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HTF REVIEW: "The Larry Sanders Show Season 1" (with screenshots)

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Ronald Epstein, Feb 27, 2002.

  1. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder
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    [​IMG]
    The Larry Sanders Show

    No flipping!
    In August of 1992, HBO aired the very first
    episode of The Larry Sanders show. The
    premise of the show can be described as nothing
    short of brilliant. Instead of creating just
    another talk show for a pay-cable network, HBO
    took on the idea of creating a sitcom about
    Larry Sanders, a talk-show host. It was a show
    within a show exposing the true demons that run
    in entertainment circles.
    The show was an instant success, and became the
    most talked about show on television.
    [​IMG]
    Each episode usually started with "The Larry
    Sanders Show", as Larry (Garry Shandling) gives us
    his daily monologue, introduces the day's guests,
    and then as the talk show ends, we go behind the
    camera and up to Larry's offices where he interacts
    with Paula (Janeane Garofalo), the shows booking
    agent; Jerry (Jeremy Piven), the shows writer;
    and Larry's Producer and guardian angel, Arthur
    (Rip Torn). Least I forget Larry's bumbling co-host,
    Hank (Jeffrey Tambor), the show's most memorable
    character.
    [​IMG]
    In essence, every week the show examined the
    fictional life of Larry Sanders both on and off
    the set. Some of the greatest names in show business
    appeared in its 6 seasons, including William Shatner,
    Robin Williams, Dana Carvey, David Duchovny, Billy
    Crystal, David Letterman and so on and so on. When
    Larry wasn't seen in front of the camera during his
    show, we got an intimate look at the problems plaguing
    his personal side from troubles with his love life
    to problems with his staff, to guests that walk off
    the show.
    [​IMG]
    By the year 1998, the show was still at its peak,
    but Shandling and company decided to go out on a
    high note, and a piece of television history soon
    went into retirement.
    How is the transfer?
    I'm afraid I have good and bad news. The good
    news is that the audio on this DVD sounds very
    good. Presented in 2-channel Dolby, I became
    part of the show as the action remained in the
    front soundfield and audience applause clearly
    rose in the rear channels. Sadly, it seems that
    the only time we hear any rear activity is during
    the talk show sequences.
    The bad news is the transfer. Being that the
    show was originally shot on both video and film,
    the talk show sequences (shot on tape)look much
    better than the backstage sequences (shot on film)
    which are slightly unfocused. There is also a
    noticeable element of grain in the filmed portions.
    Was this intended to be presented this way? With
    the talk show sequences having a more polished look,
    I would tend to think so. However, the rest of the
    show just looks so "blah" when compared that I tend
    to think there were some mastering problems.
    Special Features
    First, let me talk a little about the packaging.
    [​IMG]
    The Larry Sanders Show opens up to a
    3-gatefold package that looks and feels rather
    cheaply produced. It's basically thin cardboard
    with black plastic housing inside that stores each
    of the 3 discs.
    [​IMG]
    The 3 discs hold four 30-minute episodes each
    with the exception of disc #3 which has a fifth
    episode. A total of 13 episodes comprise Season 1.
    Inside the packaging is a small card that gives
    a summary of each episode and its guest stars.
    I was a bit upset to find that original airdates
    weren't even listed.
    [​IMG]
    The only extra feature in this set appears on
    Disc #1. Garry Shandling Talks is a very
    candid 27-minute interview with a Washington
    Post reporter. Garry talks about how the idea
    of the show came to be. Since Garry was a regular
    co-host on the original "Tonight Show", he had
    years of talk-show experience on his belt. He
    decided to take that experience and do a show
    about a talk show host. Garry talks about how if
    he had done just his own straight talk show, how
    much different it would have been from his alter-ego,
    Larry Sanders.
    Garry reflects how much experimentation went into
    the show before the airing of the very first episode.
    Also, just as interesting is Gary talking about
    how difficult and time consuming it was to shoot
    the show on both video and film. Using footage
    from the show, Gary shows us the many camera tricks
    and techniques used to produce the show.
    One of the most interesting stories of this
    interview is the Rip Torn story. Garry reflects
    upon his first meeting with the renowned actor
    who refused to read or audition for the part.
    Garry tried to ease this situation by arranging a
    one-on-one meeting with Rip, which ended on quite
    an interesting note.
    Final Thoughts
    My overall impression of this set is that
    it's "okay". It seems to be a set that was
    thrown together without really complimenting
    the show itself. The packaging is very plain,
    tells us nothing about the show itself, and
    whose transfer is somewhat questionable.
    I think the problem is that we have seen
    studios like Fox and Artisan do far better with
    their television product from menus that go
    beyond being basic, to packaging that really
    compliments the product.
    Still, this is Larry Sanders we are
    talking about, and it is really nice to see that
    Columbia chose [/i]this[/i] show as their very
    first DVD television entry. There's nothing like
    revisiting old friends and hearing Hank belt out
    his infamous "HEY NOW!"
    Available NOW!
     
