TITLE: IT'S GARRY SHANDLING'S SHOW - THE COMPLETE SERIES
Release Date: October 20, 2009 (Shout! Factory)
Number of Discs: 16
Number of Episodes: 72
Running Time: approx. 1860 minutes
Total Running Time of Special Features (Excluding Commentary): approx 195 minutes
*6 Featurettes with cast, crew, and writers
Before the Internet, before reality TV, no one saw what television *could* be more humorously and with more vision than Garry Shandling. In 1986, Garry Shandling was poised to become a permanent guest host on Johnny Carson’s The Tonight Show. Instead, he took a chance on an offer from fledgling cable network Showtime to create his own television series. No questions asked.
A surreal look at the daily life of a young single man who is a comedian, It’s Garry Shandling’s Show was not a typical sitcom. Shandling would break the fourth wall to include the studio audience (starting about 10 seconds into episode #1) and the viewers at home in on the actual making of the show. Experimenting with the sitcom form meant inviting the audience onto the set, playing with the passage of time (IE: Suddenly stating that “It’s now two weeks later”), and generally exploding the genre and making art of the debris. As a fan of series who generally disregard the fourth wall (Boston Legal being one of my most favorite modern shows to do this) it’s interesting to see the concept of a non-traditional comedy set within the framework nearly required for any comedy of it’s day. Teaming up with Alan Zweibel, a former writer for Saturday Night Live, Shandling “put on a fourth grade play” every week for four seasons. With a crew of talented young writers whose later credits include Seinfeld and The Simpsons, television history was made.
From its unforgettable theme song to its closing credits, It’s Garry Shandling’s Show was award-winning mind-bending television for four seasons, and its influence is clearly seen in the best TV comedies through the decades to follow.
Memorable Episodes / Notable Guest Stars:
Before this review proceeds further, there’s something you should probably know: Prior to this review, I had never seen the show. Not even a clip. Oh, sure, I was a fan of Garry’s subsequent series (Larry Sanders Show -- a set I’m still waiting for more releases of, by the way!), but going in this was a completely new experience for me. My first thought?
Wow, what a theme song. Well, I said it was my *first* thought. And speaking of firsts, you know, that first episode is really something. For those of you not sent reeling by the cheesy transition, know that the first episode IS quite good, if definitely a bit offbeat. Often the first episode of a show is packed to the gills with so much exposition that you never really accomplish anything. In this episode, Garry moves into a condo recently vacated by Vanna White (who appears later in a dream sequence), the move-in later leading to a date with a cable TV installer. The description alone makes you turn your head, I know it, as we all have the exact same mental image of the person who comes by to install or service your cable. But to Garry’s delight, the cable installer in this case IS a rather attractive woman. For what it’s worth, the installer in question would later go on to marry Larry King in 1997, and they’ve been together since -- King’s longest-lasting marriage. The next episode, also a good one, features Garry babysitting. Word of the wise: Never let a professional comedian babysit.
Episode three features the first two guests I’d like to bring attention to -- Don Novello appears *as* his well-known character Father Guido Sarducci, while a gentleman by the name of Armin Shimerman appears as a doctor. The name might not immediately leap off the screen unless you’re a fan of either Star Trek or of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In the latter series, he portrayed the principal (and pain in the rear to Buffy) during the show’s early years, while in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine he played the bartender Quark, one of the show’s many great characters. Episode four features Ted Danson -- already well known as Sam Malone on Cheers by this point -- as a sportscaster for baseball. This is important as the plot involves a bungled foul ball and ridicule for Grant.
If I keep going at this rate, it’s going to take me until September 2011 to describe all the wonderful episodes in the series, so I’m going to skip ahead a little bit and hit the highest of the high-points, while accounting for the rest of the guest stars at the end. Generally speaking, though, the show is going to be great the vast majority of the time. Some episodes fall a bit flatter than others, but given the unique nature of the series obviously not every joke will stick.
Fast-forwarding somewhat, we arrive at the mid-point of the second series of the four. In a two part episode titled “Angelica,” Garry appears on Love Connection, and goes out on a date with, you guessed it, Angelica (Jennifer Tilly). Appearing in both parts are both she and Love Connection host Chuck Woolery. Appearing in part 1 as well is Zsa Zsa Gabor. Given that the show ran another two-and-a-half years and that Angelica didn’t exactly become a permanent cast member, I’ll leave you to guess at the ending.
