Part 1

Vegas, Part 2

Save Mr. Peck’s, Part 1

Save Mr. Peck’s, Part 2

Save Mr. Peck’s, Part 3

Ruth’s Place

Garry Acts Like A Moron (commentary by Al Jean & Michael Reiss)

Kramer vs. Grant

Grant Goes To The Dogs

Big Brother

Going, Going, Gone

Garry Goes Golfing (commentary by Al Jean, Michael Reiss & Garry Shandling)

Mum’s The Word

Worry Wart (commentary by Tom Gammill, Max Pross, Garry Shandling & Alan Zweibel)

 

Season Four

 

First Show Of The Fourth Season

Take My Girlfriend, For Example

Nathan’s Sheer Madness

Super Grant

Dinner At Eddie King’s House

The Proposal

Firehose (commentary by Al Jean & Michael Reiss)

The Day Howard Moved In

The Wedding Show

The Honeymoon Show

Shandling vs. Mull

Leonard Gets Metaphysical

Chester Gets A Show

My Mother The Wife

Family Man (commentary by Alan Zweibel)

Mad At Brad

The Last Show

The Talent Show

Driving Miss Garry (commentary by Al Jean & Michael Reiss)

 

Although I have nothing but my memory to compare them to, it appears to me that each episode is complete and unedited. The show originally aired on Showtime, but was also shown on Fox from 1988-1990.

 

“It’s Garry Shandling’s Show” is unique and groundbreaking in several respects. For one thing, it is in a sense a show within a show, but with the line between the two almost completely obscured. Shandling often speaks directly to the audience, both to advance the story and to make personal comments. After one joke he turns to the studio audience and says, “That’s like the weirdest joke I ever told. I’m not even sure it’s a joke, to be honest with you.” I recall watching George Burns make asides to the television audience on the old Burns and Allen show, but “It’s Garry Shandling’s Show” goes beyond that. The studio audience actually becomes part of the show, and Shandling did such audacious things as inviting the members of the audience to come down and sit in his living room and raid his refrigerator while he goes out. The show certainly takes advantage of the fact that it was originally broadcast on Showtime and therefore was free of network interference.

 

The style of “It’s Garry Shandling’s Show” is exemplified by a Season One episode, “The Graduate.” Garry is interested in dating the daughter of one of his mom’s friends, Mrs. Robertson (no subtlety there!), but when she asks Garry to give her a ride home she tries to seduce him. Garry later complains to his friend Nancy that he feels like he is in the film The Graduate, and we even get to hear Simon & Garfunkel on the soundtrack. Then the doorbell rings and Garry gets a visit from Norman Fell, who had a small role in the film. Norman explains that he was just watching Garry’s show, heard that Garry was having “Graduate” issues, and came over to see if use his “Graduate” experience to give Garry some advice. Garry and his friends drive around in miniature cars (Garry’s is actually a modified golf cart), and we can see not only the studio audience but also the various sets on the soundstage. Toward the end of the episode one of the cast members is actually reading from a script, and he tells Garry that he has to get home because the show will be over in two minutes.

 

It’s Garry Shandling’s Show” also benefits from terrific writing. Judd Apatow says that when he first moved to Los Angeles he tried to spec a script for “It’s Garry Shandling’s Show” but gave up because “The show was too good. The bar was too high.”

 

It’s Garry Shandling’s Show” was an immediate hit for Showtime and it garnered considerable critical praise. Its influence on later hit sitcoms, such as Seinfeld, seems obvious. If you have never seen “It’s Garry Shandling’s Show” before, there is no better way to experience it. If, like me, you have not seen it in nearly twenty years, this set is a wonderful opportunity to enjoy it over and over again.


The Video


The video quality of this DVD set is very good. The original videotapes appears to have been well-preserved, because “It’s Garry Shandling’s Show” displays none of the deterioration we have seen in videotaped sitcoms from the seventies such as All in the Family. The picture is generally crisp and free of damage. Colors are solid and accurate and the picture benefits from very good contrasts. It is properly framed at 4:3. Fans of the show will be very pleased with it.


The Audio


The Dolby Digital stereo audio is solid. The dialogue is concentrated in the center channel, but the right and left speakers are well-utilized to provide separation to both the music and the sounds of laughter and applause from the studio audience. There are no subtitles, but the dialogue is clear and completely intelligible. There is nothing here to tax your sound system, but the audio does the job it is intended to do.


The Supplements


Garry Shandling fans will be thrilled to learn that Shout! Factory has packed this set with extras. As noted above, fourteen of the episodes have commentaries by Shandling, co-creator Alan Zweibel, and several of the show’s writers. The set includes a 30-page color booklet which has an episode guide and short essays by Judd Apatow and the late Larry Gelbart.

