There's been an ongoing debate here in the SSP sub-squad of TV Club about the show's calculated button-pushing. That actually speaks to a larger criticism of Silverman as a comic, which Noel brought up here last week: She's not nearly as edgy as people make her out to be. At certain points during season two, the SSP's controversy-baiting has felt labored (blackface episode, anyone?).
Last week, the SSP (it gets more annoying each time I type it!) took a detour to revisit both an old storyline (Sarah's romantic involvement with God) and a standard sitcom plotline (the awkwardness of new relationships), and did it pretty well, I thought. Just a couple of minutes into this episode, though, it seemed like Silverman & company were planning to find another Hot-Button Issue to gleefully send up: illegal immigration.
Perhaps it's a sign that the show's writers have found their groove that the episode didn't overstay its welcome. And that the now-standard Brian-Steve B-plot–or was it C-plot, with Jay and Laura taking B?–was particularly funny. Or that the Jay-Laura B/C-plot was also pretty funny?
For her part, Sarah hasn't changed: The woman-child, unknowing-bigot shtick continues unabated, delivered via her characteristic zingers: "I cannot be disrespected by the woman who folds the underwear that I poop in," she says while firing her maid for supposedly stealing a figurine. Or as she tells Bob Odenkirk, in a cameo as her maid's replacement, "Oh it's the age-old story. Girl meets maid, maid anally abuses girl's dog, girl gets maid deported, blah blah blah."
But no one expects Sarah to change. She's surrounded by straightmen (except Brian and Steve–zing!), but those characters routinely deliver some of the show's biggest laughs. Such as: an uncoordinated Brian Posehn dancing merrily in the park to the tune of "Two Princes" by Spin Doctors. Or Jay Johnston delivering his bland "gentle comedy" (which reminded me of his Choo Choo, The Herky Jerky Dancer from Mr. Show). The A-plot actually felt a little ancillary to Steve's horrifying discovery of "Two Princes" on Brian's iPod (Steve: "One song? He's had this iPod for five years!") and Jay's awkward attempts at watered-down stand-up.
Still, the A-plot had funny moments, and its shifting development kept it from dragging. Whereas the blackface episode essentially had one joke, this one succeeded by tweaking the humor: First, Sarah fires the maid for stealing her beloved figurine. Then she thinks the maid stuffed it up her dog's ass, so she reports the maid to INS. The maid becomes mayor of her hometown of Sanchez, Mexico. Then quits when she finds out the pay. Etc. It wasn't just, "Hey, isn't it crazy we're doing blackface?"
Okay, I'm beating that point into the ground, just like that joke was. This is easily the strongest episode of season two thus far. The SSP has hit its stride.
— The episode description on DirecTV mentioned that Sarah fires her maid after her Hamburglar doll disappears. Shoplift Shelly did look like that McDonald's creation.
— Not to be a douchey lech about this, but Laura Silverman in a tennis skirt? Yes.
— I'd love to see the raw footage of Jay as the Little Irish Girl. DVD bonus material, people. Put it on there!
— What accent was Bob Odenkirk trying to do? It kept shifting. But when you're Bob Odenkirk, you get to do whatever the hell you want. (Though maybe that's not a good thing, as people who have seen Let's Go To Prison have told me.)
— "Two Princes" features prominently in The A.V. Club Masochist Mix, a compilation-in-progress by Josh & me that gathers terrible songs that are somehow alluring. Others in the mix: "Plush" by Stone Temple Pilots; "No Rain" by Blind Melon; "Mr. Jones" by Counting Crows; "Shine" by Collective Soul; and a host of others we've used to torment our officemates.