  2. Rob W

    Rob W Supporting Actor

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    I don't have the set yet but I can confirm there was ALWAYS grain in the backstage & off-camera sequences in the broadcast versions. If these discs are faithful to the original look of the show I will have no complaints.
     
  3. Sean Moon

    Sean Moon Cinematographer

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    Hell..its Larry Sanders. I just want the damn discs now...all six seasons. Especially the Duchovny ones, and the finale with Jim Carrey. One of the best shows ever!

    Hey Now!
     
  4. Kurt N

    Kurt N Stunt Coordinator

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    Sorry so little care was put into this set, but...well...it's Larry Sanders. I'll be getting the set this weekend. Hopefully Garry's other show will follow.
     
  5. Niko Nykanen

    Niko Nykanen Stunt Coordinator

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    Aaahhh.. I´ve been Waiting for this since the first announcement of a season of tv-series being released on DVD..
    Is it the first season that has David Duchovny in it where there´s talk about him being interested in Larry Sanders in "that way"??
    That was a hilarious episode.
    We in Sweden saw only maybe the first two seasons.. That´s it.. Let´s hope that Columbia decides to release the remaining seasons so we can see the rest.
    Go Columbia!
    [​IMG]
     
  6. James Miller

    James Miller Stunt Coordinator

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    VIDEO QUALITY SUMMARY: If you accept the fact that you will be getting a picture no better than you would off of DirecTV, and want the series on a durable medium, then by all means pick up this set. If you want anything better than that then you will be sorely disappointed.

    +++

    Well, after much trepidation I finally opened my set. I have done direct A-B comparisons of several scenes from "The Flirt" and "Hank's Contract" using the DVD on one hand and Tivo'd DirecTV copies on the other.

    There is virtually no difference, for better or worse, between the two with regard to grain, artifacts, sharpness, resolution, etc. However, the DVD appears to have "tint" set too low. Faces are red/purple on the DVD whereas they are fine on the Tivo. (this after raising my TV's tint a couple of notches above AVIA/DVD level to compensate for red/purple faces on my DTV programming)

    All in all, therefore, I must give this set- for video quality- a 4/10. Had the colors been "right" it would still have merited only a 5, since paying $40 for the exact same quality as I currently receive over HBO (including the slight loss of quality by recording to the TIVO) is a dubious investment, to say the least.

    The ONLY advantage to having the DVD set as opposed to a "recorded off HBO" library is that you will not lose any (more) quality by using videotape. Even recording to DVD-R, assuming 1 hour per disc, the investment in blank media would be about the same price as this set. (2 episodes per disc, 7 discs for 13 episodes, ~$5 per high quality disc = $35)

    Now, I will play with the colors a bit, and see if I can't reach a reasonable level for this set. If so I will be satisfied if not "happy", if not I will be disappointed.
     
  7. Dave Scarpa

    Dave Scarpa Producer

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    Let's hope that Columbia's Attempt with All In The Family fares better
     
  8. David Lambert

    David Lambert Executive Producer

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  9. James Miller

    James Miller Stunt Coordinator

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    I agree that the source material is the most fundamental indicator to how a DVD release will perform re: video/audio quality.

    That being said, I honestly have no clue how "Larry Sanders" looked in its first run.

    The only comparison I can make is to how it looks as it is currently broadcast. As far as I am concerned, a DVD release of an NTSC 4:3 television show should ALWAYS look better than a similar showing on NTSC 4:3 television. The inherent distortion (and compression in satellite viewing) of television broadcasts - as minimal as they may be - can and should be avoided when mastering to DVD.

