Sarah Silverman Program
Empty10:30-11 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 1
Sarah Silverman is hardly a new, undiscovered talent but, until now, she has never shown what she could do with a series crafted around her style of humor. Comedy Central, on which she appears frequently, is giving her that shot, and the results are promising. In two episodes sent to reviewers, Silverman's insensitive slacker character and her supporting cast milk big laughs out of mundane situations.
Much of Silverman's humor, both here and onstage, comes from playing against type. The contrast between her sweet, angelic face and melodic voice and her edgy, politically incorrect, sometimes offensive comments, generates shock and then, at least in the target demo, laughter. It's as if the darling, little girl next door started channeling Lenny Bruce.
Silverman understands all this perfectly. Scene after scene, people greet her with friendly smiles. A homeless guy calls her "Sarah Sunshine." Then they (and we) are taken aback by her dishonest, insensitive, self-absorbed, manipulative and wickedly funny ways. All the while, Silverman views herself as kind and compassionate, a delusion that adds to the humor.
Still, no central figure in a sitcom, no matter how selfish, can be without friends. In this show, they include real life older sister Laura Silverman, who plays her younger sister on the show, a kindhearted nurse who foots the rent on Sarah's Valley Village apartment. The other regulars are gay neighbors, played by fellow comics Brian Posehn and Steve Agee.
As originally planned, the premiere was to be about Sarah's pursuit of new batteries for her TV remote so she could switch off an annoying fundraising commercial for seriously ill children. Then that episode was switched to become the series finale, replaced by a slightly weaker one.
In the new premiere, Sarah gets in trouble with the law, and Officer Jay (Jay Johnston) in particular, after she blithely swigs cough syrup while driving.
The episode starts with a wake-up song, a cute ditty at least until the lyrics go all potty-mouth. Each episode features a musical number, a satiric take on a saccharine kid song. The show's comedy arsenal also includes sparingly used computer graphics, which invariably pump up the humor quotient.
All series need time to discover their strengths and weaknesses, and this is no exception. However, this show starts with a foundation of solid character comedy, which bodes well for the future.
THE SARAH SILVERMAN PROGRAM
Eleven Eleven O'Clock Prods. and Oil Factory
Executive producers: Sarah Silverman, Rob Schrab, Dan Sterling, Heidi Herzon
Producer: Todd Barry
Producer: Erin O'Malley
Consultants: Jon Schroeder, Eric Falconer, Chris Romano
Director: Rob Schrab
Director of photography: Rhet Bear
Production designer: Michael Whetstone
Editors: Adam Weiss, Dora Rosas
Music: Adam Berry
Songs: Michael Kotch, Sarah Silverman
Set designer: Amy Vuckovich
Casting: Jeanne McCarthy, Natasha Cuba
Themselves: Sarah Silverman, Laura Silverman, Brian Posehn, Steve Agee
Officer Jay: Jay Johnston