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Paramount Studios presents
Wonder Showzen: Season One (2005)

Warning: Wonder Showzen contains offensive, despicable content that is too controversial and too awesome for actual children. The stark, ugly, profound truths Wonder Showzen exposes may be soul crushing to the weak of spirit. If you allow a child to watch this show, you are a bad parent or guardian.
- disclaimer

Review By: Rich Rosell  
Published: March 27, 2006

Stars: Vernon Chatman, John Lee, Taylor Bedlivy, P.J. Connaire, Trevor Heins, Miles Kath, Jasmina Lee, Frankie Scapoli, Brian Senior, Ryan Simpkins, Miles Williams
Other Stars: Jon Glaser, Dick Gregory, Maurice LaMarche, Jim Cummings, Amy Sedaris, Christopher Meloni
Director: Vernon Chatman, John Lee

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (mature themes, sexual humor, adult language and situations)
Run Time: 02h:49m:00s
Release Date: March 28, 2006
UPC: 097368892248
Genre: television

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ A-BB C-

DVD Review

Doing a parody of children's television programming would seem like hitting an easy target, if for no other reason than because so much of the legitimate stuff is tempered swill meant to numb young minds rather than engage them. Or at least it seemed that way to my adult mind, having endured wave after horrible wave of bad children's television during the days when my daughter was a wee one. And when it came to making fun of educational television, I've seen some awful parodies that should have been funnier, and until I sat down with Wonder Showzen I hadn't realized just how far down the dark rabbit hole of subversive humor a show could go, and still make me laugh.

On this eight episode, two-disc set of the MTV series, what's presented in 22-minute chunks is a mercilessly wicked reinvention of a Sesame Street-like show, with a quick-cut collection of skits, cute children, puppets, educational films, cartoons that boldly offer frequent sexual situations and none-too-subtle double entendres, pushing the level of morally dangerous and questionable humor involving children to new heights, or lows, as the case may be.

But that concern over the heavy trampling of some moral ground will come only if you're a little on the conservative side, because enduring the shock value of Wonder Showzen—and even a jaded type like myself was a bit slack-jawed at some of the content—requires one to immediately fall in with the program or end up hopelessly repulsed.

This show doesn't just poke and prod at taboo subjects, it tears the flesh off. Religion and sexuality are frequent sources of humor—puppets perform all manner of sex acts, and when God loses a game of rock-paper-scissors, he commits suicide and is barbecued and eaten by the puppets and children. That's the kind of harsh comedic underbelly that is constantly exposed here, and coupled with a recurring child-on-the-street interview segment called Beat Kids (with its punchy two fist logo), it's clear that show creators Vernon Chatman and John Lee are not shy about digging deep into questionable areas to mine for jokes.

A litmus test on whether a show is funny is whether you laugh. That's a very simple and easy human response to comedy, and odds are if you're not laughing at something it's not funny to you. I laughed during Wonder Showzen. Frequently, out loud, and often during moments that some deep part of me was screaming I shouldn't be finding any humor in. But I still laughed.

I don't think that makes me a bad person. Does it?

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: A-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: All eight episodes are presented in their original 1.33:1 fullframe aspect ratio. The transfers are strong, and though color levels vary somewhat, in general they're bright, with no smearing. On par with most TV-on-DVD titles.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes

Audio Transfer Review: Audio is 2.0 English stereo, and it's a good, if unremarkable, mix, offering clean voices and moderate directionality with regard to music cues. It's the music beds that have the widest range, giving the mix a broader feel. Pleasant and simple.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 8 cues and remote access
4 Other Trailer(s) featuring Beavis and Butthead, Jackass: The Box Set, Wildboyz, Viva La Bam!: Complete Seasons 4 & 5
7 Featurette(s)
4 Feature/Episode commentaries by Screamin' Steven Jay Hawkins, Dick Gregory, PFFR, Gordon Lish
Packaging: Gladiator style 2-pack
Picture Disc
2 Discs
2-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Poster
Extras Review: The bizarreness continues with the packaging, with a slipcase featuring some three-dimensional hair on the cartoon girl on the cover. Flip open the hinged cover, and the hair is the pubic region of Chauncey the puppet, who is stretched out centerfold-style. A poster is also included, which is a variation on the kitty-dangling-from-a-branch "Hang In There" variety, only this time with Chauncey the puppet wearing an "I Hate Homework" shirt and carrying a hangmen's noose.

There are four alleged commentary tracks (three on disc one, one on disc two), but they are essentially protracted gags. There's a mix of music (courtesy of PFFR) and random stream-of-conciousness ramblings, and for the most part they are a tough listen.

Disc 2 is where the rest of supplements lie, including a trio of outtakes broken down into Auditions and Outtakes (08m:16s), Beat Kids Outtakes (03m:53s) and Clarence Outtakes (03m:23s). There's footage of various Wonder Showzen kids interacting with the puppets, some chopped wiseass questions from the child reporters, and even though the Clarence stuff gets old quick, watching him chase someone screaming "I want to kill you" somehow makes me laugh. Storytime With Flava Flav (02m:04s) doesn't really go anywhere, and has the rapper holding court while reading a book to a group of children.

The rest of the extras are Wonder Showzen promos (03m:54s), a PFFR music video (02m:08s) and a Season Two sneak peak (02m:07s), as well as a few trailers for upcoming MTV DVD releases.

Aside from the packaging, the extras lack the ugly zing that makes this show appealing.

Extras Grade: C-


Final Comments

There's a part of me that wonders why the Department of Children and Family Services was never called to the set of Wonder Showzen. Even though I know it's wrong, I laughed a lot while watching this, so that has to count for something. Either that or it makes me just as guilty.

Best viewed in small doses—and certainly only by those who are not easily offended—this wonderfully sick and twisted series lampoons children's programming with a no-holds-barred approach that is not for the squeamish.

Highly recommended.


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