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It's Garry Shandling's Show: The Complete Series
This is the review of Shandling's Show / My review of Shandling's Show / Amazon called me up and asked me to review the box set / I've only just got started / How do you like it so far? / This is my review of Shandling's Show. It doesn't get more meta than Jerry Carbone's irresistible theme song to this game-changing 1986 sitcom that paved the way for The Simpsons and Seinfeld (several of the writers went on to work on those series), Curb Your Enthusiasm, 30 Rock, and others. Broadcast on Showtime to critical acclaim and later on Fox to abysmal ratings, It's Garry Shandling's Show is an audaciously original self-reverential sitcom starring Shandling as endearingly vain, insecure, and whiny standup comedian Garry Shandling, whose life is a sitcom. "You must lead a very interesting life," someone observes in season 4. "No, I don't," Shandling responds, "and it's been a stumbling block through the whole series." From the opening monologue in each episode to asides that thoroughly demolish the fourth wall between performer and the audience ("You didn't get to meet Jackie last week because we hadn't cast her yet"), It's Garry Shandling's Show turns the sitcom format on its head. Most times the actors go about their business, and other times, their characters, too, get in on the postmodern act. "Thanks a lot for the big part in the show this week, Uncle Garry," a character sarcastically comments in one episode. In other surreal developments, Shandling one time departs for New York to star in a new cop series, leaving his show to be fronted by venerable comedian Red Buttons. At one point, audience members make themselves at home on the set while Shandling is out, and at the beginning of season 4, the network president (Richard Fancy, the future Mr. Lippman on Seinfeld) disapproves when Shandling announces his new girlfriend (the charming Jessica Harper) will be joining the cast. He suggests instead that Shandling hire a butler (a comic premise to which Seinfeld later paid homage when Jerry and George pitched their own sitcom to NBC in the fourth season).
Comedy greats, old and new school, from Steve Allen to Martin Mull and Chevy Chase, appear as themselves. An episode to cherish is "Mr. Smith Goes to Nam," which features the last television appearance of Gilda Radner, whose final wink to the camera is perhaps reason enough to purchase this set. Others include the prodigious bonus features, including outtakes, a series retrospective, and very honest commentaries (writers Al Jean and Mike Reiss likewise express reservations about giving Shandling a steady love interest, "a conventional sitcom move for an unconventional sitcom"). It's Garry Shandling's Show enjoys a mystique among comedy buffs, but it has not been seen in syndication or ever been released on home video. How does it hold up? As Shandling's mentor, comedy club owner Mr. Peck (Danny Dayton), describes Shandling's first stage appearances, "It's as good today as it was in those days." He did not mean it as a compliment; we do. --Donald Liebenson