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That Girl

Sarah Silverman breaks ground in the sitcom format with Comedy Central series that distills her persona with skill

The Sarah Silverman Program premiering Thursday, February 1 on Comedy Central finds its star crystallizing her persona in a crisp single-camera sitcom.

Continuing her knack for undermining political correctness last seen in her feature-length stand-up film, “Jesus Is Magic” (previously reviewed here), Silverman’s program, at least in its first two episodes, proves more consistent than the film. Surprisingly, while the skits in her movie were the weaker parts, her TV effort coheres without a flaw.

Silverman plays a version of herself as a selfish and oafish fool, but the comedy isn’t stupid. In the episode “Batteries,” she doesn’t hesitate to mock kids with leukemia, complain to police about a wheelchair race being in her way, and have sex with God, then kick him out the next morning, no less. All original ideas, you have to give her that; it’s too bad this isn’t on network airwaves where it could really offend some people.

The premiere episode, “Officer Jay,” does have some more conventional elements -- Silverman gets jealous of her sister finding a boyfriend and giving up their “cookie parties” together -- which could be an episode of a more standard sitcom -- but here our anti-hero’s jealousy finds her swigging cough syrup and taking the wheel. All of that, though comes with the same sunny smile that allows her to get away with lines and content that wouldn’t otherwise come off as funny.

In fact, what Silverman has done successfully with this show is translate the tone and spirit of her stand-up material into a sitcom format. This couldn’t really be called a sketch show, since the characters (all basically her comedic acting colleagues playing versions of themselves) are the same in each episode. She’s set the bar high -- making this high-wire act last beyond one season if it finds an audience will be a challenge.




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