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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The Sarah Silverman Program: "Face Wars"

Illustration for article titled The Sarah Silverman Program: "Face Wars"
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Illustration for article titled The Sarah Silverman Program: "Face Wars"

So, a recap of The Sarah Silverman Program's second season, thus far:

Episode 1: Abortion

Episode 2: Sexual deviance

Episode 3: Racism

Last week, I mentioned the second episode felt a little too by-the-numbers, and #3 continues down that path. Don't get me wrong; "Face Wars" had several laugh-out-loud parts. But I'm starting to suspect the writers' room at SSP HQ has a dry-erase board with a list of taboos, which they're crossing off one episode at a time.

You can practically see them in your head: "Okay, an episode about racism. Racism…racism…hmm…how to do this?" One or two writers suggest ideas that get a lukewarm reception, then someone interjects: "Blackface!" And somewhere, someone who hasn't gotten the SSP shtick fires up the computer to write another angry e-mail to Comedy Central.

In episode three, Sarah bets a waiter at her coffeeshop that being Jewish is harder than being black, after she suspects a country club wouldn't let her play tennis because of her surname. To walk a mile in a black man's shoes, Sarah goes to her friend Eddie Pepitone (here, a make-up artist, not the owner of the coffeeshop, as he was last season), whose diligent work results in…blackface. Serious Amos & Andy shit.

It was startlingly funny when I saw it at first–or maybe just startling. As the episode progressed, it became obvious that the blackface was the central joke. Just in case viewers didn't get how crazy it was to be in blackface, there was a scene of Sarah supporters protesting at a police station (she got arrested for unpaid parking tickets), all of them in blackface:

"What do we want?"

"The freedom to explore issues of race in American culture through the use of postmodern irony!"

Is it just me, or was the SSP (okay, that's my official annoying acronym for this show–feel free to use it in iChat!) pulling a punch here? Maybe I read too much into it, but it seemed like they were covering their ass by literally spelling out the joke. "Just in case you don't realize we're being funny, HERE'S WHAT WE'RE DOING WITH THE BLACKFACE!"

Maybe the whole thing just felt long to me. The first half of the episode is quite funny–Sarah getting tossed from a Baptist church, "This is literally my darkest hour."–but by the time she gets arrested, the gag had basically run its course.

Good thing there was an amusing B-plot with–wait for it–Brian and Steve. The two potheads hit up a medicinal marijuana store when their dealer gets busted, then proceed to smoke way too much. Baked, Brian attempts to start the Tab car with a quarter. I know the high jinks of the stoned is a hackneyed theme, but I still laugh. (No, I wasn't high. But let me tell you about when I saw Dazed & Confused…) Three episodes in to season two, and Brian and Steve have supplied every B-plot–which could get old, but not if they stay funny.

Anyway, the Sarah-blackface plot drags on after Jay accidentally shoots her in the arm (nice cameo again from Paul F. Tompkins). In the hospital room, Laura tries to clean off Sarah's face, but accidentally leaves a Hitler mustache of black. Thankfully, no one felt compelled to point it out, just in case we missed it.

Grade: C+


— I'm loving the opening credits this season. Last week was that hilarious painting of the elephant and the earth; this week it was a photo of Brian & Steve with Sarah saying, "If they could smoke weed out of a penis, they'd be in heaven." Good stuff.

— I love Sarah's juvenile, playground-style cut-downs. Making fun of Jay because his breath stinks, Sarah says, "Jay, did you eat a fart?"

— Laura Silverman's quick fantasy imagining her life without Sarah was pretty funny, especially with her Daisy Buchanan getup. And she looked even cuter in that platinum wig.

— Steve wearing a Donnas shirt? Really?