Over the decades I've watched a lot of great television comedy series (I Love Lucy, Dick Van Dyke Show, Mary Tyler Moore Show, Bob Newhart Show, All In The Family, Carol Burnett, M*A*S*H, Soap, Cheers, Seinfeld, South Park to name just a few), and The Larry Sanders Show ranks at or near the top of my personal list.
The show starts strong and fully formed from the first episode, and remains so through the last episode, without a bad episode to be found. The style of the show was groundbreaking, and those who watch The Office or Curb Your Enthusiasm will see that they are direct descendants of this show's style, which used handheld cameras, real locations (no sets), no audience (er, kinda sorta, more on that below), and a combination of scripted and improvised dialog.
The show is about the goings-on behind and in front of the camera of a late night talk show, where Larry Sanders is a competitor of David Letterman, Jay Leno, and the late night bunch. Garry Shandling plays Larry as a funnily neurotic genius narcissist who lives in the bubble of fame and money created by network television stardom.
Rip Torn plays Artie (no last name ever given) who has been a television producer since forever, knows everyone in the biz, and keeps the show successful by being charming, vulgar, diplomatic, omniscient, and scary in just the right combination.
Jeffrey Tambor plays Hank "Hey Now" Kingsley, Larry's feckless sidekick. One of the great conceits of the show that I only perceived after having re-viewed the entire series recently is that although Hank is a buffoon and deserves every bad thing that happens to him, when he is on camera on the show within a show he is nearly perfect - he has a fantastically smooth announcer's voice, and he's engaging and funny on the show-within-a-show, although off-stage he's just a jerky dope.
There are more, but naming all the great actors and roles on this show would take more time than I have to invest. Suffice it to say that if you watch this series you'll be astounded at the seemingly endless parade of well-known entertainment folks that pass through the show, either as actors playing roles or as 'guests' playing themselves on the show.
The show is shot in an interesting manner as well, with the show-within-a-show shot on videotape, and the backstage shenanigans filmed on film (seemingly), which highlights the contrast between onstage and offstage. When the show-within-a-show is being taped, there is an actual live studio audience, and an actual (condensed) talk show is put on for that audience.
However, when the show is backstage or offstage there is no audience or laugh track. At the time, this was all unique and groundbreaking stuff, and it set the stage for many of today's shows, as noted above.
On top of everything else, the show is painfully and consistently funny. It may be the most well-written show that's ever been put on American network television.
If you've never seen it, do yourself a favor and give it a shot for a few episodes. And if you're like me and already knew and loved it, watching it again is still enjoyable. We introduced my mother-in-law to the show a few months ago, and we watched it again from first episode to last over the course of a couple of months, and it was a joy to re-watch, and also to see a new convert to the show being born.