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The Larry Sanders Show: Not Just the Best Of

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Show A
Special Features A
DVD Geek Factor 9.5 (out of 10)

I watched this religiously when it originally aired, and now I will watch this DVD religiously. Garry Shandling was famously in the running for numerous late-night talk-show gigs, including the Tonight Show and the chair vacated by David Letterman when he left NBC for CBS. Instead, he did this great spoof of the talk-show wars, and if you've never seen it, you must commence viewing now.

When I first heard that this show was a behind-the-scenes talk-show spoof, I thought it sounded lame and avoided it for some time. With my first viewed episode, I got caught up in the fake lives of Larry the host (Shandling), Artie the manager (Rip Torn) and Hank the sidekick (Jeffrey Tambor). This "best-of" collection offers 23 episodes, with each and every one of them representing total greatness.

My personal favorites include David Duchovny falling in love with Larry, and an episode in which Larry must deal with live tarantulas running up his arm. (Carol Burnett does a classic guest spot on that one.) The final episode, with Jim Carrey berating Larry between takes, is also a classic.

Special Features: A great, great, great, great DVD, with more than eight hours of new stuff, from audio commentaries to a feature-length documentary on the show. Shandling has gotten a little slow and creepy in recent years, and some of the "personal visit interviews" he conducts are a little on the uncomfortable side. (Sharon Stone gave me the willies.) Still, most of the interviews are great, and it's cool to see this great show get the royal treatment after all these years. Raw footage of scenes being shot illustrates just how nuts the atmosphere was on this set, with the director constantly screaming for the actors to stay on their toes. Unedited footage of Tambor doing his shtick is priceless. Outtakes include a sometimes-insecure Shandling asking his co-stars if he was playing scenes right. Jeremy Piven, Sarah Silverman, Bob Odenkirk and others are the subjects of new interviews, and Shandling has a hilarious conclusion to the documentary involving some honeydew melon. There's also a great gag with the late Bruno Kirby. Bring Larry Sanders back ... NOW! The entire Season One is also available on DVD.

Masters of Horror: Family

Anchor Bay
Movie B
Special Features B-
DVD Geek Factor 6 (out of 10)

George Wendt (Norm!) plays a man with a bad hobby and peculiar family in this latest Masters of Horror installment. This time out, director John Landis (An American Werewolf in London) is at the helm, and he fares much better than John Carpenter did with his abortion-clinic horror disaster.

Landis gets a great performance out of Wendt as Harold, a normal guy on the surface who likes burning the flesh off of peoples' bones in his basement and creating a makeshift family with their skeletons. I'm not giving away any secrets here, because Landis and company reveal this in the film's opening minutes.

A couple (Matt Keeslar and Meredith Monroe) moves in next door, and Harold targets the woman to join his "family." They destroy his brick mailbox as a result of drunk driving; one thing leads to another, and Harold is dropping by for dinner. It all works up to a nifty, and bloody, conclusion.

This is Landis' second visit to the Showtime anthology series after "Deer Woman." This show is just a great way for horror directors to not only stay fine tuned with their terror tactics, but be as sick as they want to be (no box office worries). I hope this show runs for eternity.

Special Features: Not as crazy-packed as some past installments, but still pretty good. Landis, unfortunately, doesn't sit down for a commentary, with screenwriter Brent Hanley doing the deed instead. A decent making-of documentary, and a look at the making of the score.

Happy Days: The Second Season

Paramount Home Video
Show A-
Special Features F
DVD Geek Factor 5 (out of 10)

It was in this season that the Fonz ditched his stupid windbreaker and went for the leather. Producers thought Henry Winkler looked too much like a hoodlum in a leather jacket, but when his character started taking off, he went from the supporting character in the light-blue felt jacket to the Fonz, eventually becoming the focus of the show.

Richie Cunningham (Ron Howard) was still the star of the show in its second season, which didn't have a live-audience format until its third season. The show had plenty in common with George Lucas' American Graffiti in the early seasons, before Fonzie became a supernatural force as the series went more toward the banal.

Season Two was classic American television, and it wasn't until Season Five when the series "jumped the shark." That's because Fonzie literally jumped a shark on water skis, coining the now-popular phrase for when good entertainment goes bad.

Special Features: You get nuthin!

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