Wonder Showzen: Season One (review)
A deconstructive spoof of edutainment kiddie TV, Wonder Showzen promises “stark, ugly, profound truths,” but the truth is: Not so much. Bloated with its own sense of gonzoness, this MTV2 series — which is most definitely not for children, as the DVD packaging warns us in numerous ways — exhibits flashes of brilliance but is mostly tiresome and obvious and nowhere near as radical as it thinks it is. Imagine Sesame Street and The Muppet Show getting beaten up in a seedy Skid Row alleyway by a gang of snarksters who think aggressive, potty-mouthed puppets are subversive, and there you have it. The all-around misanthropy is of course something any blackhearted cynic can get behind, and when creators John Lee and Vernon Chatman, veterans of South Park and Late Night with Conan O’Brien, hit their stride — as with the evilly repurposed 50s propaganda films about farms and hot-dog factories and happy blond people — it’s enough to make even a committed caustic cheer. But mostly, it’s the giant felt letters and numbers bringing you today’s episode fucking and beating up one another. The non-sequitur “commentary” tracks, allegedly by folks like “Screaming Stephen J. Hawking” and “Dick Gregory,” are clever… for a few minutes. Like each of the eight episodes here, though, they rapidly wear out their welcome. Other extras include outtakes of the little kiddies who interact with the puppets, whom one can only hope, for the sake of their tender sanity, were sheltered from the pop-culture barbarity edited in around them.