The Sarah Silverman Program: Season 2, Volume 2

The Sarah Silverman Program: Season 2, Volume 2
In a nutshell, Sarah Silverman's stand-up comedy derives its impact from the tension between her sunny, childlike demeanour and the shocking, offensive things she says. "My nana was a survivor of the Holocaust... or, I'm sorry, alleged Holocaust" is one of her most famous jokes — a shocking quip made palatable only by the sense that her on-stage character is too ignorant to know any better. Silverman's Comedy Central series, The Sarah Silverman Program, attempts to translate this tension into the context of a TV sitcom, with her cheery but decidedly sociopathic character (also named Sarah Silverman) doing and saying a variety of horrible things each episode as a small group of patient friends, including a sister, her boyfriend and a gay bear couple, clean up the mess. In one of the episodes in this season two DVD set, Silverman learns that her great grandparents were raped by Mongolian invaders, and mounts an anti-Mongolian billboard in her anger. When her lawyer tells her that the Mongolian tourism board is suing her, she says, "They don't want the billboard? You know what my Russian great grandmothers didn't want? To be sexually assaulted where they pee!" This tasteless line, which might have worked fine in Silverman's stand-up act, falls curiously flat in this context. Here's the problem: the lawyer is balding with three greasy strands of hair combed across his forehead, wearing a bow tie, drinking out of an "I ♥ Lawyers" mug, and apparently blind to the fact that the pictures on the wall are cartoonishly crooked. Characters and settings like the lawyer and his office are so extravagantly and wilfully artificial that they bring self-consciousness to the show, which is deadly to Silverman's comedy. The same problem applies to the rest of the series, with the aggressively twinkly music and a blinding-bright colour palette too obviously satiric to generate comic tension with Silverman's ignorant character. This two-disc set includes episodes where Silverman attempts to auction her unborn baby to the winner of a go-kart race, tries to marry her dog and runs over every bearded man in town on the assumption that they are Osama Bin Laden. But without any particularly compelling social commentary and, more importantly, with only sporadic laughs, the show too often feels like shock for shock's sake. Gap-filled commentaries from the creative team (sometimes including Silverman) accompany each episode. Other extras include highly skippable promotional documentaries and animated webisodes. (Paramount)