Earlier, I mentioned the unique nature of the show in that the audience occasionally got dragged into things. This becomes the premise for an entire episode in the episode “Killer Routine,” in which Garry kills an audience member. The show starts out normally, with one audience member laughing particularly heartily. Garry wanders into the audience and starts talking to the guy. H laughs harder and harder, and eventually...boom. A “Please Stand By” slate comes up, with the first real hint that the death is part of the episode occurs when the main theme plays normally over the stand-by graphic. For what it’s worth, appearing in the show is Carl Reiner, playing himself (A commonality in this series).
At the end of the second series, Gilda Radner appears as herself, and talks with Garry for a few minutes. At the time, Gilda’s cancer was in remission, and this is joked about with a great exchange. As it would turn out, the finale of the show’s 2nd season would be her last TV appearance. By early the next year, signs indicated her cancer had returned, and she passed away in May 1989.
The finale of the third series would find Garry discovering a very large wart. On his neck. How is this brought to this attention? Through sitting through nearly five minutes of videotape of a past episode. The remainder of the episode spirals from there. And as for spiraling, the 8th episode of the final season sees Garry getting married -- complete with interference with the network and their desire for elaborate production numbers. The episode -- fitting for a series with so many game show references -- features appearances by Bert Convy (one of *his* final appearances) as well as Match Game personality Charles Nelson Reilly, as well as Ned Beatty and Connie Stevens.
The show finally draws to a close on May 25, 1990 with “Driving Miss Garry,” featuring special guests Dan Aykroyd and Paul Winfield. Take a guess what it’s a parody of. The episode ends with Garry taking a drive through the various parts of the set/neighborhood; the final two episodes were in fact parodies, with the penultimate show being a Phantom of the Opera parody featuring the whole of the supporting cast. The final *regular* episode occurs before the pair, in the aptly titled “The Last Show.” Death (Stuart Pankin) moves into the complex as the gardener and Garry dies. The episode is complete to a phone call to Bob Newhart, on the set of Newhart -- plus Tony Danza (with a bear) eulogizing Garry along with Dabney Coleman. The final two shows are explained by the dialog at the end of this episode, as the fictional head of the network barges in during Garry’s goodbye speech, explaining that he hated the death angle and that Garry owes him two more episodes “to wash the taste of that” out of everyone’s mouths. Hence, the following two shows.
The Rest of the Guests:
“The Graduate” (s1e05): Norman Fell
“Dial L for Laundry” (s1e14): Rob Reiner
“No Baby, No Show” (s2e02): Tom Petty
“The Schumakers go to Hollywood” (s2e04): Florence Henderson
“It’s Garry Shandling’s Christmas Show” (s2e08): Tom Petty
“Save the Planet” (s2e13): The Turtles, Kurtwood Smith
“Go Go Goldblum” (s2e15): Jeff Goldblum, Bert Convy
“Vegas (Part 1)”: Tom Petty, Joy Behar
“Save Mr. Peck’s (Part 1)”: Carl Reiner, Rob Reiner, Chevy Chase, Martin Mull
“Save Mr. Peck’s (Part 2)”: Rob Reiner, Chevy Chase, Steve Allen, Red Buttons, Charlie Callas, Paula Poundstone, Dabney Coleman, Don Novello
“Save Mr. Peck’s (Part 3)”: Steve Allen, Red Buttons, Tony Orlando & Dawn, Don Novello
“Ruth’s Place”: Marcia Cross
“Garry Acts Like a Moron”: Dave Coulier, Stuart Pankin
“First Show of the Fourth Season”: Henry Winkler
“Shandling vs. Mull”: Martin Mull
...Take a breather, and come back. There are lots more review from here.
This is the easiest part of this entire write-up. If you’ve ever dealt with, for example, a Seinfeld set then you’re familiar with what we’re dealing with. The set-up is essentially like a season set for it, only made of thicker material. You have an outer box, whose artwork you can see above. Inside is another box, whose art is a simple white background...with the top of Garry’s head peeking out from the bottom. Inside that are eight slim cases, each case holding two discs. The seasons are color-coded -- a nice touch for this stand-alone set. Season 1 is red, season 2 is green, season 3 is yellow, and season 4 is blue. Depending on the disc and the season, each disc will contain either 4 or 5 episodes.
Menu Design and Navigation:
The menus for each disc remind me a lot of the ones that Shout’s great art team designed for Sports Night -- a complete series set they released this time *last* year. You have various versions of the main theme (sometimes lyrical, sometimes instrumental) playing in the background, while you see different parts of the set as the main menu. The menu animates around that portion of the set, and the overall visual is a nice effect. The episode selection sub-menus follow this same design scheme. This is one of the better-done menus I’ve seen.
