The Sarah Silverman Program: Season 1
October 8, 2007
I used to hate the comedy of Sarah Silverman. To me, her humour was crude, mean-spirited and intended to shock only for the sake of being so without any substance to it. The problem with her taboo-smashing brand of comedy is that sometimes she pushes the envelope of good taste too far. For example, her jokes at the expense of poor Britney Spears at this year’s MTV Video Music Awards went too far and the audience let her know it. With her television show, The Sarah Silverman Program, the constraints of the medium have reined her in a bit.
The gross out humour genre is dominated by men and male-driven films. When a female-centred example, like The Sweetest Thing (2002), tries to carve out its own niche, the result is a commercial and critical failure. Fortunately, Sarah Silverman has carved out her own niche as one of the few women who can pull it off successfully. The premise of the show is her day-to-day life as she interacts with her sister Laura and her boyfriend Jay, and her gay neighbours Brian and Steve.
The appeal of Sarah is the dichotomy that exists within her. She has a child-like naïveté about some things in life and an absolute potty mouth when someone or something pisses her off. In one episode, Sarah gets high on orange-flavoured cough syrup, crashes her car twice and gets jealous of her sister’s crush on a police officer. The highlight of this episode is when Sarah gets thrown into a holding cell with a bunch troubled women. Each episode usually ends with Laura bailing her sister out of whatever predicament she’s gotten herself into and then Sarah talks to her pet dog Doug in an amusing way about the important lesson she’s supposedly learned.
Sarah uses the sitcom format to satirize hot button topics like AIDS (in an episode where Sarah thinks that she’s contracted it), terrorism (another episode sees Steve falsely accused of planting a bomb in a police car) and entering a small child in a beauty pageant and then exploiting her. Sarah also goes after religion like in one episode where she has sex with God who turns out to be black and then spurns him afterwards.
For me, The Sarah Silverman Program maintains just the right balance and Sarah’s abrasiveness is often offset by the sweeter personality of her sister and the comedy of Brian and Steve. At times, the tone of the show and its style of humour are reminiscent of the legendary Mr. Show comedy series. Not surprisingly, many of the people who appeared on it are regulars on this one.
There is a commentary for “Officer Jay” by Laura Silverman and Jay Johnston. They talk about silly, trivial things and crack lame jokes. They also talk about the tastes of various cough syrup in this dull track.
Brian Posehn and Steve Agee contribute a commentary for “Humanitarian of the Year” and riff on facial hair with Posehn lamenting his baldness. They talk about working with fellow comic Zach Galifianakis (who plays a crazy homeless man) and his ability to stay in character.
Sarah Silverman, director Rob Schrab and writer Dan Sterling also contribute a commentary for this episode. The talk about the professionalism of Galifianakis and tell plenty of filming anecdotes, including harmonizing the singing pigeons in this episode. This is a funny commentary and well worth a listen.
Laura and Jay return for a commentary on “Positively Negative” that is just as boring as their first one as they spend too much time watching the episode and stating the obvious.
Also included is a commentary for “Not Without My Daughter” by Brian and Steve. Brian talks about how funny the scripts for the show are and how much fun the cast read-throughs for each episode are. Steve mentions that Kanye West is a fan of the show and knows all the lyrics to “The Poop Song.”
Sarah, Rob and Dan also contribute a commentary to this episode. They talk about how she fainted for 11 minutes on the set because she had not taken her medicine. They also talk about getting the perfect fart sound while also praising the 11-year-old girl’s performance that plays Sarah’s protégée in the episode.
The last commentary is for “Muffin’ Man” by Brian and Steve. These two guys clearly had a lot of fun making this episode and consider it their favourite of the season.
Also included are “Musical Performances,” 13 segments live from the Comedy Central stage, including excerpts of songs in the show.
There are two alternate opening credits that co-creator Rob Schrab rendered with animated storyboards accompanied by Sarah’s phone message for a more, colourful, musical vibe. There is also an alternate chase sequence for “Batteries” rendered with animatics.
Finally, there is a “Karaoke/Sing-A-Long” option for eight songs from the show.