Before 30 Rock, The Office (Gervais or Carell), Arrested Development, Curb Your Enthusiasm, or any other sitcom of the past 15 years that's actually been funny, there was The Larry Sanders Show. Garry Shandling's seminal behind-the-scenes look at a late-night talk show ushered in the modern era of situation comedy. The full 89-episode series, available for the first time on DVD in a lavish 17-disc set ($150), is both an acid-tipped depiction of office politics (a favorite episode is when Larry laments being out of the loop and wants in, to his ultimate regret) and the original laughing-while-covering-your-eyes cringe-com (sidekick Hank's sex tape is discovered just as he gets a coveted endorsement from a conservative orange-growers' association). The series' vérité style let it deftly blend its fictional world with the real one: Larry Sanders practically invented the now-common trope of the Hollywood star who appears as himself and skewers his own persona. Although some of the pop-culture references have an inevitable 1990s stink to them, the show's indelible characters — the neurotic, passive-aggressive star Larry, his blustery producer and enabler Artie, and the pathetic but all-too-human Hank — keep the funny timeless.
A version of this article appeared in the October 2010 issue of Fast Company magazine.