It’s a rite of passage for any halfway-decent comedian with even the hint of a future. And now Sarah Silverman (veteran of socially incorrect zingers like “I was raped by my doctor, which is bittersweet for a Jewish girl”) has landed her own sitcom. From “Roseanne” to “The Cosby Show,” “Martin” to “The Jamie Kennedy Experiment,” there really is no standard operating procedure for the self-titled sitcom: You just kind of roll with the direction the star feels like going in. While “The Sarah Silverman Program” is certainly no “Seinfeld,” it isn’t exactly “The Michael Richards Show” either – showcasing with appropriate zeal the often subversive, always relevant musings of its star.
As is common in such shows, Silverman essentially plays her real-life self – except exaggerated, sarcastic and farcical for effect. She’s a middle-aged woman who never really grew up, dependent almost entirely on her caring younger sister Laura (played by her real-life sister, also named Laura). Her life seems to revolve around watching a TV show with her sister, called, “Cookie Party” – where viewers watch a cartoon featuring singing and dancing cookies and then call in to vote off a different cookie every week.
Also included in Sarah’s fictitious life is a gay couple, Brian and Steve (one of whom may or may not be bisexual), a police officer who falls for Laura and a tiny dog that Sarah talks to when she’s sad (and if she does it just right, he talks back). The meager plot of the pilot centered on Laura going on a date with the police officer on “Cookie Party” night and the grave consequences that has on the extremely insecure Sarah – cough syrup, car crashes and the Loch Ness monster come into play.
While the show is amusing at times, the complete inanity of everything it’s built upon becomes clear very quickly. The supporting cast, besides Laura, is uninspired, employing mostly one-liners that probably wouldn’t even make it through dress-rehearsal on a 12:55 a.m. bit on “Saturday Night Live.” The exception is when Silverman is directly involved, but even her energetic, aggressively impulsive swagger can’t keep the program from stalling about as often as the average cable sitcom.
In a way, the program – more so than other shows of this genre – is a living version of Silverman’s standup routine, complementing her spoiled Jewish-American-Princess shtick, but it only sporadically hits home. Its ambitious triumphs in satirizing American pop culture (“Cookie Party” and the neurotic fanfare surrounding it is a crystal clear mockery of “American Idol”) and political correctness (upon learning Laura is Jewish, the police officer feels compelled to remark, “You know, I think the Holocaust was completely uncalled for,” to which Laura pleasantly replies, “Oh, don’t worry about it.”) are watered down by a pedestrian, lazy scenario.
While Silverman is at her best, there’s too much broken in her “Program” to make it worthwhile.
The Sarah Silverman Program
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars.
Thursdays at 10:30 p.m.