 

Seventeen episodes are supplemented with outtakes called “It Only Looks Easy.” These are not really outtakes, but more of a look at how the show was produced because the cameras often were left running between takes and between scenes.

 

There are also several featurettes:

 

“Getting There – The Road to the Show” covers Shandling’s career from his days at the University of Arizona to “It’s Garry Shandling’s Show.”

 

“Being There – The Cast Remembers” is a look back at the show and features Shandling, Zweibel, Molly Cheek, Michael Tucci, Scott Nemes and others.

 

“Still There – The Writers and Crew Remember” includes reminiscences by Shandling, Zweibel and the show’s writers.

 

“Try To Remember” is a conversation between Shandling and Zweibel.

 

“Show & Tell” features insights from writers Tom Gammill and Max Pross.

 

“Television Parts Sketches” includes two segments from Michael Nesmith’s 1985 television show which were inspirations for “It’s Garry Shandling’s Show.”

 

“The Shandlines” gives viewers an opportunity to click through the show’s original backstage newsletters.

 

Finally, the set includes original promos which aired on Fox.


The Packaging


The 72 episodes are spread over 16 discs, which in turn are encased in 8 slimcases. Each slimcase has a photo of Garry Shandling on the front and an episode guide on the back. The slimcases are held in a slipcase, which also has room for the booklet.


The Final Analysis


It’s Garry Shandling’s Show” is a welcome addition to any collection of television shows on DVD. It is extremely gratifying to see that Shout! Factory has done a wonderful job of packaging the entire series with a plethora of interesting and entertaining extras. Now if only Sony could be persuaded to release a complete set of The Larry Sanders Show!

 

Equipment used for this review:


Toshiba HD-XA-2 DVD player

Panasonic Viera TC-P46G15 Plasma display

Yamaha HTR-5890 THX Surround Receiver

BIC Acoustech speakers

Interconnects: Monster Cable


Release Date: October 20, 2009
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Rich Gallagher

#2 of 17 Ronald Epstein

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Posted October 17 2009 - 01:02 AM

 I love Gary Shandling. Perhaps my favorite comedian.

Trust me, would have been first in line to buy this series
except for one flaw -- its price.

Not to say this is overpriced -- I know there are four 
seasons of material here.  I also realize breaking the
set up into smaller, more moderately priced season 
sets would have killed interest in the series.

I'm just going to wait for a price drop on this.  Mark
my word, one day this set will be mine.  Thanks for the
great review, Rich.

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#3 of 17 Richard Gallagher

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Posted October 17 2009 - 08:04 AM



Quote:
Originally Posted by Ronald Epstein 

 I love Gary Shandling. Perhaps my favorite comedian.

Trust me, would have been first in line to buy this series
except for one flaw -- its price.

Not to say this is overpriced -- I know there are four 
seasons of material here.  I also realize breaking the
set up into smaller, more moderately priced season 
sets would have killed interest in the series.

I'm just going to wait for a price drop on this.  Mark
my word, one day this set will be mine.  Thanks for the
great review, Rich.
That's the Catch-22. The only way to be sure to get the entire series is to have it released at once, but the cost of buying an entire series at once is an issue for many people. But as you say there are sure to be some sales down the road..


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#4 of 17 Greg_S_H

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Posted October 17 2009 - 09:54 AM

It looks like a pretty good price for four seasons, considering what I paid for each season of Deep Space Nine.  I haven't seen the show since it aired, but your description makes it sound like I would still enjoy it.  So, good price, but like Ron I don't have the money to burn right now.


#5 of 17 Richard Gallagher

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Posted October 17 2009 - 11:00 AM

I just saw that Deep Discount has it priced at $81!

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#6 of 17 KevA

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Posted October 18 2009 - 06:57 AM

Can anybody confirm whether these are the original-length cuts of the episodes or not? One review site noted that the episodes are 19 or 20 minutes long on this DVD set, which doesn't sound quite right.

#7 of 17 Corey3rd

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Posted October 18 2009 - 11:37 AM

 The shows lengths on Showtime varied. The Shandlingland episode is barely 19 minutes, but the guys on the commentary point out that it only ran that long after they killed a b-story about taping pre-recorded tapes. Garry wasn't forced to deliver a set time show.
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#8 of 17 WillG

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Posted October 18 2009 - 12:37 PM

Did this show air on Fox as well. I seem to remember this being one of Fox's earlier sitcoms. We didn't have cable back in those days, but I remember watching this show from time to time
STOP HIM! He's supposed to die!

