The Larry Sanders Show The Complete Series Set
Studio: Shout! Factory
Film Length: 40 hours
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Audio: English Dolby Digital 2.0
Release Date: November 2, 2010
The Larry Sanders Show is a TV show within a show; The Larry Sanders Show aired originally on HBO from 1992 through 1998 and was a documentary-style series detailing both the on-screen and backstage drama of Larry Sanders(Garry Shandling), a late night talk show host with a series also called The Larry Sanders Show. The amusingly foul-mouthed producer of the show within a show is Artie(Rip Torn), who expertly shields Larry from all of the distractions that would prevent him from doing his best job as host. The character of Artie was reputedly based upon and modeled closely after Johnny Carson’s legendary producer Fred De Cordova. Every late night talk show host needs a sidekick, and Larry’s is Hank Kingsley(Jeffrey Tambor), a performer who craves affection and respect, yet rarely receives it. Other players behind the scenes during the 6 season run included Larry’s assistants Beverly(Penny Johnson) and Paula(Janeane Garofalo), Hank’s assistant Darlene(Linda Doucett), and writers Phil(Wallace Langham) and Jerry(Jeremy Piven). Bob Odenkirk(Mr. Show With Bob and David), Mary Lynn Rajskub(24), Sarah Silverman(The Sarah Silverman Show) and Scott Thompson(Kids In The Hall) also played regulars on the series during its run.
The Larry Sanders Show created a style of series that is still popular today, as it influenced the creation of such other TV series as The Office, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Entourage, 30 Rock, and many others. The Larry Sanders Show was one of the first TV shows to have famous people play roles as fictional counterparts of their real selves, either in self-parody or in spot-on imitation of real life, or sometimes both. The list of actors who played themselves on The Larry Sanders Show includes Alec Baldwin, Warren Beatty, Robin Williams, David Letterman, Jerry Seinfeld, Tom Petty, Sharon Stone, Ellen DeGeneres, Howard Stern, Dana Carvey, David Duchovny, Jon Stewart, Rob Reiner, and many others. The series was created by Garry Shandling and Dennis Klein, and included writing from Judd Apatow(The 40 Year Old Virgin).
Has it really been 18 years since The Larry Sanders Show premiered on HBO? The comedy has aged well and is just as timely today as it was when originally aired. The references in the show to Larry’s competitors Jay Leno and David Letterman demonstrates how little things have changed in late night talk shows, since these gentlemen are still around and on the air. The surreal drama behind the scenes of The Larry Sanders Show is apropos, given the recent real-life drama behind the scenes of actual talk shows, such as NBC’s aborted efforts to replace Jay with Conan O’Brien in the 11:35 time slot.
The Larry Sanders Show received 56 Emmy Award nominations and was the recipient of Emmy Awards, Peabody Awards, CableACE and TV Critics Awards. Most of the series has been unavailable on DVD until now. The first season has been released in a couple of different formats, and a “best of” collection entitled “Not Just The Best of The Larry Sanders Show” was released in 2007 along with the second repackaging of the first season. Many fans had abandoned hopes of seeing the entire series released until Shout! Factory acquired the rights and released this complete series collection.
The series is presented in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio. Most of the series was captured on film in a grainy documentary style for the “behind-the-scenes” footage with the show-within-the-show filmed on video to duplicate the look of a late night talk show. Unfortunately, the video elements have not aged as well as the jokes on The Larry Sanders Show. In 2010, even grainy film tends to have substantially more detail than standard definition video. This is not so with the video elements of The Larry Sanders Show. The “film”portions of the show regularly have less detail and more compression artifacts than the “video” portions. The film portions are exceptionally grainy, to the point of losing detail rather than preserving it. Black levels suffer the most, often appearing in hues of gray.
I would be interested to know if the film elements still exist for this series. Given the number of outtakes and deleted scenes that have survived to be included in this collection, it seems likely that the film elements still exist. If so, then the potential exists in the future for The Larry Sanders Show to be remastered in high definition. Granted, the standard definition video footage probably looks as good now as it ever will, but most of the series was captured on film and has much room for improvement, depending upon the format and condition of archival elements. Fans who already have the first season sets previously released will observe that the video elements are of the same quality as those collections.
The English Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks are fine, given the time when this series was produced. The sound mixes have apparently not been remastered, but the series did not sound any better or worse than when I used to watch it on HBO. Dialogue is always appropriately audible over music and sound effects.
