If you’re one of our several dozen followers on Twitter, you may have had the pleasure of reading our excited squealing noises about our Region 1 DVD boxset of The Complete Larry Sanders Show. We refuse to apologise for those onomatopoeic tweets, because we remain convinced that it’s – no exaggeration – the greatest DVD box set we’ve ever seen. Not only is The Larry Sanders Show one of the three greatest US sitcoms in history (alongside Seinfeld and Arrested Development), but the bewildering amount of care that has gone into the extras is above and beyond what we could realistically have expected from such a set.
Best of all, the Region 2 boxset has just been released, meaning those without multiregion DVD players can now wallow in the many extras! Except, no. Almost all of the extras have been stripped from the R2 set, meaning UK Sanders fans miss out on a load of smashing bonus features, as well as having to put up with a less attractive box for the set:
So, how much better is the Region 1 version? Well, it’s time for us to take a comprehensive look in an update we’re going to call BROKENTV’S LOOKAROUND CAFE (of the R1 Sanders Boxset).
SEASON ONE, DISC ONE
First thing you'll notice, after a lengthy trailer for the release of It's Garry Shandling's Show, is that even the interactive menus are lovely, with NO annoying zoomy-zippy-CGI animation or anything meaning you have to wait ages before getting to select anything (ooh, we hate that), but a nice static shot from the show, with an audio bed of gallery chatter, characters rehearsing their lines, or any other kind of behind the scenes brilliance.
This disc sees a menu option called “Is This The Intro?”, and is the first piece of non-episode brilliance.
Garry Shandling at home riffs on the amount of Sanders releases over the years, and tells us about the contents of the boxset, but not before holding up a faxed proof of the artwork for the very DVD we’re watching, and sweeping all the other products off his table, because “you have this now, you don’t need all this crap any more”.
The first disc of the set also contains the first commentary track, this time by Garry Shandling and Peter Tolan, for the first episode of Larry Sanders, “What Have You Done For Me Lately?”. Not only does this reveal oodles of lovely trivia about the making of the series, which came before HBO could afford the lavish productions we’re now used to, meaning that in place of an expensive steadicam was a cameraman being pulled backwards on rollerblades, but we also see footage of Shandling and Tolan getting set up for the commentary recording. Above and beyond, as we’d said.
Sample fact: the montage of “classic Larry Sanders Show moments through the years” used in the title sequence for (the in-show) Larry Sanders Show were all recorded in one go, with a big box of props.
SEASON ONE, DISC TWO
Disc two sees the first of the personal visits conducted by Shandling, where he catches up several of the guests from the series, this time with Carol Burnett (you know, from the episode with all the spiders, called The Spiders Episode). These were recorded for the earlier “Not Just The Best Of” DVD set, and make a welcome reappearance here, meaning no-one really needs to keep both sets.
These aren’t necessarily entertaining enough to get anywhere near television, though we prefer to think of them as video podcasts, with a pair of showbiz types chatting away in real-time as members of the recording crew mill around, fit microphones, set up cameras and so on. The spots are even bookended by captions introducing each segment, handwritten by Shandling himself. Lovely.
Next on the bonus menu is an interview with Jeremy Piven, who played head writer Jerry in the first few seasons of the show, who talks about his favourite memories of working on the series, interspersed with clips of key scenes. Fun, though many of the clips are from later episodes, and as such anyone watching the show for the first time might want to leave these extras until they’ve seen all the episodes, unless they really enjoy having plot twists spoiled for them.
Rounding up the extras on this disc is the first set of Deleted Scenes. These are a real treat, with many of the deleted scenes actually being longer rushes, with us able to enjoy the actors entering into and coming out of character, sometimes doing multiple takes without interruption. The first of these sees a longer edit of a scene taking place in the writers room, with the writers deliberately coming up with jokes that could never be used in the actual (in-show) show. “There’s a question Jeffrey Dahmer just asked his shrink… ‘if you suck a cock that’s not attached to anybody, are you still gay?”
In the interests of being extra-superb, a caption even lets us know which bit is the deleted part of an extended scene, and which bit was broadcast. Real care being shown.
SEASON TWO, DISC ONE
Onto the second season, and more deleted and extended scenes. Here, we get an extended scene from The Breakdown, at the end of which Garry Shandling amuses breaks character by bursting into laughter, and two deleted scenes from The List, where Hank tries to get members of the office staff and show guests to invest in his Look-A-Round Cafe with fairly predictable results, and Larry testing out a ‘Hankerciser’ in “The Hankerciser 200”.
