As season 2B of The Sarah Silverman Program takes shape, the show is following precedent: The first episodes are characteristically uneven, but it begins to cohere after a few weeks. Thursday night we saw the first solid episode of the season with "Making New Friends," which nailed the SSP's signature mix of bawdiness (Steve's pot tits, Sarah's first scheme to win back her friends), naivete (chronically clueless Sarah), whimsy (the inspired opening credits scene introducing her new friends), and weirdness (Mark, "the Chinese lawyer" tabby). And Todd Barry.
Thursday's plot was typical: Sarah does something asshole-ish, (sort of) realizes it and (mostly) regrets it, and everything works out at the end, with her wildly missing the point as she explains it to Doug the dog. There was also the standard Brian-Steve B-plot, often the funniest part of the SSP (spinoff?). For the first one, Sarah decided her group of friends was too boring, so she finds four random new ones. For the second, Steve develops enormous man-tits, straight out of Meat Loaf's wardrobe from Fight Club. "They're like an old African man's earlobes!" cracks Brian.
The episode begins with Sarah mistaking her friends' predictability for her own psychic powers. She's able to guess correctly that her sister will call her when she's late for brunch, that Jay will order the silver-dollar pancakes ("It makes my mouth feel rich. J.D. Rockechewer!"), that Brian and Steve will argue, etc., not because she can see the future, but because that's what always happens.
To be honest, the first couple of scenes had me expecting a plot revolving around Sarah's psychic delusion, but was pleasantly surprised when it veered into her breaking up with Brian, Steve, Jay, and her adorable sister, Laura.
How does she do it? Using the world's crappiest PowerPoint presentation–opening slide: a picture of a sunset in a cloudy sky behind the words: "Friendship: A Journey of Change"–in a hotel conference room. "This is ridiculous, Sarah," chides Laura. "You're ridiculous, Laura. Your eyebrows don't even match your hair! How does that even happen?" Cue cameo from comedian Todd Barry (see my interview with him from earlier this year here–and his punch-ups on it–here), as Nathan the grief counselor, who tries to assuage Laura's hurt about her eyebrows. The highlight of the episode arrives shortly after, with an opening-credits montage introducing Sarah's bizarre group of new friends: Karen, a sassy black lady with a catchphrase; Armen, a shy twentysomething; Murray, a confused old man; and Mark The Chinese Lawyer, a tabby cat wearing a suit and glasses.
Despite a fun day of kickball and a sleepover, it doesn't take long for the honeymoon to end. Karen insists on shouting that catchphrase ("Overshare!") at inappropriate times, Murray isn't sure who these people are, Armen seems terrified, and Mark? "You're stupid," says Sarah. It's back to the conference room for a "really really fun group activity": a breakup letter, Mad Libs style.
It all comes down to a hillside ceremony, where Steve is burying the disgusting fat from his tits (surgically removed following an accident with a window) to mark a new beginning in his life. The biggest laugh of the night for me comes next, when Sarah's scheme to win back her old friends plays out. Her first plan? Show them her vagina–her attempt to say "pussy" was particularly funny, as was the fact that her first idea to win back her old friends (two gay men, her sister, and her sister's boyfriend, mind you), was to show them her genitalia. The group is understandably revolted–next time, make friends with a group of people who comment about you on the Internet, Sarah–so she goes to plan B: a white pony with Steve Miller tickets gaffer-taped to his stomach. Jay's joyful freakout about the pony was perfectly in character and funny.
I think it took the first part of season 2–you know, the one that aired a year ago?–longer to get into a groove, so it's encouraging that the SSP had a consistently funny episode like this just three into the new season. Let's hope it stays that way.
— I've never thought about it, but Barry looks uncannily like a grief counselor. And if Flight Of The Conchords has taught us anything, it's that he can be hilarious on TV. More! (He actually opened for Silverman when she played out here a few weeks back, though most of the material came from his recent From Heaven CD.)
— I was psyched that Steve & Brian's car is still covered with Tab logos. The UPC labels near the trunk are a nice touch.
— Brian: "You have any idea what we've been through?"
Jay: "Yeah, a man lost his breasts!"
Sarah: "Don't yell at me! Yell at nachos or cupcakes!"