    In the case of "Larry" I found the DVD video quality to be virtually identical to the current HBO (over DirecTV) broadcasts. The DVD should be better, albeit slightly so bases on the source material. I could still live with that, but the color problem I encountered (red/purple tint) was simply unacceptable.

    If DVD was nothing more than a "permanent" storage medium for broadcast quality programming then I am confident that it would have failed long ago. DVD offers superior video quality to that achieved via broadcast, tape or LD and all releases should offer such superiority. (every other TV release I have- MASH, Sopranos, Sex and the City, Ab Fab, etc; look better on their current DVD releases than to comparitive broadcast showings- of the several episodes of each I have been able to A-B compare- and they are so, if for no other reason, because of the lack of broadcast distortion/compression)
     
  10. RobertCharlotte

    RobertCharlotte Supporting Actor

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    I pre-ordered this as soon as I heard about it and my copy arrived last Monday. Haven't had a chance to watch any of it yet, but the weekend is nearly here.
    Great review, Ronald, but it's "Garry," not "Gary."
     
  11. Michael St. Clair

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    The film portions of Larry Sanders were shot on 16mm, and they probably used film stock optimized for low or available light, which is often grainy as hell.

    But it is true that the picture should look better than the DirectTV broadcasts. Average DVD bitrates are 2 to 4 times that of average DirecTV bitrates.
     
  12. Matthew_S

    Matthew_S Second Unit

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    I agree with Ron about the lack of information in the set. I found a good episode guide HERE for anyone who's interested. I also think that this set is totally acceptable for such a great t.v. series, but could have been great.
     
  13. Rob T

    Rob T Screenwriter

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    Did they leave 3 episodes out of this set?

    because I'm listening to The Howard Stern show and he said he bought the set yesterday and while there's 14 episodes listed on the box, there's 11 episodes total on all the discs and Fred said that he found the same thing. So what's going on here? Did the Columbia leave out 3 episodes?
     
  14. David Lambert

    David Lambert Executive Producer

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    Well, Ron's review said 13 episodes ("The 3 discs hold four 30-minute episodes each with the exception of disc #3 which has a fifth episode. A total of 13 episodes comprise Season 1."), and Gord Lacey's review at TVShowsOnDVD says "13 episodes" as well. There is a special feature called "Garry Shandling Talks...No Flipping", so maybe that is what those, um, gentlemen on the Stern show thought of as a 14th episode?...
    I have been slowly going through this release, enjoying each one when I have a half hour to kill. I'm in no rush; I need to reserve enjoyable things for small slots, and not watch EVERYthing in marathon sessions. So I've got one more show on Disc 2 and then I'm onto Disc 3. Great so far!
     
  15. JulianK

    JulianK Supporting Actor

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    More important questions would be: when are Columbia going to release the rest of the series, and will they use dual-layer discs next time so that they can keep the costs down, please?

    This three-disc collection could have been put on one DVD-14, at a fraction of the cost.
     
  16. Rob T

    Rob T Screenwriter

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    Thanks, David. I guess they just got ets that missed a disc then.
     
  17. Jim Ogilvie

    Jim Ogilvie Stunt Coordinator

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    Rob T....
    I *almost* fell into the same trap with regard to the number of episodes that I suspect Stern did.
    As it happens, discs 1 and 2 have 4 thumbnail images each. These images are one per episode. So, discs one and two have four episodes each.
    Disc 3, however, has 3 thumbnail images. Thus, a total of 11 episodes. Or so I thought.
    On disc 3, right below the thumbnail images, there is a TINY arrow, that if you click on it, takes you to another menu with two more thumbnail images (2 more episodes), which brings the total number of episodes on the set to 13.
    If you count the 27 minute interview with Garry Shandling, thats 14. [​IMG]
    Jim
     
  18. Stephen Ford

    Stephen Ford Stunt Coordinator

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    When are they going to release more larry Sanders ?

    Its taking ages for them to come out.
     
  19. John Watson

    John Watson Screenwriter

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    I've been trying to remember that guy's name since Dr Phil burst on the scene - Jeffery Tambor!

    Does anyone remember Fernwood Tonight? An earlier talk shpw takeoff, with Martin Mull and Gerry Hubbard... Brilliant too.
     
  20. Jim Ogilvie

    Jim Ogilvie Stunt Coordinator

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    *sigh*

    I went through season 1 much too quickly. Two viewings is all it took me.

    I am ready for ALL of the remaining seasons, please!
     

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