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Jewish Journal

Sarah Silverman Show is Strapped!

by Danielle Berrin

March 2, 2009 | 8:20 pm

While ex-boyfriend Jimmy Kimmel is gallivanting with Tom Cruise and poking light fun at Mel Gibson’s anti-Semitic DUI arrest in 2004, Sarah Silverman is fighting for the life of her self-titled series on Comedy Central.

The Hollywood Reporter reports:

The economic downturn is jeopardizing “The Sarah Silverman Program,” one of Comedy Central’s signature series.

The show’s executive producers—Silverman, Dan Sterling and Rob Schrab—have threatened to quit after the cable network told them the budget for their series would be slashed by more than 20%.

More than two months after “Sarah Silverman” ended its second season, the show has yet to be renewed for Season 3. (In 2007, the second-season pickup came 11 days after the series’ premiere.)

At the center of the holdup is the proposed budget for Season 3. Citing cuts imposed on the network by parent company MTV Networks, Comedy Central had proposed that the trio bring back the WGA Award-nominated show at about $850,000 an episode, sources said, down from the $1.1 million an episode for the show’s second season.

In broadcast, single-camera comedies are produced for about $1.5 million-$2 million an episode, and the budget for any series normally climbs from year to year.

Of course, what studios refuse to celebrate is that even in the midst of recession, the entertainment industry is doing quite well. Box office and attendance are up, ostensibly because a nation full of economic depressives is flocking to escape inside dark theaters. At the moment, cutbacks in Hollywood are the result of media conglomerate ownership that are suffering in other divisions and using the downturn as an excuse to clean house. The article eschews the real reason for cutbacks but references the bigger picture.

The contracting ad market during the recession is hitting networks hard. MTV Networks’ parent Viacom in December laid off 7% of its work force, though Comedy Central largely was spared because it had been through the ringer following the 2003 acquisition of Time Warner’s 50% ownership in the network and had little left to cut.

Amid the economic woes, ABC Studios and 20th TV asked all of their showrunners to cut 2% of their series budgets. The proposed budget cut on “Sarah Silverman” is more than 10 times that.

Silverman insists the integrity of her show (which has special effects and musical numbers) would be compromised at a reduced budget and threatened to pull its third season. While the imminent threat of losing one of the network’s staple shows is rattling executives, a weekend of back-and-forth negotiating (read: screaming, cursing, hysteria) did not beget a decision regarding the show’s future.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Danielle Berrin writes the Hollywood Jew blog, a cutting edge, values-based take on the entertainment industry for jewishjournal.com. A Los Angeles Times profile dubbed her...

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