Tuned In

What I'm Watching Tonight: Give the Jew Girl Props

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[Before anyone gets all exercised, the title refers to this. Clip made relatively SFW by bleeping, sadly.]

Comedy Central

The Sarah Silverman Show

It’s always a pleasure to discover that a series I’ve favorably reviewed actually stays good after the opening episodes. That’s the case with The Sarah Silverman Program, which I’ll be watching tonight–or at least, TiVoing for the weekend. (You may be thinking that today’s theme is swiping post ideas from Virginia Heffernan. But I was already planning on writing about this, I swear! You didn’t see me do it! You can’t prove anything!)

Apparently a lot of you do not care for Sarah Silverman. (Though a silent plurality does: the sitcom’s already been re-upped for a second season.) The big criticism is that she uses shock humor as a crutch, or as one commenter succinctly put it:

Here’s Sarah Silverman in a nutshell: “I like to eat poop, and black people smell funny. My vagina hates thinks [sic] gay people are gross.”

OK, first: not a bad impression. But while her dirty humor gets most of the attention–it makes a good hook, it’s quotable, not much nuance to tease out–at least with her TV series, it overshadows the best part of her work.

Take last week’s episode, “Not Without My Daughter.” In it, “Sarah” pretends to be the mother of a little girl competing in a beauty pageant that she herself lost as a kid. There’s a bonding scene, where Sarah and the girl sing a duet about–OK, fine, it’s about poop. But that’s not the funny part of the scene: the funny part is the perfect timing with which, as the song closes in a lovely harmony, Sarah casually and coldly tells the girl: “You’re a little flat.” In one second, it undercuts any sentiment left in the scene; shows how her self-interested character can’t help competing even with a grade-school girl she’s taken under her wing; and also badly wants the girl to be perfect, so that she can fix everything that went wrong with Sarah’s childhood.

That last aspect gets underlined when Sarah sits with her friends and her “daughter” at their brunch spot and talks about how she lost the pageant as a kid. Then she turns to the girl and exclaims: “But you’re going to make it all better, aren’t you, my little bottle of orange-flavored cough syrup?” (I’m paraphrasing–I deleted the episode.)

Come on–desperate dependency on a fake daughter, plus cough-syrup addiction? That’s comedy!