In 10 Words or Less
Here's a handful of the sweetly perverse princess
Loves: Comedy, "Mr. Show," Mini Coffee, audio commentaries
Likes: Sarah Silverman, good sitcoms, Brian Posehn
Hates: Split-Season DVD Sets
The Story So Far...
Hi, I'm Francis Rizzo, and this is my summation of "The Sarah Silverman Program" on DVD. There's a girl named Sarah and her nurse sister Laura, and her gay pals Steve and Brian, who are gay in every sense of the word and there were some jokes and stuff. There's also season one, which came out in October of 2007, and there's a review of season one available on DVDTalk. So there.
Sarah Silverman is an unusual choice to star in her own show, since despite being very funny, she also inspires a great deal of hatred among those who don't enjoy her cute brand of dark humor. Due to that status, she might better serve as a strong supporting character, a Fonzie of sorts, who pops in and makes the crowd go wild. Fortunately, she has a very strong supporting cast, which makes it more of an ensemble than a star vehicle.
Unfortunately, that also often means the show is stolen from her by Brian Posehn and Steve Agee, who play, incredibly enough, Brian and Steve, Sarah's gay neighbors. Surprisingly, the gay thing is really a small part of their characters (though very amusing when they express their affection for each other in their uniquely understated way.) These laidback stoners have probably the only functional relationship on the show, and their interactions are a great deal of fun. Oddly, you could easily lift this pair out of the show and it wouldn't hurt their stories in the least.
This season doesn't change anything about the show's dynamic, with the only difference being the adventures the characters undertake, which are some of the best to this point, including Brian and Steve getting incredibly wasted on medical marijuana, Sarah's awkward relationship with her black boyfriend God and her recruitment into the anti-abortion movement. Only the Laura and Jay material is underwhelming, even when it reaches its zenith with Jay's secret hobby, which just doesn't pay off enough.
One show in particular though, which sees the Silverman sisters get onto their favorite TV show, "Cookie Party," is burned into my brain, for one reason and one reason only: Rob Schrab. One of the show's creative forces (and creator of the great Scud the Disposable Assassin) he plays Mini Coffee, the show's host, and words couldn't give justice to the creepy hilariousness of this character. Played like a southern belle, despite two days of facial growth and a patch of chest hair, Mini Coffee should have his/her own show, if only to keep kids on the straight-and-narrow by frightening the hell out of them. Add in the presence of the disturbing Mustangs, an odd pair of male cheerleaders, and a story about Sarah's obsession with Number Two, and it's a brilliantly absurd example of what the show does well.
Despite the genius of Mini Coffee, the best of the half-dozen episodes included has to be "Face Wars," just because it's crazy even for Silverman. Turned away from the tennis courts at the local country club (for her Jewish religion, she feels) Sarah declares it's harder to be Jewish than black. When called on her statement, she decides to live as a black woman to see how life differs. Her sweetly naïve insensitivity is magnified by a ridiculous make-up job that is the cherry on the top of an insane sundae of funny that builds well past the reveal that might have been the high-point of the show on most series, before going back to the well and pulling it off again. With just six episodes, this show needed to deliver every time, and Silverman managed to make it happen.
There are few things in the realm of DVD I dislike more than the split-season DVD set, and Comedy Central has joined the trend here, giving us just the first six episodes of Season Two, on the first platter of a two-disc set, which is packed in a pair of slipcased, clear ThinPaks with episode descriptions. The DVD have almost the exact same menus as last time, a retro-styled selection set-up that fits the show well. There are no audio options and no subtitles, but closed captioning is included.
The full-frame transfers on this set look very nice, delivering the show's vivid color scheme well, with a healthy amount of fine detail. There are no noticeable issues with digital artifacts nor is there any dirt or damage.
The audio is presented with Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks that are just what you'd expect from a basic cable comedy show. The dialogue is clean and free of distortion, while the music sounds tight, though the mix gives the straightforward sound you'd expect from the series.
With two discs, the majority of the extras are held on the second DVD, but the first has plenty of material as there are seven audio commentaries. Despite having one more commentary than there are episodes, oddly, not every episode has a commentary. The tracks with the Silverman sisters are a bit too relaxed, resulting in dead air in spots, while the Posehn and Agee strike the right balance between enjoying themselves and talking about the show. If you're looking for prototypical tracks though, Schrab and Sterling provide the behind the scenes info commentaries are best known for.
Ep. 1: Sarah and Laura Silverman
Ep. 3: Laura Silvermand and Johnston
Ep. 4: Sarah and Laura Silverman
Ep. 4: Schrab and executive producer Daniel Sterling
Ep. 5: Posehn and Agee
Ep. 5: Schrab and Sterling
Ep. 6: Posehn and Agee
Also on Disc One are some DVD commercials and a set of four Comedy Central Quickies.
Disc Two kicks off with a "The Sarah Silverman Program" panel from the 2007 Sand Diego ComicCon, featuring Johnston, Agee, Posehn, the Silverman sisters, Schrab and Sterling, and moderated by Zach Galifianakis. The half-hour Q&A has a loose feel, thanks in part to Galifanakis setting the tone with his questions, and is just what you'd expect from a ComicCon panel with this group, which means it's a good time.
There's a bunch of clips that follow, which have previously (and currently as of this writing) on the Comedy Central web site. First is a 2:40 cartoon with the Steve and Brian characters, as they find themselves on another fantastical adventure. Seriously, I could probably be able to watch this show on a weekly basis. Then there's the two minute "Brian's New Office," which shows what happens when Brian moves into his new office...which is haunted.
There's also a quartet of "Cookie Party" clips histed by Mini Coffee, including three "Cookies Come Alive!" cartoons and a commercial for a "Cookie Party" video game. These things are just as over-the-top funny as the show they would air on, and will undoubtedly result in a sleep-disturbing nightmare at some point in my near-future.
The remaining eight clips (over 16 minutes in total) are of the behind the scenes type, including a segment on Jay Johnston's cape and Xbox, four episodes of "The Silverman Report," "Justin's Sketch" and "On the Set with Steve [Agee]." These are some funny bits, especially Justin Roiland's manic explanation of "getting into character," and the uncomfortable Michael Smith interviews on the "Report" (though I'd like to know the story behind the character.) Getting more exclusive material (stuff not available for free online) or even just getting all of what's available online would make this a better collection, though it is funny.
The Bottom Line
The Sarah Silverman Program is such a fully-realized world that even things like a young Jewish girl dating an older black deity just seems to make sense. As a result, the show manages to avoid conventional sitcom concepts and tells wholly original stories instead. The limited amount of content here is disappointing though, even if the quality of the DVDs and wide amount of extras are quite welcome. While I can't really support the split season release, it's a fun package to check out for Silverman fans.
Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.Check out 1106 - A Moment in Fictional Time or follow him on Twitter
*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.