Let’s just get this out front: The Larry Sanders Show is on my shortlist of the greatest TV shows ever made. I’d already been a fan of Garry Shanding from his sly It’s Garry Shandling’s Show, but Larry Sanders was a quantum leap in every direction: the writing, the characters, the acting were all top-notch. People always point to The Sopranos or even Sex and the City as the shows that established HBO as an original programming powerhouse, but it was The Larry Sanders Show that really got the ball rolling.
That said, I have to ask this question: why are they fracking with us by not releasing every episode of every season on DVD? Why only the First Season, and now this (not just the) best-of DVD? Why not everything? I’ve been looking forward to buying every single episode of this show for years, and this is my choice? Bollocks!
Look, what would you think if they pulled every single Rolling Stones album off of the shelf, except for 40 Licks? What would you think if they deleted every Martin Scorcese film from the shelf and replaced them with a DVD set that had only the iconic scenes (focusing on DeNiro, of course) from his films. What would you think if, a few years from now, the only available Hunter S. Thompson book was “The Great Shark Hunt?”
If you really didn’t know what all of the fuss was about in the first place, or if you were just a dabbler, you might find it OK. We’re still talking about individual pieces of art that are as good as anything ever, and the Stones and Thompson compilations both feature singles that never made it onto any albums. But you would miss the context of the Scorcese clips: why “Are you talking to me?” is so powerful in the first place; you’d miss what happened at the end of “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” and you’d miss songs like “Rocks Off” and “Stray Cat Blues.”
You’d never really be able to get it. What made others love these people so damn much. And if you were starting to get it, you wouldn’t be able to explore further.
And if were already a fan, you’d never really be able to share the whole story with other people, because best-ofs — even ones that proclaim that they aren’t — inevitably leave out the obscure bits that true fans love, and every true fan loves a different obscure bit. For me, it’s “Rocks Off,” but for Sherilyn, for example, it might be “She Was Hot.”
So while I have not a single doubt that a ton of care and angst went into making Not Just The Best of The Larry Sanders Show, I think that I’m going to pass. I think that they are missing the point: get it all out there right now, and let the audience find it. Not just the immediate audience, but the future Long Tail audience that, as of yet, hasn’t even heard of The Larry Sanders Show.
I know that I’m in the minority here: most of the stories I’ve seen celebrate the incredible awesomeness of what is on the DVD, as well as the extras, and so maybe it will sell well enough to convince HBO and Garry Shandling to release the rest of it. But they shouldn’t need convincing. Not with something this great.