[6 April 2010]
During this, the second half of the second season of her Sarah Silverman Program, the sitcom version of Sarah Silverman overcomes a bed-wetting problem, marries a dog, tries to kill men with beards with her car because she suspects they are Osama Bin Laden, launches a case against Mongolians for raping one of her ancestors hundreds of years ago, and uncovers a conspiracy involving diarrhea-causing potato chips and adult diapers while high. Meanwhile, her gay friend Steve gets his man-breasts stuck in a window, while his partner Brian gets his beard stuck in an escalator.
So basically, it’s just another season over at the Sarah Silverman Program, the most deliriously bonkers show on television. Released in time for the third season premiere, this DVD set, complete with a bevy of deleted scenes and loopy cast commentaries that are sometimes as funny as the episodes themselves, collects the final ten episodes of the show’s second season. One thing’s for sure over the course of these ten episodes: You’d be hard pressed to find a show more obtuse and winkingly post-modern than this.
Another defining characteristic of The Sarah Silverman Program is the fact that every episode leads to questions of how, exactly, this thing got green-lit in the first place. It’s hard to imagine selling a network executive, even if they do work for Comedy Central, a show about an infantile 35-year-old woman, and in one episode, her character wants to have an abortion but instead births the baby Antichrist. I would pay anything to have been in the room when they brought Comedy Central that episode.
Silverman herself is the reason, probably, why this show got off the ground; she’s perfect at playing the evil mastermind in some episodes, and at playing the impossibly naïve naïf the next. She’s also willing, unlike most pretty face comedians, to make herself look really bad, donning a mustache, acting gross, and being generally grating when the script calls for it. For her part, she plays essentially an exaggerated version of herself from her standup specials, where she is known to deconstruct ethnic stereotypes in as offensive ways as possible.
Here, she takes on the history of oppression (via the episode about Mongolians raping her ancestor), abortion, homelessness (she lives as a glue-huffing homeless person for a while because she loses her keys), the institution of marriage and the hunt for Bin Laden. While her approach is sure to strike some as crassly offensive (particularly the homelessness episode), there aren’t that many shows willing to take the piss out of controversial topics in such unexpected and obtuse ways (like the episode where Silverman’s long-lost father returns after 25 years, only to join her in a Lisa Loeb cover band).
Speaking of unexpected: There’s the gay couple of Brian and Steve, easily the least cliché gay couple in the history of television. They’re not fashion mavens, prone to titillating make-out scenes, or a variation of Jack from Will and Grace. Instead, they’re pot-smoking, farting schlubs whose relationship involves hanging out and wasting their rent money on obscure sci-fi TV shows. Plus, on this set, they get the best episodes (the one where Brian’s beard gets stuck in an escalator, particularly) and take part in the best laughs (Brian to gay Mongolian couple who look just like him and Steve: “What’s it like being a homosexual in Mongolia?” Mongolian: “It’s pretty gay.”)
That said, it’s pretty hard to completely recommend the Sarah Silverman Program to someone who isn’t already predisposed to Silverman’s standup. It’s about as idiosyncratic as television gets these days, refusing to adhere to any standards and practices (except for the closing scene where Silverman recaps what just happened, often picking up the wrong lesson every time). Not to mention the sometimes shaggy plotting, which could desperately use a tight trimming in most episodes. As far as unique vision for a TV show, however, you need not look further.