Best known as the pretty girl with the filthy mouth, comic Sarah Silverman makes the most of her new cable showcase — a juvenile, crude and wholly irreverent exercise that, in its energy and penchant for the absurd, resembles a latter-day version of “Pee-wee’s Playhouse” pitched to the college-frat set. Although Silverman’s shtick won’t be everyone’s overcaffeinated cup of tea, the series seems destined to gain a well-deserved cult following and may be the brightest addition to Comedy Central’s primetime roster since “South Park.”
Completely self-absorbed, highly amused by bodily function humor and prone to burst into animated sequences or song (staged as gauzy, Celine Dion-style musical montages) at the drop of a hat, Silverman is certainly a heroine for our times, for better and worse. Mangling the conventions of sitcoms, she plays a committed slacker with a peculiar support system that includes her real-life sister (Laura Silverman), a gay couple (Brian Posehn, Steve Agee) and an ugly little dog who occasionally answers her back.
The plots in the two episodes previewed are about as slender as it gets — her sister goes on a date, abandoning Sarah to get hammered on cough syrup; and Sarah needs batteries for her remote so that she can expunge images of needy, dying kids from her TV. (Originally skedded to be the pilot, this second and much funnier installment has been delayed, perhaps because Sarah has a sexual encounter with God in it and Comedy Central wants to postpone the inevitable outcry from the religious right as long as possible.)
As in her standup act, Silverman saunters through it all with a sense of childlike wonder (also supporting the Pee-wee analogy); she’s an overgrown kid who pouts and fusses and says horribly incorrect things about the homeless and minorities. It won’t hurt for guys, either, that there’s something extremely sexy about her — prompting a convenience-store clerk in that aforementioned pilot (played by Masi Oka of “Heroes”) to describe her as “Kind of Jewy, but totally hot — not out-of-your-league hot, just cute.”
Not all the gags work, and Silverman’s willingness to use a straight-faced alibi like “I stubbed my vagina” occasionally feels like shock for shock value’s sake. Even toned down from her concert movie “Jesus Is Magic,” she can still be pretty raw, all the while hiding behind a guileless, wide-eyed shrug.
Nevertheless, Silverman and her posse are clearly deft students of TV and do everything they can to implode its norms, from her nonsense lyrics to the skeletal excuses for a story over which the various scenes are draped. (Notably, other than those for the lyrics, no writers are credited.)
To some extent, the basic conceit is similar to that of “It’s Garry Shandling’s Show,” in that we’re supposed to feel as if this is just Silverman’s life — however daft and loony it may be — and we’re privy to the TV show erected around it. And if the program itself isn’t complete magic, then, excluding Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, it’s certainly as close as Comedy Central has come to it in a good long time.