This week, Sarah Silverman released the pilot of a show she made last year for NBC. I’m going to preface this by saying, I’m not a huge Sarah Silverman fan. I don’t dislike her, I’ve just never loved her. This is honestly my first trip to her YouTube page.
But did you see what was on NBC last year? It’s hard to believe anything of even remote quality didn’t make it to air. (Exhibit A: Another show created by and starring an otherwise very funny comedienne, Are You There, Chelsea? My rating: unwatchable.)
The show, Susan 313, takes up the reins of a common pilot trope, a woman having just left a long-term relationship. We meet her as she arrives at her old apartment building, where she has kept an empty nest for the ten years she’s been cohabitating. She strolls in, worldly possessions in a banker’s box, all smiles. There’s a cute introductory exchange between her and a neighbor and the neighbor’s daughter. Susan reveals to the little girl that she–Susan–is secretly a princess but she dresses “regular” so no one will know. I can’t be the only one who wondered if this was a nod to Wreck It Ralph, released the previous summer.
While the subject matter is the stuff of a 45-year network TV legacy, the tone is more akin to something like Louie. And, you know what? If you listen very closely you can hear the blessed sound of NO LAUGH TRACK. Another device conspicuous by its absence is that of narrative voice-over. It’s a lazy device that has become a go-to for comedies with female protagonists. Stop using it.
Susan offers an explanation for her perpetual smile; it seems a little early in the breakup for such profound self-awareness, but if we’d had a chance to learn more about the break-up in subsequent episodes, it might have made sense. The immediate next scene with her running into a fan — when the audience learns Susan’s a has-been singer/songwriter of minor fame — feels completely contrived. Buuut, just as the narrative starts to feel a little too familiar, it zags. We find ourselves in a room full of people watching Sarah on TV while Sarah, wearing the same outfit, asks the viewers what they think. Is this a show within a show? Is she in therapy? Is she dreaming? Was she dreaming in the last scene? Don’t bother trying to figure it out.
I love the term “functionally atrophied.” That’s how Susan describes herself when she finds she’s unable to get the water turned on in her apartment. (Side note: The apartment is shockingly free of dust/bugs/cobwebs for having been empty so long.)
The pilot doesn’t weigh us down with exposition. Being that the pilot is all we see, that’s too bad, because I’d like to know more about Susan. Tons of room was built in to explore her emotional state and how she arrived there. It could actually go to some pretty dark places, which I for one would have enjoyed. The pilot, however, stays with more trite subjects like Susan’s boobs.
And, well, I don’t want to spoil the ending for you but it all leads to just about the most unlikely scene possible. You can judge for yourself here.