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"It's Garry Shandling's Show.": The Complete Series





(OUT OF 10)

Before Seinfeld, and before Garry Shandling's own The Larry Sanders Show, there was this gem from the late '80s. Set up like a standard sitcom, but with Shandling breaking the fourth wall and often conversing with the audience, the show mocked the very formula it was following.

While the show was scripted, the format allowed for improvisation and just plain goofing around, so it felt nothing like a standard sitcom. At the time, it was a major trailblazer. Revisiting it 19 years after it went off the air, however, it feels a little dated. The improvisational format that was clever at the time has been done repeatedly since, most notably with Curb Your Enthusiasm.

The Seinfeld comparisons are undeniable: Consider the apartment setting, the main star playing himself and the wacky neighbors barging in. The characters of Pete Schumacher (Michael Tucci) and Leonard Smith (Paul Willson) are early versions of Jason Alexander's George and Wayne Knight's Newman. The list goes on, and you'll see the likeness. Not complaining ... I'm just saying.

Highlights include the series finale, in which Dan Aykroyd stops by for a Driving Miss Daisy spoof. Tom Petty plays himself in a few episodes, including a two-parter in which the gang heads to Vegas for Leonard's wedding. Petty actually proves to be rather hilarious, delivering his lines with a stoned deadpan.

Shandling was a maverick with two groundbreaking series, and while this one hasn't aged as gracefully as Sanders, it was well ahead of its time.

SPECIAL FEATURES: Shandling takes part in numerous commentaries and retrospectives, although he seems a little tired. You also get a bunch of outtakes in the 16-disc set. Overall, it's a very nice effort, and it's great to finally get this on DVD.

Trick 'r Treat





(OUT OF 10)

This one attempts to pay tribute to past classics like Creepshow and other anthology horror projects. In the end, it's just a bloody mess.

Writer-director Michael Dougherty tells a series of stories, and he tries to interweave them in a way that makes little sense. Dylan Baker plays a principal living a secret life as a serial killer. While the part about him killing kids and burying them in the backyard is kind of creepy, his appearance later as a fake vampire in another subplot is lame.

If you are looking for some good Halloween anthology, get Creepshow, Masters of Horror or early Tales From the Crypt. This one has its moments, but it's a letdown in the end.

SPECIAL FEATURES: Dougherty does a commentary and an animated short. You also get some deleted scenes and a documentary on Halloween legends narrated by Brian Cox. The documentary is better than the main film.

The Shortcut





(OUT OF 10)

This is the first film from Scary Madison, an offshoot of Adam Sandler's Happy Madison production company. His brother co-wrote the screenplay, and Nicholaus Goosen (of Happy Madison's awful Grandma's Boy) directs. While it's nice that Adam is getting his buddies work, and the foray into horror is admirable, the movie stinks.

It starts in 1945. (Memo to Adam: Don't set part of your movie in the past if you have no budget.) It then picks up in the present day, where kids are scared of a shortcut in the woods. A rich family with a violent son is responsible for disappearances over the years, and a group of wily kids heads to their house when a dog goes missing.

The movie often feels like something on Nickelodeon—but then it gets too violent for kids. It wants to have it both ways, and it fails miserably. Let's hope the sophomore effort for Scary Madison beats this one.

SPECIAL FEATURES: A director's commentary ... that is all.

A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa (Extended Edition)





(OUT OF 10)

As far as Muppet projects go, this one is pretty good. The plot has something to do with Kermit and friends trying to personally deliver letters to Santa, and it's cute. They got some original tunes from the ever-reliable Paul Williams, some decent guest stars like Nathan Lane and Uma Thurman, and a nice overall production. I liked the Swedish Chef trying to feed Tony Sirico of The Sopranos pizza; while the jokes are often lame, they are lame in that endearing, goofy Muppet sort of way. I do love Pepe the Prawn.

Word has it that Jason Segel is working on a script for a new Muppet movie. That would be cool. They used to be a lot more subversive and intelligent.

I'm still not used to the replacement voices. I miss Jim Henson.

SPECIAL FEATURES: Deleted scenes.

More by Bob Grimm


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