So Long Silverman: Comedy Central Chooses Dicks Over Chicks
In three short seasons she dated God (rumor has it He's quite cheap), tackled terrorism one hit and run at a time, introduced the world to homeless chic, accidentaly became mentally disabled, almost married her dog, and single-handedly poured a boat load of lemon juice in the historical, leaking chest wound that is the Holocaust. Sarah Silverman did television her way, which was often tasteless, unihibited, crass, crude, inappropriate, and sometimes, ok, most of the time, completely self-indulgent. It was also smart, edgy, playful, provocative, silly, and endearing, much like Silverman herself.
This week Comedy Central announced it would not renew Silverman's show for a fourth season, citing the following reasons: because and umm, so there. The network has not released a statement about their decision to axe the show, only alluding to an issue with earlier negotiations for the show's third season hinging on cost, which almost forced Silverman to walk. A deal was struck between Silverman and the network, but the show's mid-season move to a 12 a.m. timeslot signalled its death knell. Who in comedy would know anything about those politics? *Ahem*
The Sarah Silverman Program was a refreshing departure from the starchy, greasy, male-centric, dorm room humor clogging up mainstream network time slots. Like it or hate it, Silverman strove to innovate with her comedy, pushing the limits of characters, stereotypes, and forcing us to take on her twisted, ironic, absurdist perspectives on big issues like hypocrisy, racism, and religion. That Silverman achieved her level of television success for three season is remarkable, that she did it as a female comic is even more significant, proving that women are more than capable of driving content and sustaining creative, original, and marketable material.
The cancellation of Silverman's show leaves an aching gap in comic programming for women, an absence made more palpable by the announcement of Comedy Central's prospective 2010-11 line-up. The shows include "Big Lake" with Will Ferrell and Adam McKay about buddies who dream up wonky schemes to save their hometown; "Nick Swardson's Pretend Time" starring stand-up Nick Swardson and featuring irreverant, perverse sketch work that includes a recurring piece about a gay robot (it will probably feature a lot of scenes involving getting hit in the crotch too); and "Workaholics" about a group of office drones played by Adam Devine, Anders Holm, and Blake Anderson described on TheWrap.com as "a three man spring break." Awesome. I mean totally, wicked awesome, bro. I can hardly wait to see who they will get to play the "hot" secretary, the "hot" but aloof chick from accounting, and the "hot" Latina cleaning woman.
Sarah's exit from Comedy Central underscores the lack of support at the executive level around women in the business. It also illustrates a depressing reality that viewers would rather watch a low-production show of a comic snarking on internet trends (Tosh.O) than an inventive, risky, and unsettling program that made them laugh and think.
Then again, maybe this is a blessing in disguise for Silverman and for women comics who, released from the constraints and bullshit of corporate showbusiness, can finally get around to doing great, original, exciting work on networks or other media platforms that recognize their value and worth (Yes Oprah and your shiny new OWN enterprise, I'm talking to you). And who knows, they might actually get the acknowledgement and success they deserve in the process.