12. 'Curb Your Enthusiasm'
So great it makes one of the most popular sitcoms of all time seem like a warm-up act, Larry David's series is cringe comedy taken to its deliriously discomfiting zenith. Without commercial breaks to cut the tension or a laugh track to dull the pain, this HBO show replaced Seinfeld's charismatic protagonist with a version of David himself, playing a prickly Los Angeles millionaire whose adherence to his own peculiar moral code puts him at odds with the rest of the breathing world. (After he buys a Prius, he decides hybrid drivers should exchange friendly waves as they pass, and gets mad at those who don't follow his made-up rule.) David relishes making himself the heavy: A running gag has Wanda Sykes periodically calling him out on his inadvertently racist behavior, and in one episode, he trades insults with a man in a wheelchair who attacks him for using a handicap stall. The show's improv-driven method shows in its raw-nerve humor, but unlike the shaggy-dog comedies of the Apatow school, there's an underlying structure in Curb that's as hard as bone.—SAM ADAMS