When the First Season of "The Larry Sanders Show" was released on DVD way back in 2002, it was widely panned. The show itself - which was one of the first standout original programs on the HBO premium network - was as brilliant as ever. What was shocking about the release was the incredibly poor quality of the video transfer.
The show fizzled on DVD, but nobody would go on record to say why. Was it the poor quality video - and the total lack of special features in that boxed set - or did the DVD-buying public never really know what to make of this offbeat show, even though it was the darling of critics and nominated for 56 Emmy awards?
HBO no longer owned the rights to the show when Columbia Tristar rushed "Larry Sanders" onto DVD, ridiculously overpriced and with virtually no extras. Worst of all, most of the thirteen episodes on the 3-Disc set appeared soft and grainy and were an embarrassment to the home video industry.
It's hard to say whether poor quality master tapes were used or whether Columbia just screwed up. I'm guessing the latter, since - well, the show was on HBO, not TV. It's not likely that they didn't have pristine masters. "Larry Sanders" is a modern classic; it's not as if we're trying to restore kinescopes of Ernie Kovacs, ferchrissakes.
Fans have been waiting five years for Season Two to be released... and they'll have to continue to wait. Sony Pictures Home Entertainment (formerly Columbia Tristar) will not release a Second Season set of "Larry Sanders" on April 17th.
Instead, they'll be releasing what they're calling "Not Just The Best of The Larry Sanders Show."
This time out, it'll be a 4-Disc boxed set with 23 of the "best" episodes of the Emmy Award-winning show taken from its entire six season run, plus over eight hours of newly produced special features.
Included will be the documentary, "The Making of The Larry Sanders Show," which provides an in-depth look at the process of turning a script into a show.
"Not Just The Best of The Larry Sanders Show" also features guest appearances on the featured episodes by a wide slate of stars including Jim Carrey, Vince Vaughn, Warren Beatty, Sean Penn, Ellen DeGeneres, Jason Alexander, Carol Burnett and Winona Ryder.
The featurette “Rip Torn and Jeffrey Tambor Visit Garry Shandling in His Living Room” is a reunion of Shandling, Torn and Tambor discussing working together on the show. Also included are interview featurettes with cast members Penny Johnson, Wallace Langham, Scott Thompson, Janeane Garofalo, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Sarah Silverman, Jeremy Piven, Bob Odenkirk, and Linda Doucett.
The press materials for this release say we should also expect "personal, intimate, indulgent" backstage visits "meant until now for only Garry Shandling to see – raw, real-life situations between Shandling and stars who appear in the featured episodes – including Alec Baldwin, Tom Petty, Jerry Seinfeld, Jon Stewart, Sharon Stone and many others."
I don't know, but that sounds like outtakes and deleted scenes to me.
Much more on the show - plus a complete list of special features and an episode breakdown - follows after the jump.
The Suggested Retail Price for "Not Just The Best of The Larry Sanders Show" will be $49.95, although we think you'll be able to find it for $33.00 or less.
"The Larry Sanders Show" debuted on HBO in 1992 and was way ahead of its time; it was an immediate hit with critics and steadily built a passionate loyal following who tuned in for its tongue-in-cheek look at Hollywood.
The series combined documentary-like camerawork with a clever blend of fact and fiction; the series set the standard of quality for HBO and influenced the development of its later shows. Over the course of its six-year, 89-episode run, the show was nominated for 56 Emmy Awards, winning three, including Outstanding Supporting Actor (Rip Torn). The show also received three Golden Globe nominations, two Peabody Awards, and five CableACE Awards for Best Comedy Series.
So, should you buy this new set?
The show is undeniably one of the funniest comedies ever to to air on television. And the bonus extras on "Not Just The Best of The Larry Sanders Show" are quite impressive. In fact, they're what should have been included in Season One, had they done right by the show in its initial release.
But those of us who purchased Season One got burned due to the poor quality of the release. It would be nice if Sony had acknowledged that and provided some assurance that things had improved, other than saying the audio and video has been digitally remastered.
What exactly does that mean? After all, the last release said it was "mastered in high definition." And, of course, we're all still waiting for sequential entire season sets.
Where is Season Two?
Sony would argue that they have to issue compilation discs because not enough people bought the full season set. But we'd say that people didn't buy Season One because they heard it sucked.
They'd also probably say that the licensing fees for all the music on the show (real bands were often seen performing on the show within the show) would drive the cost of a full season set sky high. They might have a legitimate point here, but isn't the music included on the episodes in this release?
This new set puts truly puts fans between the proverbial rock and a hard place. If sales are poor for this release, frankly, there may never be a Season Two. In terms of content duplication, however, it appears as if only three episodes from Season One have made it into this compilation.
Even though I'm eager for a Season Two release, I'd be much more inclined to buy "Not Just The Best Of..." if I knew there would be no subsequent full season sets released on DVD. This may well be why Sony hasn't mentioned if there will be a Season Two.
By the way, Sony will also be re-releasing the First Season on April 17th. (No word on whether it still looks like it was mastered in a garage by someone who was held back at film school.)
"Not Just the Best of The Larry Sanders Show" episodes include:
What Have You Done for Me Lately?
The Spider Episode
The Hey Now Episode
The Hankerciser 200
Life Behind Larry
The Mr. Sharon Stone Show
Hank’s Night in the Sun
Hank’s Sex Tape
I Was a Teenage Lesbian
Larry’s New Love
Everybody Loves Larry
My Name Is Asher Kingsley
Ellen, or Isn’t She?
Pilots and Pens Lost
The Beginning of the End
Putting the ‘Gay’ Back in Litigation
Special Features will include:
• Documentary: The Making of The Larry Sanders Show
• Featurette: Trio
• Exclusive Interviews: Personal, Intimate, Indulgent Meetings With My Friends That Are Meant Only for Me to See – Interviews with Alec Baldwin, Ellen DeGeneres, David Duchovny, Tom Petty, Jerry Seinfeld, Sharon Stone, Jon Stewart, Carol Burnett
• Featurette: Interview with Penny Johnson
• Featurette: Interview with Wallace Langham
• Featurette: Interview with Scott Thompson
• Featurette: Interview with Janeane Garofalo
• Featurette: Interview with Mary Lynn Rajskub
• Featurette: Interview with Sarah Silverman
• Featurette: Interview with Jeremy Piven
• Featurette: Interview with Bob Odenkirk
• Featurette: Interview with Linda Doucett
• Deleted and Extended Scenes
• Alternate Takes
• Audio Commentary and Documentary Introduction on What Have You Done for Me Lately with Garry Shandling and Peter Tolan
• Audio Commentary and Documentary Introduction on Hank’s Night in the Sun with Garry Shandling and Todd Holland
• Audio Commentary and Documentary Introduction on Putting the ‘Gay’ Back in Litigation with Garry Shandling and Judd Apatow
• Audio Commentary on Flip with Garry Shandling and Peter Tolan
Broadcast Years: 1992 – 1998
Full disclosure: I worked for HBO for twelve years - including the years that "Larry Sanders" aired - and created materials used to promote the show. I'm now a consultant and HBO is one of my clients, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and were prepared without the knowledge or participation of anyone at HBO.