If you still tune in to The Simpsons, you caught a particularly satisfying episode last night. In the A Plot, Bart fell in love with fellow fourth grader and skateboarder Nikki (guest voice Sarah Silverman), and in the B Plot Lisa was ostracized for overachievement (a beat they’ve played before, but it still works). Lisa slips into a funk until flotus1, Michelle Obama (guest voice Angela Bassett), literally flies in with words of encouragement and to reinforce the reality that overachievers will one day rule the world (so don’t screw them up too much). As with many a Simpsons‘ episode, the big laughs were on the fringes of the main action: Nelson befriending a blind boy, Homer and Bart taking in a 3D Itchy and Scratchy movie that was a spot on parody of the hypnotic documentary Koyaanisqatsi, Skinner and Groundskeeper Willie endlessly making out during a presentation meant to discourage affection in the school, and an increasingly bizarre montage of famous kisses as Bart and Nikki locked lips for a second time (Rhett/Scarlett to Michael/Fredo to Sammy Davis Jr./Archie Bunker… makes perfect sense to me!).
Silverman fit in well with the other voice actors even if hers wasn’t the most outrageous part. To see Silverman expertly play a wild, self-centered version of herself, watch The Sarah Silverman Program Thursdays at… and here’s the problem. Silverman’s sitcom/musical/warped afterschool special is currently in its third season (so far the standout episode featured Andy Samberg as an imaginary childhood friend who leads Sarah down a path of perversion). Maybe not everyone’s cup of tea, and even I’ll admit that some storylines don’t work (when Sarah’s gay neighbors Brian and Steve switched bodies last week thanks to a magical dragon phone, it fell flat). But Silverman takes risks, and the show’s strengths far outweigh its faults. For starters, each episode is expertly plotted (in point of fact, the show works like a live-action Simpsons in that a minor moment from the first few minutes triggers a character into action but is far removed from the frenzied climax (example: a second season episode starts with Sarah’s desire for quiet on a Sunday morning – translation: no church bells – and as a result Sarah gets mixed up with an anti-abortion terrorist group, thwarts their plans to bomb a clinic, and aborts an arrow from Steve’s ass). You have to see it to believe it. But none of this would matter if the show wasn’t so well acted. Silverman leads the way, and she is ably supported by her real life/reel life sister Laura (the perfect straight woman) and Jay Johnston as Laura’s crazy but kind police officer boyfriend (now husband). And the afore-mentioned Brian and Steve, played by Brian Posehn and Steve Agee, might be the most progressive gay males on TV. They’re just two out of shape nerds with a love of heavy metal and sci-fi who are totally into one another. Add to all of this, Silverman was recently nominated for an Emmy for her performance. So what gives, Comedy Central?
Silverman has gone on record that the gaps between seasons are a result of the network’s hesitancy to renew the show even though they always have thus far. This seems profoundly dumb, but in a golden age of cable programming, we expect to wait for new episodes of Mad Men, In Treatment, etc. However, now that Sarah’s back, why is she no longer featured during Thursday’s 10pm hour? She was there for a few weeks and then, along with Demetri Martin, relegated to midnight-ish in favor of new show Ugly Americans and a South Park encore. Nothing against these shows, but The Sarah Silverman Program isn’t even re-aired after the first showing (Monday mornings at 3:30am doesn’t count.) I know we all have DVRs, but what about the new viewers to be gained while one is flipping channels? What will it take to get Comedy Central to support this show?
If you’re reading this, check it out. Here’s a schedule (and after you see it you’ll want to watch Seasons 1 and 2). If enough of you get hooked, and if Comedy Central gets a clue, a Simpsons‘ episode won’t be the only place to catch Sarah in prime time.