Posted in: Interviews, Television

It’s Garry Shandling’s Interview (with Sean Axmaker)

Earlier in 2009, Shout! Factory released one of the greatest TV comedies of all time. It’s Garry Shandling’s Show was created for Showtime in 1986, back before pay cable had established a reputation for original programming. As such, it never really became well known to the general public but it’s reputation among TV writers and creators was huge. The self-aware sitcom lampooned the very conventions it both embraced and turned inside-out in, and its savvy understanding and creative play with the form echoes through such subsequent shows as Malcolm in the Middle, 30 Rock and his own brilliant follow-up, The Larry Sanders Show, which was HBO’s first original “must see” program. Rumor was that everyone in Hollywood tuned in to see that savagely funny satire of show business.

Its Garry Shandlings logo
It’s Garry Shandling’s logo

I interviewed Garry Shandling by phone in October of 2009, in advance of the DVD release of It’s Garry Shandling’s Show (see my review of the set here), but our conversation wandered all through his career and even touched on his love of boxing. In fact, Shandling came to the phone interview directly from a sparring session in the ring.

Apart from the honor of interviewing such a creative mind and a funny man, I had the good fortune to make Shandling laugh a couple of times and I was so thrilled to have him say to me, “That’s funny,” that I left those moments in the interview. What I left out was all the times he made me laugh. That would simply have been repetitive and redundant.


This is Garry Shandling. Am I twenty-four minutes late?

I believe so.

I apologize. I have a good reason, which you’re welcome to write if you want. I just came in from boxing. I box three or four days a week, I actually go into the ring and spar and train, and we went a little long, and frankly, and hilariously, I got home just at about four o’clock, but I looked like a guy who’s just finished a fight and lost and needs about a gallon of water and so I was just trying to recover before I called you.

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Posted in: DVD, Television

TV on DVD 2009 – The Great, the Rediscovered and the Timeless

What I love about TV on DVD is the sense of discovery, of rediscovery and celebration of great television from all eras. You’ll not find Lost or Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles or even The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency on this list. Those shows and other hit series and cult shows and top-notch special presentations, as superb as their DVD presentations may be (and yes, Lost and Terminator are beautifully produced DVD and Blu-ray sets), are well represented and don’t need me to draw attention to them. Here’s a collection that includes classic drama, contemporary comedy, timeless non-fiction, stand-out science fiction and various points in between. Not necessarily “the best” of TV on DVD, it’s a selection of shows, old and new, archival and ephemeral, that been given a new life on DVD and a whole opportunity for audiences to discover them.

Sesame Street
Sesame Street

10. Sesame Street: 40 Years Of Sunny Days (Genius) – Celebrate the fortieth anniversary of the longest running children’s television show in history with a combination video scrapbook and greatest bits compilation. After an intro that eases us into the cultural flashback with snapshots from each season we join Gordon leading a child onto Sesame Street, promising that it’s a street like no other, for the show’s debut episode. Ernie sings “Rubber Ducky” and Kermit sings “It’s Not Easy Being Green,” there’s an orange Oscar the Grouch (he went green later; apparently, it was easier for Oscar to be green, the color of mold), and Alistair Cookie (Monster) introduces Monsterpiece Theater’s production of “Me Claudius,” all in the first half hour.

There’s a greatest hits of musical guests from Diana Ross and James Taylor to Destiny’s Child and Alicia Keyes (plus the crazy quilt of guest stars imploring Ernie to “Put Down the Ducky”) and Muppet skits (spotlighting the great comedy chemistry of Ernie and Bert and the surreal humor of Jim Henson’s crew) sprinkled through the programs. Pop culture flashbacks—R2D2 and C3PO help Big Bird to count, The Fonz teaches us the difference between on and off in his own inimitable way and the Cookie Monster discos—place the show unmistakably in its various eras. And touchstone moments of the street portion of the show are revived, including the day the grown-ups finally see the Snuffleupagus, the marriage of Maria and Luis and the birth of their daughter, and most touchingly the discussion with Big Bird as they try to explain the death of Mr. Hooper (after the real-life actor, Will Lee, passed away). That’s the draw this show has for baby boomers who grew up on the show. For the current crop of tots, we get closer to the present with the first appearances of Elmo and Abby Cadabby and the contemporary guest stars, from Robert DeNiro explaining his own brand of method acting to Elmo to Neil Patrick Harris singing and dancing as The Shoe Fairy. The nostalgia factor is pretty irresistible for adults and playful approach of education and gentle tenor of its skits makes it perfect of children of any generation, making it one of the few kids DVDs that adults may enjoy just as much as (if not more) than their kids. The two-disc set also includes a half-hour of behind-the-scenes footage and interviews (which can be accessed while watching the show or viewed as a separate supplement), an optional pop-up trivia track and a few bonus bits.

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