DVD Review: THE SARAH SILVERMAN PROGRAM – THE COMPLETE SERIES

sarahsilverSarah Silverman’s brand of company won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. Her act is decidedly politically incorrect with jokes revolving around racist statements or her private parts. What really sets Silverman apart is her squeaky-voiced, innocent persona, which somehow makes her foul-mouthed routine adorable in its own way.

The Sarah Silverman Program really allows Silverman to hone that persona to outrageous lengths. The show debuted on Comedy Central in 2007 and was co-created by Silverman, Dan Harmon, the creator of NBC’s Community, and Rob Schrab, a director on shows like Parks and Recreation and Childrens Hospital, as well as the creator of the comic book series Scud: The Disposable Assassin. The Sarah Silverman Program also features several cast members of the sketch comedy series Mr. Show, of which Silverman was a former guest star. Anyone familiar with these projects will get a strong sense of its style of humor.

Silverman stars as an accentuated version of herself, one who is immature and too lazy to hold down a job. She is driven by an incessant need to be at the center of attention and is willfully oblivious to her own narcissism. As obnoxious as Sarah generally is, there’s also a sense of naiveté that makes you forgive her. Sarah is supported entirely by her younger sister, Laura, played by her real-life sister who is actually older. Laura works as a nurse and dates a police officer by the name of Jay (Jay Johnston), much to Sarah’s consternation. Sarah’s best friends include her little dog, Doug, and her gay neighbors, Steve (Steve Agee), and Brian (Brian Posehn). Steve and Brian often times steal the episode with their subplots, such as when they become obsessed with the soft drink Tab or when Steve is repeatedly punched in the face for no reason.

Silverman’s show doesn’t shy away from risqué material with storylines about AIDS, abortion, homosexuality, 9/11, and bestiality. Sarah even has sex with God, played by Tucker Smallwood, in the first season, which leads to her getting pregnant in season two. You’ll also get plenty of poop and fart jokes. In “Vow Wow,” Steve and Brian become hilariously fascinated with farting into various objects like jars, wind instruments, and each other’s faces. There are some really zany moments throughout the series as well. In the appropriately titled “Pee,” Sarah dreams she is a mermaid singing to animated underwater denizens, which leads to her wetting the bed. The tone of the show is meant to parody traditional sitcom archetypes with Sarah closing each episode sharing a heartfelt talk with her dog about what she learned that day.

Followers of the comedy scene will recognize many familiar faces as guest-stars include Patton Oswalt, Adam Carolla, Jimmy Kimmel, Maria Bamford, Eddie Pepitone, Todd Glass, Jeffrey Ross, Matt Besser, Paul F. Tompkins, Andy Richter, and Missi Pyle in a recurring role as talk show host Scarlett Lacey. Some of the unexpected actors to drop by are Dick Van Patten, Ed Asner, Garry Marshall, Jon Hamm, and a Kristen Stewart just on the cusp of her booming Twilight fame.

The new complete series from Shout Factory consists of the previously released DVDs from Paramount and Comedy Central along with the unreleased Season 3. The episodes included are:

-Season 1-
“Officer Jay” – Upset by her sister’s new boyfriend, Sarah gets intoxicated on cough syrup and is arrested for DUI.
“Humanitarian of the Year” – Sarah takes in a former high school classmate (Zach Galifianakis), who has become a homeless man. As it turns out, it was because he’s mentally disturbed.
“Positively Negative” – Sarah gets all Evita when she mistakenly believes she has AIDS.
“Not Without My Daughter” – Unable to enter a children’s beauty pageant, Sarah adopts a girl to compete in her stead.
“Muffin’ Man” – Sarah sports a Joan Jett hairdo when she decides to become a lesbian.
“Batteries” – Sarah embarks on a quest to replace the batteries in her remote control. This episode was originally intended as the pilot.

-Season 2, Volume 1-
“Bored of the Rings” – Sarah falls in with a radical anti-abortion group planning to blow up a free clinic where Laura volunteers. Steve is annoyed that Brian has ignored him for a marathon game of Dungeons & Dragons.
“Joan of Arf” – After witnessing her dog constantly licking his ass, Sarah gives it a try and gets arrested for animal cruelty.
“Face Wars” – Sarah wants to prove that it’s easier to be black than Jewish. She does that by putting on blackface.
“Doodie” – The Silverman Sisters go on their favorite game show to pay to replace the tombstone on their mother’s grave.
“Ah, Men” – Sarah hopes to wow for former classmates at the high school reunion by bringing her on-again/off-again boyfriend, God.
“Maid to Border aka Brian’s Song” – Sarah travels to Mexico in search of her maid after wrongly firing her.

