3. 'It's Garry Shandling's Show' (1986-1990)
It's no exaggeration to say that It's Garry Shandling's Show was far and away the most meta sitcom of its time; even the theme song broke the "fourth wall" by asking the listener what they thought of it. The stand-up played a slightly exaggerated himself on the show, i.e., a neurotic and immature stand-up comedian with his own television show, who lived in the San Fernando Valley — so far, a somewhat typical premise. The difference was that Shandling regularly broke away from the shenanigans at hand to address both the viewers at home and the audience in the studio — the latter of whom might be anyone from old-school comedian Red Buttons to Soul Train host Don Cornelius (popping in to analyze the 1988 presidential election) to Garry's garden tools-borrowing neighbor Tom Petty.
With its abstract in-jokes and unusual time shifts, IGSS — which debuted on Showtime and was also broadcast for a time by Fox — may have been a little too surreal for its time. But its influence is hugely apparent in everything from Seinfeld to Shandling's subsequent TV project The Larry Sanders Show, as well as any other Nineties comedy where the characters make self-aware comments to the camera.