Shout! Factory certainly deserves credit for the comprehensive special features that have been included and created for this collection. Most of the special features from previous collections have been ported over to this release, with the exception of the Garry Shandling interview conducted by Washington Post film critic Tom Shales.
The special features are broken down here by disc and include all of the following:
Season 1, Disc 1: Is This The Intro? (2:02): Recent introduction filmed by Garry Shandling.
Commentary on “What Have You Done For Me Lately” by Garry Shandling and Peter Tolan.
Season 1, Disc 2: Personal Visit With Carol Burnett(15:39)
Interview With Jeremy Piven(6:00)
Season 2, Disc 1: Deleted Scenes(13:35): This consists of rehearsal footage and extended scenes from season two.
Season 2, Disc 2: Deleted Scene(0:58): This scene is from the episode “Broadcast Nudes.”
Season 2, Disc 3: Gary Lectures at USC(42:20): Howard Rosenberg hosted Garry Shandling at USC in a presentation filmed on April 19, 2010.
Personal Visit With Alec Baldwin(18:53)
Personal Visit With Jerry Seinfeld(23:42)
Interview With Bob Odenkirk(4:52)
Season 3, Disc 1: Commentary on “Hank’s Night In The Sun” by Garry Shandling and Todd Holland.
Season 3, Disc 2: Deleted Scenes(16:45)
Season 3, Disc 3: Interview and Personal Visit With Linda Doucett(11:26)
Interview With Penny Johnson(10:03)
Personal Visit With Sharon Stone(22:28)
Season 4, Disc 1: Commentary on “The Bump” by Todd Holland
Season 4, Disc 2: Commentary on “Hank’s Sex Tape” by Todd Holland
Season 4, Disc 3: Interview With Janeane Garofalo(7:31)
Interview With Scott Thompson(8:52)
Interview With Wallace Langham(6:30)
Season 5, Disc 1: Commentary on “Where Is The Love” by Todd Holland
Season 5, Disc 2: Deleted Scenes(2:26)
Season 5, Disc 3: Personal Visit With David Duchovny(9:55)
Personal Visit With Ellen DeGeneres(4:39)
John Markus Story(3:18): This is a brief anecdote from writer/consulting producer John Markus.
Season 6, Disc 1: Deleted Scenes(15:03)
Season 6, Disc 2: Commentary on “Putting The ‘Gay’ Back In Litigation” by Garry Shandling and Judd Apatow.
Commentary on “Flip” by Garry Shandling and Peter Tolan
Interview With Sarah Silverman(9:02)
Interview With Mary Lynn Rajskub(7:43)
Bonus Features Disc: The Making Of The Larry Sanders Show(1:10:45): This informative and entertaining documentary is hosted by Greg Kinnear.
Personal Visit With Tom Petty(20:45)
Personal Visit With Jon Stewart(10:15)
“The Writers’ Process” with Judd Apatow and Gary Shandling(8:23)
Rip and Jeffrey Visit Larry in his Living Room(11:28)
EMMY Print Campaign Gallery: This feature is navigated by use of the arrows on your remote control.
The Journey Continues(2:09): This brief featurette shows Garry Shandling pursuing his worship of Buddhist faith.
Credits for Special Features From “Not Just The Best Of The Larry Sanders Show”(2:30)
Also included with this set is a profusely illustrated 60 page booklet entitled “The Larry Sanders Show: The Complete Guide” with episode synopses and airdates as well as articles written by Jeffrey Tambor and Howard Rosenberg. The booklet is the same size as the plastic clamshell cases housing the discs, and the booklet and the discs are housed in a sturdy black cardboard case.
The Larry Sanders Show is an entertaining and hilarious look behind the scenes at an imaginary late night talk show. This is one of those rare shows like I Love Lucy that is not dated, even as it reflects the style of its era, and this series has jokes and humor that have stood the test of time. The video presentation has unfortunately not aged as well as the humor in the show, although the series looks and sounds as good as it ever did when it originally aired in standard definition in the 1990s. The special features are about as comprehensive as a fan might hope for, although the Tom Shales interview with Gary Shandling from the season 1 sets has not been ported over to this collection. That interview may not be missed much, however, given the number of special features included with this set. Although the video presentation falls a little short of modern standards, The Larry Sanders Show The Complete Collection comes highly recommended for anyone with a funny bone.