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The Sarah Silverman Program: "Wowschwitz"

Illustration for article titled iThe Sarah Silverman Program/i: Wowschwitz
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Even before The Sarah Silverman Program came back from the interminable break between seasons two and three, the writing was on the wall: Comedy Central reportedly balked at the show’s expense (and the cast’s supposed desire for more money), and only through a partnership with the Logo network was the show’s third season funded. When it finally returned in early February, Comedy Central moved it to the late-night graveyard a month later, airing after Colbert and without the usual regimen of reruns the network gives its original programming.

So the message couldn’t have been clearer: This is it for The Sarah Silverman Program.


No one seemed more aware of it than the cast, who has gone beyond qualified statements ("Well, this may be it, but we don't know") to outright acceptance in recent weeks—at one point a few weeks ago, Steve Agee asked Mary Lynn Rajskub (24’s Chloe) via Twitter where they’d work now that both of their shows were ending. Sarah Silverman, director/co-creator Rob Schrab, Brian Posehn—all of them seemed resigned to the show’s fate, at least on their Twitter accounts. Posehn went further in an interview with TV Squad’s Nick Zaino:

Do you feel like this is the last season of the show, then?
Yeah. Yeah. But we felt that kind of going in. Just because it was so tough to get them to give us the money to do the third season, we had to jump through so many hoops. I don't know. I'm also a negative person. I'm not going to be the blue sky-er, you know. I feel like we're lucky to have done what we've done, and I would be very happy to come back and do a season four. But I'd also be completely surprised if it happened.


Coincidentally, Posehn wrote tonight’s episode, one the strongest of the third season. And if this is the way The Sarah Silverman Program is going out, godammit, it’d might as well be with Ed Asner dressed as a Nazi, dog Doug traveling through time, and Brian and Steve getting into trouble with a banana and Scott Aukerman. Really, that's par for the Sarah Silverman Program course.

Pacing really made this episode stand out—it had no padding, no tired musical numbers, just a snappy tempo with a barrage of jokes that hit the mark. No scene lingered too long, and everyone in the cast had some good moments. Once again, Jay Johnston proved to be the ensemble’s secret weapon, first by proclaiming, “I’m not even a Jew, and I love the Holocaust!” then by re-imagining Hitler as a cranky gold prospector:


Although the thoughtless-Sarah-responsible-Laura dynamic has arguably been overdone on the SSP, tonight had them unveiling competing Holocaust memorials, a premise that offered a rich comic well to tap. Whereas Laura’s memorial was understated and classy, Sarah envisioned a carnival with a sexy Hitler. Laura’s monument: a simple plaque with names. Sarah’s: a giant nose with streams of water running from the nostrils because it’s “crying.”

The SSP has always mined the absurd for laughs, but tonight went beyond the usual Sarah-did-what? shenanigans for something more surreal: her beloved dog, Doug, traveling through time and witnessing important moments in history (Lincoln being shot, Jesus carrying the cross). Then, taking a page perhaps from Inglourious Basterds, the SSP engaged in a little alternate history, with Doug taking out an Austrian art student and preventing the Holocaust from ever happening—and saving Sarah’s life in the process. How Doug has this power is never revealed; it just happens, simply providing interstitials between scenes until the big payoff at the end of the episode. Asking for logic in an episode of the SSP is a fool’s errand, usually in a good way.


And so is asking for a fourth season, apparently. It’s a shame, because despite some clunkiness (season premiere “The Proof Is In The Penis,” the whole Home Alone thing in “A Slip Slope,” and most of episode six, “A Fairly Attractive Mind”), season three was generally solid. Maria Bamford killed it in episode four (“Nightmayor”), Andy Samberg added a lot to “Smellin’ Of Troy,” and “Just Breve”—the one about the robot—pulled off a tricky balance of black humor and genuine heart. My expectations dropped considerably after the premiere, but season three will likely end up having some of my favorite moments from the series. “Wowschwitz” was a nice capper to it all.

The series’ last line? “Ugh, sourdough.” Yup, sounds about right.


• “Banana cop” into “menomena” = WIN.

• What Murray thinks Jews love more than anything else in the world: their grandchildren, Curb Your Enthusiasm.


• My favorite quotes:
“Autographs, Sarah? This doesn’t really feel appropriate.” “Says the Nazi war criminal.”
“I wanna know everything you know about the Holocaust. I’m really interested in being seen as being interested in it.”
The way Brian sarcastically says “impulsive” in the Fantastimart

• This is a really small detail, but it made me laugh: When we see the exterior of the building as the cops run in to break up the hostage situation, the first one in is a bike cop, still wearing a helmet.


• Sarah has a book coming out next week, The Bedwetter: Stories Of Courage, Redemption, And Pee. Check out the trailer:


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