The folks behind some of my favorite series of the past decade talking about the TV comedy business? Yes, please.
Golden Fiddle has a transcript of a panel discussion with David Cross (Arrested Development, co-creator of Mr. Show), Bob Odenkirk (the other co-creator of Mr. Show), Chuck Tatham (writer, Arrested Development), and Wonder Showzen creators Vernon Chatman and John Lee.
It is indeed a sad day, fellow fans of Wonder Showzen. In an interview with Radar, show creators Vernon Chatman and John Lee have said that MTV2 has still given no official word on whether their subversive, blood-soaked, drug-addled tribute to children's shows will return for a third season. Currently, Lee says the answer is about "ninety percent 'no'" as to whether or not the show will return.
As is the case with most shows that includes kids dressed up as a dead Pope, dozens of scenes segmented on the screen and played simultaneously, a dog pulling a baby from a pregnant woman's womb while she's being killed in an electric chair and puppets dry humping the Bible, Wonder Showzen had a devoted fanbase but never got the ratings that would make a network want to keep it around. It's not much consolation, but the second season does come out on DVD today, so you can always pop it into the ol' DVD player and remember the good times. Also, the brains at Adult Swim have expressed their love for Wonder Showzen, so maybe there's still a small glimmer of hope for the show after all. Keep the faith, brothers and sisters.
The second season of Wonder Showzen, MTV2's hidden subversive gem, will be out on DVD on October 17. If you haven't seen the show, it's essentially what Sesame Street would be if the writers and performers injected LSD directly into their brains before taping every episode. The set will include all eight episodes from the second season, outtakes from the "Clarence" and "Beat Kids" segments, a Wonder Showzen storybook, and assorted games, featurettes and other nonsense. You know, DVD-type stuff. Besides being one of the funniest, sickest, and oddest shows to ever hit the airwaves, the show also featured a lot of great comedians in guest roles, including Amy Sedaris, David Cross, Zach Galifianakis, and Jon Glaser.
I'm a big fan of Wonder Showzen, not only because I find it subversive and hilarious, but also because the show can make a person downright uncomfortable at times with some of its graphic scenes. I recall an animated segment in a recent episode in which a dog pulls a bloody fetus out of a woman while she's being killed in the electric chair. That's just one example of many in which the show tries to simultaneously tickle both your funnybone and your gag reflex. This has led me to the conclusion that John Lee and Vernon Chatman, the creators of Wonder Showzen, should make a horror film. I think the surreal, visceral approach they sometimes use could result in a horror flick that's truly unique. I imagine something along the lines of Dario Argento's films, horrific but oddly fascinating at the same time. I doubt they have any intention of doing so, but they could, that's what I'm saying.
(S02E06) If there was any doubt in my mind about the brilliance that is Wonder Showzen, it was put to rest by last night's episode, which was by far the funniest and most insane episode so far this season. There are a lot of comedic elements that come easy for Wonder Showzen: the gross-out humor, the surreal twists, and the acid-induced logic, but what really makes the show for me are those moments when it outright defies the viewer to keep watching. Last season they did it with the episode "Patience" in which the whole last half of the episode was just the first half of the episode played backwards. In this episode, after a fight breaks out between the regular show and a bootleg knock-off of the program, they decide to split the television screen 60/40, so the audience can watch both shows at once. Eventually more and more shows begin to take over the television screen, which resulted in four minutes of sometimes as many as eight segments all being shown simultaneously at equal volume.
(S02E04) Last night's episode mostly took place in the 18th century, with Chauncey taking on the role of the master of a plantation and his fellow puppets all serving as his slaves. Things start to get out of hand, however, when Him becomes a cyborg slave, able to bale hay, whitewash a barn, and whip other slaves with greater efficiency. Chauncey loves his new robotic slave, but when his young Southern bride puts the moves on Him, the new robo-slave is charged with rape. In a hilarious court room sequence, Sthugar, the young bride, blatantly admits she was lying about the rape, but they continue with the trial anyway. This became the main part of the episode, and one of the funniest, most absurd takes on race relations in the United States I've ever seen. A monkey who evolves into itself with a hat made of licorice, Chauncey having sex with the Bible, and a visit from God in the form of a banana were just a few of the things that popped up during the hearing.
Last night marked the start of the second season of Wonder Showzen, and I almost missed it. Thankfully they repeated the episode later in the evening so I was able to crank up the ol' Tivo and capture it. After watching the same Season One episodes about twenty times each, it was nice to finally see something new.
Last night's episode was about heroes and victims, with the main focus being put on the letter P, who was once very pretty but gained a lot of excess weight. Chauncy, the puppet's ringleader, decides P just needs a healthy dose of tough love, so he and the rest of the gang scream things at her like "stupid bitch" and "dumb slut" because "she needed to hear that."
Either I've been spending too much time alone in my room, or I'm dead, but somehow I've completely missed Wonder Showzen, a show which borrows aesthetically from Sesame Street, but with a lot more heroin use and puppet sex. While its satire can sometimes seem a bit tired, it's done in a unique and manic way. Children are often utilized as on-the-street interviewers of unsuspecting adults in a segment simply called "Beat Kids." It's not a show you want to examine too closely, but when it works, you'll need a team of janitors to clean up your splattered brains after your head explodes from laughing so hard. And besides, it does the TV Funhouse thing better than TV Funhouse ever did. The show airs on MTV2.