Fans of Garry Shandling's diamond-sharp inside-showbiz sitcom The Larry Sanders Show have been waiting nearly seven years for a follow-up to the show's first-season DVD set, and when the "sampler" collection Not Just The Best Of The Larry Sanders Show was announced last year, reactions ranged from outrage to world-weary resignation. It isn't that The Larry Sanders Show was a tightly plotted serial—and the set's 23 episodes are definitely well-chosen—but still, great sitcoms rely on the actors and the audience getting to know the characters together, from episode to episode. It's why sitcoms rarely come back from summer hiatus as funny as they were the previous spring. It takes a while for everyone to find that familiar groove.
For the record, Shandling insists that more Larry Sanders Show DVDs are coming, and the season-one set has been stealthily re-issued, with season two reportedly on the way. (Though presumably those sets will suffer from the same crappy image and sound that this one does.) Not Just The Best—as the title implies—is more a showcase for its special-features package. Alongside some deleted scenes that provide insight into the show's rolling, always-keep-shooting style, plus a comprehensive assortment of short interviews with the supporting cast, this set includes recent one-on-one encounters between Shandling and some of the people most important to him during The Larry Sanders Show's six-year run.
Frankly, it's all a little weird, from the "Garry helped me learn how to find my emotional truth" testimonials to the "Sorry I was such a dick to you in the '90s" reunion footage. But it's also supposed to be weird. The Larry Sanders Show took its audience behind the scenes of a fictional late-night talk show to reveal how celebrities can be neurotic in ways both touchingly human and borderline psychotic. And on this DVD, it's clear that the actors won't ever stop performing, even when they're trying to be real with each other. The person who comes off best on Not Just The Best is Jerry Seinfeld, who commiserates with Shandling about ending a classic sitcom while it's still peaking, and mocks his old friend for how seriously he takes his craft. When the two of them start reminiscing about an old Phil Hartman Saturday Night Live bit and cracking each other up, Seinfeld says, wistfully, "This is the way show business should be." But while it may be a way, it's never been Shandling's way.
Key features: Here, the episodes are special features.