It's Judge Eric Profancik's review!
This is the review to Garry Shandling's DVD.
Before Larry Sanders, before Jerry Seinfeld, there was Garry Shandling. Just a neurotic guy with great hair, Garry would launch a show on the Showtime cable network. And on this show he would destroy the fourth wall of television, bringing the audience in closer than they've ever been. Back in the day I watched It's Garry Shandling's Show, at least until I went off to college. I remember really liking it and I'm excited to have a chance to revisit it. I guess because I stopped watching it to go to school I didn't realize it was on for four years! My, that's a lot of TV to watch in a few short weeks…
Facts of the Case
Garry Shandling, famous comedian, has just moved into a new condo in the Happy Pilgrim Estates. His platonic female friend Nancy (Molly Cheek, American Pie), his best friend Pete (Michael Tucci, Diagnosis Murder and his wife Jackie and son Grant also live in the complex. The show is about Garry, his friends, his family, and his life in general; but his life is also the show. Garry knows his life is a television show and so does everyone else. Breaking the fourth wall, enter Garry's life, see what he does day-to-day, watch famous celebrities stop by, and watch Leonard (Paul Willson, Cheers) sneak into another episode.
It's hard to describe It's the Garry Shandling Show. In the way that Seinfeld was the show about nothing, I feel that would also apply to Shandling. The show is just a collection of days in the life of Garry and his friends and family, doing whatever. Of course the big trick for the show is that there's direct audience participation, figuratively and literally. Every show opens with Garry talking directly to the camera, giving a quick comedic monologue. As the show progresses, people talk about the show, go offstage to reveal the sets and cameras, and many times there is active audience participation—at the request of Garry. It's difficult to explain but easy in execution. (Not that the writers would agree with that assessment.)
I've referenced Seinfeld a couple of times; for, to me, it's a direct successor to Shandling (though the former started while the latter was still on Showtime). Most obvious to me is how both just are about nothing. But my favorite comparison is how the Garry/Leonard relationship is akin to the Jerry/Newman relationship. Perhaps I'm a bit off, perhaps I'm right, and perhaps this has been analyzed all over the place already. I don't know as I've never done much research into Seinfeld and what people came up with. It's just my two cents.
But enough of Seinfeld and back to Shandling. Garry's show is simple, easy viewing. The episodes never take themselves seriously, are good fun, and you can watch a bunch in a row and lazily let the day fade away. Over time our characters develop and mature, they get into all kinds of ridiculous situations, and they bump into the most fascinating people (Chevy Chase, Gilda Radner, Tom Petty, Charles Conrad—third man on the moon—and so on). But even though they develop, they're still delightfully quirky—none more so than Garry himself. Constantly neurotic and always worried about his hair—and what a coif that is, Garry earns the right to have a show named after him. Luckily his supporting cast is solid and filled with great actors. Honestly, it's not always the best acting, but the free flowing, easy going nature of the program makes up for any acting deficiencies; and this isn't the show where that's the forefront of your concerns. You want to be entertained and this show does that episode after episode.
Hefty yet not intimidating, the series gets fantastic treatment from the folks at Shout! Factory. It's a beautiful, mammoth set that puts all four seasons into one nice package. Inside that package you'll find eight, slim line cases, each containing two discs. Each season is broken across four DVDs giving plenty of room for the transfers and bonus items. (Each episode lasts anywhere between 20 and 30 minutes.) With that much room, the transfers better be good; and they are. Video is full frame with accurate, lifelike colors, deep blacks, and an impressive level of detail for a television series. I didn't see any abundance of grain, bleed, or any errors across the series. It's a well-mastered set. The same can be said for the Dolby Digital 2.0 audio mix. While not spectacular, the track clearly conveys all the dialogue, music, and sound effects without any hiss or distortion.
The set continues to excel with its bonus material. I found the amount of special features to be a perfect balance to the series: not too much, not too little. I'm not going to go into detail on the material as it's all self-explanatory. I will say I found it all interesting, especially the featurettes, which provide great context for the series. The material is scattered across all of the discs with the cases detailing where everything can be found. First up are the requisite commentaries, and there are 18 of them. They feature, in some combination, Garry Shandling, Alan Zweibel (writer/producer), Ed Solomon (writer), Tom Gammill (writer/producer), Max Pross (writer/producer), Al Jean (writer/producer), and Michael Reiss (writer/producer). Next up are a bunch featurettes covering the history of the show: "Getting There—The Road to the Show" (19:11); "Being There—The Cast Remembers" (26:05); "Still There—The Writers and Crew Remember" (26:18); "Show and Tell with Tom and Max" (7:46) (the two go through a "time capsule" of stuff from the show; "The Shandlines—Backstage Newsletters" (it's copies of The Shandlines that you can read); "Try to Remember—A Conversation with Garry Shandling and Alan Zweibel" (19:49); and "Bruce Grayson—The Man Behind the Brush (3:19) (a quick chat with Garry's friend and makeup artist). Rounding things out are a bunch of outtakes, original promos, and two sketches from a show by Michael Nesbith, "Garry Dates Miss Maryland" (4:19) and "Garry's Car" (5:27). Also definitely worth mention is a 36-page booklet included with the set that contains show information, pictures, and other goodies about the show.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
What if you find the breaking of the fourth wall annoying? What if you don't want the characters talking to you, you don't want to see a mini car driving between the sets, or you don't want to have chats with the cameramen? What if you don't want Garry to get married? Then there are plenty of other shows from which to choose. The breaking of the wall is a gimmick that Garry works to perfection, giving the viewer added opportunities for fun and immersion.
And, Shout! Factory, your one flaw on the set is not allowing the viewer to skip past all that opening credit stuff that nobody ever wants to watch.
It's Garry Shandling's Show left me befuddled for ways to describe it and talk about it. But it's not a complex show; it's just a funny, quaint show that stands up well 20 years later. As sets like these are geared more for fans than the casual viewer, my recommendation is skewed to that base. My recommendation then is a strong buy. The episodes look and sound great; I found the bonus materials to be substantial, interesting, and in the right amount; and the packaging itself is top notch. Go out and treat yourself to this series.
It's Garry Shandling's Show is hereby found not guilty of destroying
the ozone layer by using too much hairspray.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Shout! Factory
• Episode Commentaries
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