The Larry Sanders Show: The Complete Series

The Larry Sanders Show: The Complete Series
Twelve years since its brilliant series finale, The Larry Sanders Show remains a rare gem in television ― a much imitated, but never duplicated, treasure of unparalleled writing and instinctual acting, as scathingly hilarious as it was revolutionary. Comedian Garry Shandling never encountered a fourth wall he didn't want to knock down and, in the mid-'80s, his obsession with artifice and access led him to fashion his first series, It's the Garry Shandling Show, a presciently surreal meta-carnival skewering conventional sitcoms while letting the audience in on the whole process. As a recurring guest host on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson (and a contemporary of David Letterman and Jay Leno), Shandling was privy to some of the most bizarre, neurotic and reprehensible self-aggrandizing behaviour in Hollywood. We know this because he fashioned some of these actual situations into a not-so-faux behind-the-scenes look at fictional talk show host Larry Sanders. Shandling infuses Sanders with a strange charm; we see him both as the mercurial, proficient host of a conventional talk show, but we spend most of our time with him backstage or in his office, even in his bedroom, where he neurotically kvetches while watching his show. With its hand-held cameras and roving scenes, the non-talk show aspect of the program feels like a documentary with spectacular spontaneity and immediacy. Born in 1992, it's a direct precursor to the films of Christopher Guest (Waiting for Guffman, Best in Show, etc.) and Ricky Gervais's The Office, which themselves fuelled the rash of stylized mockumentary shows like Parks and Recreation and Modern Family. But The Larry Sanders Show was far too clever, subtle and interested in social interplay to have its characters cheaply spill their internal monologues and worldviews directly into cameras. These flawed characters were assholes, yes, but only really in relation to one another; their awkward communication breakdowns are things of beauty. The towering roles of the show's impassioned, mad-dog producer and incorrigible sidekick are respectively played by Rip Torn and Jeffrey Tambor, each supporting the series while elevating Shandling's range as a performer, balancing two worlds, though one is meant to be more "real" than the other. With so many huge stars on board to memorably play satiric versions of themselves (i.e., Jon Stewart, Jerry Seinfeld, Carol Burnett, Sean Penn, Ellen DeGeneres, Jim Carrey, Jennifer Anniston, Elvis Costello, David Duchovny, Sharon Stone, Warren Beatty, Sting, Roseanne and even David Letterman, among countless others), viewers rightly thought they were getting the inside track as to how showbiz operates. But like Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Entourage and whatever the best of reality TV might be, Larry Sanders was a send-up of human behaviour, shaking its head at its amorality with a "Man, people really are this fucked up" look on its face. In this wide-screen reissue of the entire series, the only flaws are technical; if so inclined, a great drinking game could be had by counting all of the ill-placed boom mics, crew members and continuity errors. But, as the outtakes and deleted extended scenes suggest, the show was shot inexpensively and quickly, clearly finding its best takes early among improvisations by the performers and moving on. Otherwise, much of the bonus material, such as the incredible "Personal Visits with Garry Shandling" (with Seinfeld, Duchovny, Stewart, Stone, Alec Baldwin, Tom Petty, an emotional Torn and Tambor, and more) and revealing reflections on the series by cast members such as Janeane Garafolo, Sarah Silverman, Wallace Langham, Linda Doucett, Scott Thompson, Penny Johnson and Bob Odenkirk, have already been seen by fans who picked up the 2007 set, Not Just the Best of the Larry Sanders Show. The only real surprise is a filmed Q&A lecture by Shandling, given in April 2010 at the University of Southern California, at the invitation of professor/former Los Angeles Times TV critic (and ardent LS champion) Howard Rosenberg. Meeting for the first time, the two have an easy rapport and a surgically reformed, sunburnt Shandling reveals much about the show, including its transition into darker storylines, and the influence of Martin Scorsese's King of Comedy on his decision to videotape the talk show segments, the way real shows do, and use film for the off-camera sequences to mark a clearer distinction between the show's dual landscapes. In deeply personal tones, Shandling discusses the importance of risk in his work and, with its rare confluence of talent, execution and experimentation, The Larry Sanders Show lives on as the greatest testament to his visionary journey, as an innovative, comedic genius. Plus: "The Writers Process " with Judd Apatow and Garry Shandling; Emmy Print Campaign Gallery; The Journey Continues…

(Shout! Factory)