Before HBO broke through the Emmy credibility barrier separating broadcast and cable series with The Sopranos and Sex and the City, The Larry Sanders Show reigned as the premium network's marquee production. To the minds of many at the time, it was the funniest and best comedy on TV, even if it perennially played also-ran to NBC's Seinfeld and Frasier when it came time for Emmy Awards. Its 30-plus nominations yielded but three wins -- one for Rip Torn's brilliant portrayal of Artie in the fourth season, and the others for writing and directing in the show's brilliant sixth and final season. The groundbreaking comedy, depicting the behind-the-scenes machinations at a late-night TV talk show in hilariously petty detail, allowed former frequent Tonight Show guest host Garry Shandling to engage in an extended what-if scenario, and the presence of stars appearing as themselves gave the proceedings an air of self-reflexive naughtiness. Shandling's Larry Sanders has the quick wit necessary to compete for late-night audiences, but the show is really about his anxiety and self-doubt. The show's unheralded ensemble proved sensational from the start: Torn's Artie, the crafty executive producer; Jeffrey Tambor's Hank "Hey Now" Kingsley, Larry's decidedly third-rate second banana; Wallace Langham and Jeremy Piven, the show's long-suffering staff writers; Penny Johnson as Beverly Barnes, Larry's even-longer-suffering personal assistant; and Janeane Garofalo as Paula, the guest-booker. This collection offers the entire 13-episode first season, which ran weekly from August 15 to November 7, 1992. The DVD also includes a featurette, "Garry Shandling Talks… No Flipping." The roughly 30-minute episodes are as follows:
"The Garden Weasel" finds Larry struggling with a network suit who wants him to do live commercials for the titular lawn-care product. Robert Hays portrays himself, the show's first-ever guest, in a manner of speaking.
"The Promise" offers David Spade, whose earlier appearance on a competing show runs afoul of Larry and Artie. Dana Delany and William Shatner also appear.
"The Spider Episode" -- among the first season's best -- finds Larry uneasy with the idea of having live spiders on the show and trying to come up with a skit he can perform with guest star Carol Burnett. Both Burnett and the show's writers earned Emmy nominations for this outing, which also offers Jon Lovitz as a guest.
In a plotline that came back again in the last season (with Jon Stewart), "Guest Host" found Dana Carvey filling in for Larry, to raves from the network. Carvey's turn earned him an Emmy nod.
"The New Producer" found one of Larry's pals filling in for Artie and trying to take the job over permanently. Then Late Night-producer Robert Morton appears, as does Jeff Cesario.
"The Flirt Episode" finds Larry in hot water at home when his wife, Jeannie (Megan Gallagher), accuses him of flirting with guest star Mimi Rogers. Seinfeld's Michael Richards also appears.
"Hank's Contract" is vintage Hank, as the sidekick with the leastest asks for bigger bucks and a golf cart. Guests include Robin Williams and George Foreman.
"Out of the Loop": Larry's the last to know that his head writer is wrapped up in a hot-and-heavy office fling. Peter Falk drops by.
In "Talk Show," a distracted Larry -- still agonizing over an argument with Jeannie -- befuddles guests Billy Crystal and Catherine O'Hara.
"Party" is a paranoid classic, with Larry in an introspective lather as his quiet dinner with Artie turns into a full-blown soiree. Former Fernwood Tonight host Martin Mull guest stars.
Larry worries about his ebbing appeal in "The Warmth Episode," and Artie convenes a focus group. Richard Simmons and Pamela Sue Martin visit the hot seat.
In "A Brush with the Elbow of Greatness," Larry becomes tabloid fodder when a woman accuses him of bumping her into a magazine rack, like she didn't even exist!
"Hey Now" finds Hank asleep on the couch, during the show. Earl Holliman, Bob Saget, and T-Bone Burnett guest-star.