Video and Audio Quality:
The video isn’t quite perfect. There are some minor bits of dust, and in particular the first show appears to be shot on slightly cheaper stock. Most of the episodes look fairly good; it’s just that they’re 20-25 years old. Minor debris here and there, but good for its age. Colors show a light bit of fade, again, consistent for a show its age. As for audio? Again, how old is this show. It’s your basic standard audio track -- I didn’t even detect Stereo, though on this equipment I wouldn’t notice one way or another. The packaging makes no mention of any specs other than runtimes. Chapter stops occur after each act, with a couple stops per show. If this had been a network show the stops would roughly equate to commercial placement locations. Given Fox’s run of reruns of the show, you can just connect those two dots. And yes, there’s a play all function.
I’m listing the runtimes here for your convenience.
Garry Moves In: 27:20
Grant Gets Broken: 25:37
Garry Throws a Surprise Party: 23:44
Foul Ball: 28:14
The Graduate: 27:20
It’s Garry’s Problem, But It’s JoJo’s Show: 29:08
Garry Met a Girl Named Maria: 25:00
Grant’s Date: 22:21
Pete Has an Affair: 21:20
The Morning After: 23:44
Dial L for Laundry: 23:27
Dinner with Garry: 23:49
Force Boxman: 25:28
Who’s Poppa?: 25:12
No Baby, No Show: 28:06
The Fugitive: 23:41
The Schumakers Go to Hollywood: 22:08
Nancy Gets Amnesia: 26:02
Angelica Part 1: 23:25
Angelica Part 2: 23:38
It’s Garry Shandling’s Christmas Show: 22:45
Killer Routine: 24:35
Mr. Sparks: 19:00
The Soccer Show: 20:07
Our Town: 20:23
Save The Planet: 22:45
The Grant Shuffle: 21:27
Go Go Goldblum: 24:12
Garry Falls Down a Hole: 23:20
Mr. Smith Goes to Nam: 23:24
Goin’ Places: 23:13
Pete’s Got a Secret: 22:08
What’s Happening to Me?: 23:38
Live Election Show: 24:48
Home Sweet Home: 23:34
The Natural: 23:23
Vegas (Part 1): 23:51
Vegas (Part 2): 23:12
Save Mr. Pecks (Part 1): 23:38
Save Mr. Pecks (Part 2): 23:33
Save Mr. Pecks (Part 3): 23:34
Ruth’s Place: 23:04
Garry Acts Like a Moron: 23:21
Kramer vs. Grant: 23:07
Grant Goes to the Dogs: 23:28
Big Brother: 24:49
Going, Going, Gone: 23:33
Garry Goes Golfing: 23:09
Mum’s the Word: 23:32
Worry Wart: 24:59
First Show of the Fourth Season: 23:46
Take My Girlfriend, For Example: 23:13
Nathan’s Sheer Madness: 24:37
Super Grant: 24:18
Dinner at Eddie King’s House: 24:13
The Proposal: 23:22
The Day Howard Moved In: 23:15
The Wedding Show: 24:01
The Honeymoon Show: 21:51
Shandling vs. Mull: 23:14
Leonard Gets Metaphysical: 24:10
Chester Gets a Show: 23:09
My Mother the Wife: 23:34
Family Man: 23:52
Mad at Brad: 24:49
The Last Show: 23:51
The Talent Show: 25:41
Driving Miss Garry: 21:41
Commentary: The following episodes include commentary by the following people:
Garry Moves In: Garry Shandling & Alan Zweibel
The Graduate: Garry Shandling & Alan Zweibel
Grant’s Date: Garry Shandling & Ed Solomon
Fate: Ed Solomon
Dial L for Laundry: Tom Gammill, Max Pross, Garry Shandling and Alan Zweibel
No Baby, No Show: Garry Shandling & Alan Zweibel
The Schumakers Go to Hollywood: Tom Gammill, Max Pross, Ed Solomon
Mr. Sparks: Tom Gammill & Max Pross
Mr. Smith Goes to Nam: Alan Zweibel
Goin’ Places: Tom Gammill, Max Pross, Garry Shandling, Ed Solomon
What’s Happening to Me? Tom Gammill, Max Pross, Garry Shandling, Alan Zweibel
The Natural: Al Jean, Mike Reiss, Garry Shandling
Garry Acts Like a Moron: Al Jean, Mike Reiss
Garry Goes Golfing: Al Jean, Mike Reiss, Garry Shandling
Worry Wart: Tom Gammill, Max Pross, Garry Shandling, Alan Zweibel
Firehose: Al Jean, Mike Reiss
Family Man: Alan Zweibel
Driving Miss Garry: Al Jean, Mike Reiss
Outtakes: Several episodes have outtakes included. Listed are episodes and their blooper runtimes.
