I’ve always regarded “The Sarah Silverman Program” as the spiritual successor to “Seinfeld,” not only because of its eponymous main character but also because of the way it took the “show about nothing” concept and pushed it as far as basic cable TV would allow. Would “Seinfeld” have dared to not only feature dueling Holocaust memorials but also have its main character describe theirs as “Wowschwitz”? I have a feeling even Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld said “Woah, wait a minute here…” when they heard about that one.
Silverman never made a major impression on me as a stand-up comedian, but I loved how her show looked for ways to subvert every convention we’ve come to expect from sitcoms. Not only did she push boundaries in what she and the writers tried to get away with (one discussion in the bonus features concerns what Standards and Practices would accept in a drawing of a penis; apparently, the size of the pee-hole is important), but she also upended conventions like The Gay Couple, who on her show are just a couple guys who do all the stuff most guys in their 20s and 30s do, except they’re also totally gay for each other.
Like “Seinfeld,” every episode features the star getting into ridiculous situations, except hers push beyond everyday stuff into the realm of the absurd, such as the one in which sues the movie “Home Alone” for causing her to kill her neighbor, or the one where she runs over bearded pedestrians because she thinks they’re bin Laden. Despite her extreme stupidity, her sister Laura and Laura’s police office boyfriend Jay are always there to help her get out of trouble, while her gay neighbors Brian and Steve usually find themselves with parallel problems of their own.
I was bummed when the series ended, but I don’t know how much longer it could have lasted after the third season anyway. While the goal of any American TV series is to pump out as many episodes as possible in hopes of a syndication deal, I’ve come to appreciate the British approach, in which they mine a concept for all its worth and then move on. Better to leave the audience wanting more than make them feel like a show overstayed its welcome.
This box set includes not only all 32 episodes from the series but also copious bonus features. In fact, there are so many bonus features that I’m not going to bother tediously listing all of them, like I’m writing catalog copy. Suffice it to say, there are enough commentaries, writers conversations, San Diego Comic-Con panels, behind-the-scenes bits, audition videos, webisodes, and other stuff to keep you busy for days on end. (You can even watch the original pilot episode.)
I recommend taking a few days off from work to absorb everything in this set. If you get fired, ask Sarah Silverman for advice. I’m sure she can come up with something.