The Sarah Silverman Program is exemplary of a lot of comedy, and general cultural, trends of the '00s. Sadly, these are not good cultural trends. Youth culture of the '90s and '00s is obsessed with irony. The “coolest” people are the ones looking intentionally bad to be in style and not saying much of anything other than that they don’t hold to society’s ideas of what’s acceptable. They’d rather make fun of the mainstream than offer a real alternative, and that’s certainly true of the Silverman Program, a collection of “look at me, I’m so bad” gestures from the titular heroine, who proves herself intensely annoying from the first episode on.
Now, you may say, if you find her so annoying, why watch the show? When I started watching, I was familiar with her public persona, but not her work. So, she could easily win me over. However, the show is pretty empty and unfunny right from the start. She begins by singing a song about her day, with the “hilarious” juxtaposition of a bouncy, Disney-style melody and rather dirty lyrics.
Once we’re through this, we move into the show itself. On the show, Sarah is very juvenile, and I guess the humor is supposed to come from the juxtaposition of her dirty shtick and innocent persona. In theory, that could work, however, she ends up being more annoying. In order for breaking societal taboos to be funny, there has to be a set social order, and consequences for the transgression. That’s why David Brent on The Office is so funny; it’s not the shtick itself, it’s the juxtaposition of the jokes and environment. When he dances, the humor is seeing this ridiculousness in a real office as much as the dance itself. If he did that dance here, where there’s no rules, it’s not particularly funny.
That’s not to say I only like realist comedy. Arrested Development had moments of incredible ridiculousness, but it also had believable characters and a variety of comic styles. If Buster was the whole show, it would be bad, and there’s no real mix here, everyone else pretty much plays second banana to Sarah. When she does encounter regular society, she winds up offending them in some way, but because she’s so annoying to the viewer, you wind up siding with the offended party.
Ultimately, every story, no matter if it’s comic or dramatic, should say something. This show says nothing, it’s all just pointless, self-indulgent humor. If it was funny, it would be one thing, but it’s not, so it’s just tedious.