Garry Moves In: 1:26
Garry Met a Girl Named Maria: 7:32
Who’s Poppa? : 5:58
Nancy Gets Amnesia: 5:56
It’s Garry Shandling’s Christmas Show: 2:08
Killer Routine: 4:42
Save the Planet: 6:48
Mr. Smith Goes to Nam: 3:17
What’s Happening to Me? 4:25
Vegas (Part 1): 6:33
Vegas (Part 2): 2:09
Ruth’s Place: 5:16
Garry Goes Golfing: 2:15
Worry Wart: 3:01
The Honeymoon Show: 4:50
Shandling vs. Mull: 5:13
Getting There: The Road to the Show (19:09): Features interviews with the cast and crew about the origins of the show.
Being There: The Cast Remembers (26:02): More interviews. This time it’s reminiscing about the show itself.
Still There: The Writers and Crew Remember (26:15): Same as the above, but with everyone else.
Trying to Remember: A Conversation with Garry and Alan (19:46): It’s simply Garry Shandling and Alan Zweibel talking amongst themselves about the show for 20 minutes.
Bruce Grayson: Man Behind the Brush (3:19): It’s a featurette...about Garry’s makeup guy.
Original Promos (5:33): These are original promos...for the Fox airings of the episodes.
Show & Tell with Tom & Max (7:45): Special feature with Max Pross & Tom Gammill. They play around with various objects for 8 minutes. Ooh, the joys of sticking a pencil into a roll.
Shandlines: The above two guys showing off a little hand-written/typed Garry Shandling newsletter. 15-second intro, at which point you can view at your own leisure the actual newsletter.
Television Parts: These are two excerpts from various TV bits. There are two, “Garry Dates Miss Maryland” and “Garry Shandling’s Car.” The two combined run approximately 10 minutes.
Booklet: A booklet of episode details and other miscellaneous memorabilia from the show’s run. 36 pages in all.
Total running time of special features, excluding commentary: approx. 195 Minutes
You guys see what I saw? Runtimes as low as 19 minutes! What in the sam hill is going on there? This was a series whose first run is on Showtime for crying out loud! No matter how short an episode ran, there’s no way you can convince me a premium cable sitcom from the 1980s runs shorter than a broadcast series from 20 years later. No way. The stuff in the 20:00 and 21:00 range also looks awfully suspicious. Someone with more detailed knowledge of the series can gladly correct me if I’m wrong, but something looks very rotten in Denmark.
I’m very rarely the type who gets worked up over episode edits. Indeed, I’ve even defended the edits on Lionsgate’s ALF sets. But there’s a difference -- you can buy those for $15 a pop easily, whereas this is a giant $100+ set. And $100 IS at discount. For someone having to outlay $100+ for a set, I think completely intact episodes are a very minimum prerequisite. Again, if it turns out those episodes really DID run that short I’ll gladly retract all of this. But NINETEEN MINUTES?
And even if you ignore the edited episodes, the price point is still a big issue. $160 for 72 episodes. Generally speaking a rule of thumb I use is to NEVER set the *MSRP* higher than 2x the number of episodes. That puts the price ceiling on this set at $144, which would lead to an Amazon price of $100 even. There’s something psychological about triple digits -- if they could make this set $99.99 it’d move a lot faster than $120.
The episodes are hysterical, and the set is (aside from possible edits) one of the finer sets I’ve seen. But for anyone other than the die-hard fans of this show, there’s just no way on earth I can recommend this unless you find it VERY heavily discounted (Sub-$100). I know Shout wants to recoup their investment, but there needs to be some healthy pragmatism and realism here. And it really saddens me to say that, but...there’s just too much money involved to recommend this. Though I love what I see, if I weren’t reviewing this set there’s no way I could -- or would -- possess it.
Final Numbers (out of 5 stars - How our point system works)
Video Quality: 4/5
Audio Quality: 3.5/5
Menu Design: 5/5
Special Features 5/5
Final Score: 3.5/5
-- Reviewed by Seth Thrasher on 10/14/09
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