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DVD review: 'The Larry Sanders Show'

Entire first season available on DVD

Garry Shandling
Garry Shandling: His "Larry Sanders Show" remains one of the best TV series ever.  

By Mark Harris
Entertainment Weekly

(Entertainment Weekly) -- The time: 1992, the height of the late-night talk-show wars. Johnny Carson has retired. Arsenio Hall and Jay Leno are in a cutthroat battle for A-list guests. Conan O'Brien is a writer for "The Simpsons." And David Letterman is contemplating a jump from NBC to CBS.

Into this fray stepped HBO's "The Larry Sanders Show," the funniest and most poisonously accurate TV show about a TV show in history, and possibly the medium's greatest exploration of fear and loathing in the workplace.

Larry (played by Garry Shandling, master of showbiz paranoia) is a late-night host beset by competition, an interfering network, and his own anxieties. His on-air sidekick, Hank Kingsley (Jeffrey Tambor), is a sad huckster who can't even succeed at being the consummate Hollywood phony. And his producer, Artie (Rip Torn), runs the set like a cross between "Tonight Show" producer Fred de Cordova and General Patton.

The 13 episodes on "The Larry Sanders Show: The Entire First Season" swiftly establish the template: near-flawless writing and performances and pitch-perfect guest shots by everyone from Carol Burnett to Robin Williams. Ten years later -- the rare Ross Perot or Jerry Brown one-liner aside -- Sanders remains fresher, funnier, and smarter than just about anything on TV.

Grade: A

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