“If Not Pubes”

Sarah Silverman as ‘Susan Farrow’ in “Susan 313”A few posts back, I was wondering what ever happened to Sarah Silverman’s sitcom pilot that all the networks were fighting over last year… and this week the winning studio (Twentieth Century Fox) kindly permitted Big S to post the complete episode on YouTube, via her Jash channel. Hurrah!

The video begins with a recently-recorded introduction in which our heroine humbly admits she’s proud of the show, but isn’t too upset that it wasn’t picked up… and, having watched it through myself, I have to say I share her ambivalence. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to see her score a regular TV gig… but I’m not even sure what kind of show Susan 313 wants to be, let alone if it would have been worth watching on a weekly basis. At first I was thrown by the idea of Big S starring in a straight-forward narrative sitcom, playing a spoiled minor-celebrity who moves back into her old apartment, after a break up with her big-time boyfriend, and tries to make amends with the friends she left behind a decade ago… but seeing her bantering with Tig Notaro (as a gay single-mother with a cute moppet in tow) was pretty damn adorable, and I really started to warm to the premise… especially when June Diane Raphael turned up as her former BFF, and begrudging neighbour.

Sarah Silverman as ‘Susan Farrow’ in “Susan 313”But then the whole thing switched to meta-commentary mode, with ‘Susan’ watching her own life play out on a TV screen in front of a diverse focus group, and acting more like the “Sarah Silverman” character we’re familiar with from previous projects. Although these scenes made a lot more sense at the end of the episode (just like Lost!), when the focus group was revealed to be a figment of her lonely imagination, they also ate up a lot of time that should really have been spent fleshing out the supporting characters and shoring up the sub-plots. I was particularly put-off by the part where she had spur-of-the-moment quickie sex (off-screen) with a male neighbour she’d just met, then returned to hang out with the other male neighbour she’d been flirting with up to that point! It’s not that I prudishly object to her sleeping with a total stranger mere hours after breaking up with the supposed love of her life… it just seemed like they’d tossed off a major plot point as a cheap joke, without considering the ramifications this would have on the story flow or our feelings towards the character. So that’s pretty much where I disconnected from the show, long before the theoretically sweet and heart-breaking musical finale (although it’s always great to hear Big S singing… and her duet with Jeff Goldblum was awesome).

June Diane Raphael in ‘Jenny’ and Sarah Silverman as ‘Susan Farrow’ in “Susan 313”The frustrating thing is that I really enjoyed the scenes between Silverman, Notaro and Raphael, and could easily see their budding friendship forming the foundation for a great “hang out” show about cool, smart, funny women in their late-30s/early-40s, learning to love and live again after major setbacks and self-realisations. I would watch that show religiously, because these three women are crazy talented (and mighty cute to boot)… but sadly, that’s only half of what’s going on in this pilot, and the other half (while entertaining in itself, and much closer to Big S’s previous work) really dissipates any emotional investment. In my hypothetical retooling of the show, I’d ditch the voice-over and freeze-frames, ground the jokes and stories in a more traditional sitcom reality, and play the “quickie” off as something she made up to dissuade her new admirer/stalker. As far as I can see that’s all it would have taken to make the show viable in the long-term, because the cast and the performances and the premise were all solid enough… there were just a few tonal/stylistic issues to iron out. But I guess it’s too late for that now, huh? So it goes.

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About deecrowseer

A comic book writer with an interest in feminism, philosophy, and affirmative action.
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