Buried on a cable channel that you probably don’t get, is a twistedly funny show that I’m sure you would love (if you could ever find it.)
It’s name is Wonder Showzen, and it is run almost completely by co-creators John Lee and Vernon Chatman. It’s hard to even define what the show IS…because it’s equal parts satire, sketch comedy, animation, and puppetry. The basic format is the story of four main puppet characters: Chauncey, Sthugar, Wordsworth, and Him and each episode offers a twisted view at classic kid’s show topics, including: diversity, birth, nature, history, cooperation, patience, and others, similar to the format of sesame street or Mr. Rogers. The show’s basic themes are always incorporated with countless irrelevant sketches and cartoons, ranging from racism to war to politics to harassment, all in a very sadistic way.
Certain pieces are carried over from show to show, and they include a Q amp; A session featuring children answering an innocent question with disturbing results, a child reporter interviewing bystandards in a segment called “Beat Kids”, Funny/not funny, where pictures are submitted to the audience and are deemed funny, or not funny, a “we went to…” montage of a ficticious trip the children took somewhere, complete with narraration and stock footage, and each episode contains a live report from another puppet named Clarence, who usually roams the streets of New York, asking random people questions, usually with violent results.
Wonder Showzen is a very layered show, featuring sometimes subtle references to celebrities or political causes, or it is sometimes a very blatant slap in the face to organisations or political correctness in general. The jokes and sketches can range from 10 seconds to 15 minutes in length, and typically dissolve directly into the next. The show has definitely seen it’s share of controversy, having received several complains based on a Beat Kids segment that aired during it’s first season, where a child was dressed as Hitler. The episode has since been banned from television, but still can be seen on the Season 1 DVD.
There is definitely nothing quite like Wonder Showzen on television today. It pushes extraordinary limits for a basic cable television show, and features some of the sharpest writing on television as a whole. The only thing that is seeming to affect the show is it’s limited availabity. It began gaining notoriety as clips from the show began popping up on the popular internet site youtube.com, and increasing it’s viewing audience. The show can currently been seen on MTV2 as part of it’s sic ’em Friday lineup and now both seasons are available in their entirety on DVD.
Wonder Showzen is the type of show that definitely isn’t for everybody, but would appeal to a fan of the popular Adult Swim television block that airs on Cartoon Network, or to any fan of irrevrent humor. It has received a lot of critical praise in it’s two years on the air, including being called “subversively funny” by TV Guide and “pure inspiration” by the New York Times, Wonder Showzen is a show that deserves to be sought out. Currently, there is no decision on weather a 3rd season will be produced or not, so if you are a fan of the show, or would just like a better opportunity to see it, please visit mtv2.com and let them know that there’s still an audience out there for rapid fire insanity.
So check out Wonder Showzen Fridays at 9:30 (8:30 central) on MTV2.