#9 of 17 Corey3rd

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Posted October 18 2009 - 02:41 PM

 The first two years it was only on Showtime. Then they started running them on Fox and Showtime during its last two seasons.
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#10 of 17 Richard Gallagher

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Posted October 18 2009 - 05:13 PM



Quote:
Originally Posted by KevA 

Can anybody confirm whether these are the original-length cuts of the episodes or not? One review site noted that the episodes are 19 or 20 minutes long on this DVD set, which doesn't sound quite right.
The average length is 26 minutes, but as has been noted they tend to varya bit. One thing which Shandling liked about doing the shows on Showtime was that he didn't have to bring in each show at the exact same length, since there were no commercials to worry about.

Rich Gallagher

#11 of 17 David Rain

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Posted October 18 2009 - 08:58 PM

How do you like is so far ? How do you like It's Garry Shandling's Show ?

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#12 of 17 JanuaryMan

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Posted October 19 2009 - 03:59 AM

I only saw the Fox edits, but was there racy content and swears in the originals?


#13 of 17 Corey3rd

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Posted October 19 2009 - 07:31 AM

 far as racy content and swearing goes, it was a rather tame show. Garry used the Showtime freedom to be able to focus on the weirdness of the stories instead of just going dirty. there was a curse word from an unexpected place.
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#14 of 17 Lorrie606

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Posted October 23 2009 - 07:23 AM

 there's pretty racy content in the commentaries and outtakes -- which are amazing, but very little in the show itself.  I got to produce this box set and I can assure you that all the episodes are the originals.  we worked really hard to find every singled piece of tape that existed for this show (and it wasn't easy).

#15 of 17 KevA

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Posted October 25 2009 - 12:50 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lorrie606 View Post

I got to produce this box set and I can assure you that all the episodes are the originals.  we worked really hard to find every singled piece of tape that existed for this show (and it wasn't easy).
Great. Thanks for this note.

#16 of 17 Ronald Epstein

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Posted August 08 2011 - 11:22 PM

Thought this set was originally priced out of

reach and I have been waiting forever for a price drop.


Amazon just reduced the price today by 66%.

Finally going to buy this today.


http://static.hometh...um.com/imgrepo/


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#17 of 17 Ronald Epstein

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Posted November 24 2011 - 03:58 AM

Been watching this show daily, one episode at a time, while

on my treadmill each morning.


Finally completed all four seasons of the show.


I have extremely fond, but limited memories of watching this

show when it first aired on Showtime in the late 1980s.  My
Dad and I loved the show and became huge fans of Gary Shandling.


Watching the First Season and part of the Second, I was

reminded just how original and funny the show was.  Even

today, I found myself laughing hysterically at the jokes.  It

was one of the very first shows that I can remember that

tore down the 4th wall and made the audience part of the joke.


The problem is that the show went on for two additional
seasons --- and that was two seasons too long.  By the end

of season two and more evident in the seasons that followed,

the show went from being fresh and funny each week to tediously

boring.  The fourth wall humor mostly collapsed and the show

migrated itself into just another weekly sitcom with characters

that you really didn't care about.  One horrific three-parter dealt

with a fundraiser to save a famous nightclub owner.


Big guest stars on the show also became less frequent. It sort

of became scary that the biggest guest stars being touted on

the show were Red Buttons and Tom Petty.


Even worse, it seemed as if Gary and the writers were running

out of jokes.  In the later seasons, monologues became shorter

and Gary was telling the same jokes over and over again.  By

the last few episodes of Season Four, Gary was only briefly

appearing in each, handing the reigns over to the unfunny cast.

The final episodes ended quite sloppily with one being an unfunny

Talent Show being undermined by a Phantom under the audience

seats -- and a clumsy sendup of Driving Miss Daisy with

Dan Aykroyd.   One would be amazed to think this was the same

show that made them laugh 3 seasons earlier.


However, there are some wonderful moments within this collection,

most notably what I think is the last TV appearance of Gilda
Radner a year before she died.  One of my favorite episodes deals

with a visit to the Gary Shandling Amusement Park where kids
sit on a salon hairdryer ride.


The video quality of the set is quite good.  There are outtakes to

be found on just about every disc, as well as commentary from
those involved in the episodes.  The only thing that continues to
bother me about these Shout Factory releases is the total lack
of subtitles.   Since I am on a loud treadmill, the subtitles would

have helped me understand some of the dialogue spoken at a
lower volume.


I would say that unless you are a huge fan of Gary Shandling,
and in particular, this series, I would not bother picking up the

entire set.  The show really only holds up well for the first two

seasons.  On the other hand, the first season seems to be available

as a single disc and I would definitely recommend that if you are

at least curious.



Ronald J Epstein
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