Revisiting the heyday of department stores and five-and-dimes

Garry Shandling

How Garry Shandling broke the TV formula

How Garry Shandling broke the TV formula

It is not too much of a stretch to say that Garry Shandling invented modern television.

“The Larry Sanders Show” was his masterpiece -- indeed, one of TV’s masterpieces -- a blistering comic take-down of Hollywood culture through the vehicle of Shandling’s title character, a preening, insecure late-night TV host. It wouldn’t look out of place in today’s landscape of dark comedy, searing self-examination, and serial storytelling that takes viewers on a bumpy ride with complex characters.

But Shandling, who died Thursday of a reported heart attack at age 66, began “Sanders” back in the dark ages of TV, a time when...