-Season 2, Volume 2-
“High, It’s Sarah” – Sarah smokes pot for the first time with Brian and the two wind up kidnapping the CEO of a pharmaceutical company.
“The Mongolian Beef” – Sarah discovers her ancestors were raped by Mongolia so she decides to sue the entire country.
“Making New Friends” – Sarah looks for new friends when she finds them to be predictable.
“Patriot Tact” – Sarah tries to raise awareness about 9/11 after repeatedly mistaking bearded men for Osama bin Laden.
“Pee” – Sarah has a bedwetting problem and poor Brian gets his beard stuck in an escalator.
“There’s No Place Like Homeless” – Sarah becomes homeless simply because she loses the keys to her apartment.
“Fetus Don’t Fail Me Now” – Sarah finds out she’s not bloated, but nine months pregnant.
“I Thought My Dad Was Dead, But It Turns Out He’s Not” – Sarah is shocked to discover her father is still alive. Brian purchases an expensive DVD boxset, much to the ire of Steve. Former Dr. Who, Christopher Eccleston, guest-stars as Dr. Lazer Rage.
“Kangamangus” – Sarah tries to invent and popularize a new slang word, but Brian beats her to it.
“Vow Wow” – Sarah mocks Jay & Laura’s engagement by sarcastically proposing to marry her dog, and then decides to go through with it for real.

-Season 3-
“The Proof is in the Penis” – Upset over Sarah’s lack of financial responsibility, Laura tells her sister that she was born as a hermaphrodite.
“The Silverman and the Pillows” – Sarah becomes the host of a new children’s program.
“A Slip Slope” – Sarah inadvertently kills her new neighbor, sues Home Alone, and winds up becoming the city’s chief censor.
“NightMayor” – Sarah’s practical joke during the elections leads to a new mayor who decides to ban everything from brunch to gay marriage.
“Smellin’ of Troy” – Sarah is driven to a life of sex and drugs by her childhood imaginary friend, Andy Samberg, while Steve writes a hit song that mocks Brian.
“A Fairly Attractive Mind” – Sarah tries to be a source of inspiration when she mistakenly believes she is mentally handicapped.
“Songs in the Key of Yuck” – Sarah attends a jam band concert and tries to convince everyone they only listen to jam bands because they’re stoned.
“Just Breve” – Sarah tells the story of how Steve and Brian built a robot to be their child.
“A Good Van is Hard to Find” – Sarah keeps climbing into the vans of sexual predators while Brian and Steve argue over who will do the laundry.
“Wowschwitz” – Sarah tries to upstage Laura’s Holocaust memorial by throwing her own, not realizing that her guest of honor was a Nazi.

Video/Audio: 8
The video for seasons one and two is presented in a fullscreen aspect ratio while season three is presented in anamorphic widescreen with an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The transfers are clean and bright with an additional gloss to the season three episodes.

The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo while the audio for season three also has the option of a Dolby Digital 5.1 track. The sound isn’t anything special. It is flat and dialogue driven, but more than adequate.

Extras: 4
The complete series comes loaded with extras though the majority isn’t very substantial. First off, nearly every episode comes with an audio commentary track with a rotating roster of the cast and crew.

Season 1 features musical performances by the main cast, storyboards, and a karaoke/sing-along option for the show’s musical numbers.

Disc 2 of Season 2, Volume 1 features 2007 Comic-Con (29:37), a panel held at the massive San Diego event with Zach Galifianakis moderating. You’ll also get Digital Shorts, two animated cartoons starring Steve and Brian, and Cookies Come Alive, extended sequences from the game show “Cookie Party.”

Disc 1 of Season 2, Volume 2 features Odds ‘n’ Ends, a series of short behind-the-scenes featurettes dealing with filming the animated sequences and working with guest-stars like Garry Marshall, amongst other topics. On disc 2, you’ll find three animated webisodes entitled “Fantastimart,” “Sarah’s Magic Purse,” and “Steve and Brian.”

Anchoring the bonus features on disc 2 of season 3 is the all-new featurette The Writers & Producers Talk TSSP (2012) (29:12). Sarah is reunited with some of the writers and producers (minus Dan Harmon) for this retrospective look at how the show was conceived and its battles with the censors. Cast and Creators Q&A at Largo at the Coronet in LA (2010) (5:38) is an edited look at the Q&A session. Odds ‘n Ends are more behind-the-scenes featurettes. Breve Animatic by Rob Schrab (2:03) is an animated storyboard from the episode “Just Breve.” Stay Away from Bad Stuff!! Safety Tips with Sarah St. Claire (2:07) is another animated short done as a kid’s PSA.

Original Pilot is the unaired pilot originally filmed in 2006 with an optional commentary track by Sarah Silverman, Rob Schrab, and Dan Harmon. Of note, are an opening theme song and a beardless Brian Posehn.

Finally, the disc includes the audition tapes for Steve Agee and Jay Johnston.

Film Value: 7
The Sarah Silverman Program is a high-energy television series led by the potty-mouthed pixie. It’s a clever send-up of sitcom tropes and full of subversive humor, wacky interludes, and clever musical numbers.
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