Best of all though, is the extended scene from Larry’s Agent. This is actually a full interview segment from the (in-show) show, starting with Garry Shandling (as Garry Shandling) explaining the camera setup to the audience, before getting into character and conducting a six-minute long interview with film director Barry Levinson. As the talk show segments were generally recorded in front of a real studio audience, this effectively means the studio audience got to see entire episodes of a very real Larry Sanders (erm, in-show) Show, and it’s lovely to see such a segment in full.
With the extras taken from the original tapes, each deleted and extended scene in the set is from a single camera, and here it’s from the viewpoint that takes in producer Artie, checking progress of the show on his monitor. Splendidly, Rip Torn stays in character throughout the whole sequence, and despite only the occasional few seconds of this footage likely to make it to the finished episode, Artie/Rip chuckles leadingly while looking approvingly at the audience, in order to pep up their reaction after a joke, clapping his hands or waving his shooting script in the air to generate applause, and so on. Marvellous.
SEASON TWO, DISC TWO
Disc four of the set only has room for one deleted scene amongst the seven episodes also on there, a short scene from “Broadcast Nudes”, where Beverly, Paula and Darlene discuss the latter’s forthcoming Playboy shoot while trying on makeup.
SEASON TWO, DISC THREE
The last disc for season two is where the real goodies are lurking. First up, all 42 minutes of Garry Shandling’s lecture at Howard Rosenberg’s Television Symposium Class at USC, from April 19th, 2010. That’s something we’d happily have bought on a standalone DVD.
Again, clips from the series are shown, including from the end of the very final episode, so if you’re getting into Larry Sanders for the first time, this is another extra to leave until you’ve seen all the episodes. Make sure you do check out this extra at some point though, as it’s another pleasure. Think of an episode of Inside The Actors Studio, only with all the smugness replaced with excellence.
Next up, a personal visit with Alec Baldwin. A twenty-minute long chat with the star of 30 Rock, and catalyst for one of the greatest lines from the entire run of Larry Sanders:
Larry, just after interviewing Baldwin, who is now dating Larry’s ex-wife: “When I look at Baldwin, all I can think about is him fucking her. And she was on top!”
Artie: “That lazy bastard!”
Oh, and to make the chat that bit more interesting, it takes place in a boxing ring. Yeah, a boxing ring.
Following on from that sequence, we have Garry’s personal visit with Jerry Seinfeld. Just under 24 minutes long, this sees Jerry and Garry meet up in the lobby of Shandling’s hotel, then going for a wander around Central Park, before winding up at a diner, all the while musing on ‘the game’. Er, by which we mean stand-up and comedy, as opposed to any other context of that phrase. We should make that clear. Again, think of this as a podcast taking place on camera between two of the funniest comedians of a generation. Blimey, eh?
Next on the disc, we have a short interview with Bob Odenkirk, who played Larry’s duplicitous agent in the series (“Do you think I’m deaf? Do deaf people walk around in $3000 suits? C’mon!”). Nice to see, as Bob Odenkirk appears in loads of our favourite series (Mr Show, Tim and Eric Awesome Show Great Job, Breaking Bad), but again, spoileriffic content means it’s another extra best left until you’ve seen all the episodes.
Rounding off the disc, we get five minutes of outtakes from the show. In fairness, the verbal flubs compiled here aren’t really amusing enough to have troubled Denis Norden’s researchers had they taken place in the 1980s, but there are a few nice moments.
“I don’t wanna say wardrobe have screwed up, but my balls wouldn’t have picked out this pair of pants”.
So, just two seasons in, we’ll leave things there, as a taster of just how brilliant the region one set is. We’ve emailed the distributors of the region two version, asking for the reasoning behind the cull of the bonus features. If they get back to us, expect a further update, but until then, it’s worth keeping an eye on the good version of the boxset on Amazon US. At the moment, it’s a hefty $89 before shipping, but prices do vary from time to time. We promise you though, it’s worth the extra effort. The extras we’ve listed so far are from just the first five of the seventeen discs that make up the entire set. Jings.
In lieu of a proper signoff, here’s a shot of Hank Kingsley on the Seinfeld set.