Satire is always one of two things: great, or god-awful-terrible-the-worst-thing-in-the-world-bad. Thankfully, The Larry Sanders Show is the former.
The HBO series, which ran from 1992 - 1998, is considered by many to be one of the funniest shows ever on television. It follows the happenings around the late-night talk show host named Larry Sanders (Garry Shandling), his sidekick Hank (Jeffrey Tambor), and his producer Artie (Rip Torn). The show is a character focus on Sanders and his life, and interweaves clips of the fictional talk show (with guest celebrities often playing funny fictionalized versions of themselves) and his personal stories.
In short, The Larry Sanders Show is genius. And what makes Larry Sanders so successful is that it's one of the rare shows on television that gets all the pieces right. It combines a terrific ensemble (with the standout being Tambor -- or, as the younger generation may recognize him more as, George Bluth Sr. from Arrested Development) with some of the best comedic writing ever to happen on a television show. Shandling is terrific as Sanders. He not only makes his talk show clips believable (fun fact: Shandling subbed for Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show a few times in the '80s), but he successfully presents what it feels like to be a celebrity -- using comedy to reveal their weird combination of egotism and insecurity.
Plus, it's so funny seeing celebrities make fun of themselves. And I have to note this. Out of all the guest spots, I must say that David Duchovny's cameo -- without giving away the punchline -- was one of my favorite moments of the show.
And the Larry Sanders box set lives up to its expectations. Not only do you get every single one of the 89 episodes, but there are tons of extra footage and goodies for fans to enjoy. There's numerous interviews and features that reveal the creative process behind the show. But beyond that, you really begin to understand exactly how groundbreaking Larry Sanders was. Nearly every great comedy out there now (think The Office, Modern Family, or Community) takes a single camera, no laugh track approach that was started with Larry Sanders. One of my favorite bonus features was the "Writers' Process" with Judd Apatow and Shandling. The two have a very insightful and smart discussion that reveals the process of creating each episode. I found it so interesting because as a TV junkie, I'm fascinated by how shows like these can suck us into their worlds and make us fall in love with their characters. But on top of that, make us consistently laugh so, so hard. Plus, the bonuses also include The Making Of The Larry Sanders Show, a documentary featuring a behind the scenes take on the concept and creation.
Bottom line, for any fan of satire and comedy -- or hell, just TV in general -- this box set is a must own.