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Paramount Home Video presents
Penn and Teller: Bullsh*t! (Season 1-3) (2003-2005)

"We call our show Bullsh*t, so you know what you're getting. But what do you get with a group that puts 'ethical' in it's name. Ethical means moral or proper, which differs for every person. It's something to discuss. It's not an absolute. It just sounds nice. It's like pro-choice and pro-life, I mean come on. Everyone is pro-choice and pro-life. It's for or against abortion that your group is about. And who wouldn't want to treat animals ethically anyway? Nobody gets off slapping their monkey or choking their chicken or roughing up their clam."
- Penn Jillette

Review By: Rich Rosell  
Published: October 26, 2006

Stars: Penn Jillette, Teller
Director: Star Price

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (language, nudity, occasional mature subject matter)
Run Time: 18h:56m:00s
Release Date: October 03, 2006
UPC: 097361187945
Genre: television

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A+ A+B+B+ C+

DVD Review

Like Houdini in many ways, magicians Penn and Teller have long taken it upon themselves to expose frauds and scams when it comes to things like "real" psychics who claim to have special powers, to say nothing of often pointing a finger inward at the weird world of magic itself. They have broken countless unwritten "rules" by revealing secrets of their trade, because it seems their basic philosophy is that even if you know how a trick is done, if it is done well it will still fool you every time. And if you have ever seen Teller perform the classic cups and balls routine with clear cups, it proves that it isn't necessarily the secret that's the payoff—it's the way it is presented.

In their stage act, Penn Jillette's the big guy, a loud, mile-a-minute barker never at a loss for words, spewing carefully phrased rants, while perpetually silent Teller (a master sleight of hand magician) is often left to do the magic. Here, Showtime has given the duo a forum to step away from magic temporarily, yet continue their snappy, well-researched exposing ways in the form of Bullsh*t!, represented here by a bundled pack of the first three seasons (you can also pick up any of the season sets individually, too).

The sort-of-like-a-news-magazine/debate structure of Bullsh*t! allowed them to take on a range of somewhat controversial subjects like gun control, family values, bottled water or P.E.T.A., and give it that unique Penn and Teller slant, which typically means a sharp, caustic dissection that is driven largely by those terrifically worded rants by Penn that pummel a topic with the eloquence of word jazz. Add in some sporadic expletives (which ironically their live show is free of) to call someone a "motherf***er", along with interviews from people who often do more damage to their particular cause than good. Or in other words: expose the bullsh*t.

No one will ever confuse this with particularly balanced reporting (I can't remember a time when Diane Sawyer called an interview subject a "motherf***er", even if it was just a voiceover), and to some degree this is like preaching to the choir, as the target Penn and Teller audience will probably already be in line on most of the subjects covered during the show's three seasons. When someone like über-vocal atheist Penn helms a show looking at proponents of creationism, most of us already know its going to be a wickedly punchy ride, and that science will no doubt come out on top.

Eps such as the Season Two take on recycling or the third season overview of endangered species are examples where I went in with one particular mindset and actually came out with a desire to look at things a bit more differently. Not that I necessarily changed my mind entirely, but the way the information is presented was enough to sway me a little. It didn't tilt my world view upside down, but it pushed me to do a little research on my own. Dateline: NBC never compelled me to do that.

Penn's shouted assertions are nothing short of fun to listen to, and even if you disagree you're still bound to laugh at some point. Probably often, too. But I know that something like recycling isn't really part of the core perception of my being, so waffling one way or the other didn't really rattle my inner self all that much. But I suppose some of the more bristly subjects (the holier than thou/sainthood ep) could probably tick someone off who perhaps is not as receptive to hearing all sides of a given story.

As a hybrid of information, comedy, and old-fashioned debate, there may be a tendency to dismiss this series as rant-induced fluff, especially if Penn and Teller happen to have rubbed one of your previous held beliefs raw. If you don't agree with their viewpoint on the validity of 12-step programs (yes, I know they have helped people), just take the time to listen to what is being said. In between the very funny observations, there is generally an intelligently crafted point made. Who would have thought a couple of magicians had it in them?

Rating for Style: A+
Rating for Substance: A+


Image Transfer

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

Image Transfer Review: All three seasons are presented in their original aspect ratio. The prints are very clean, and colors level throughout the show's run are consistently strong, carrying more than suitable levels of image detail. Nothing terribly ugly here, in fact it all looks quite good, save for some periodic haloing on some segments.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0English, Spanishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: Audio choices don't vary a whole heck of a lot here, with all seasons equipped with Dolby Digital 5.1 surround and 2.0 mixes. The 5.1 really boosts the fullness of the theme music to all corners, giving the score a very loud, rich texture. Other than that, either the 5.1 or 2.0 choices both provide clear, discernible voice quality, with no real dramatic directional movement to speak of. Personally, I prefer the deeper tonal quality of the 5.1 for Penn's booming rants, but the 2.0 may be a little less jarringly robust.

Seasons one and two carry a Spanish mono option, while season three kicks it up a notch to Spanish stereo.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 156 cues and remote access
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
6 Other Trailer(s) featuring The Boys of 2nd Street Park, A Woman's A Hell Of A Thing, Queer As Folk: Season Four, Fat Actress, Sleeper Cell: Season One, The L Word: Season Three
1 TV Spots/Teasers
2 Documentaries
4 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Boxed Set
Picture Disc
9 Discs
9-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: The only extras of merit show up on the first season set, with the best part being an interview with magician/skeptic James Randi (18m:15s), who is the unofficial mentor-of-sorts to Penn and Teller. There's also a bonus episode, this time looking at the infamous junkyard ghost (14m:13s), and More Bullsh*t! (27m:14s), a collection of assorted weirdo interview subjects. Bullsh*tting Around (10m:10s) is an occasionally funny blooper reel, while Behind the Scenes (06m:27s) is a poorly recorded version of a promo featuring plenty o' nudity. The Wraparounds (06m:44s) are a long set of multiple takes of P & T recording the bookend segments for the series. Over and over again. And then there's that wacky Naked promo (:18s), with nude bodies spelling out the word "bullsh*t".

Seasons Two and Three both get skimpy, with each carrying a trailer or two, a photo gallery and Penn and Teller filmographies.

Extras Grade: C+


Final Comments

This collection of the first three seasons of Penn and Teller's Showtime series may eventually push a hot button or two no matter how freethinking you consider yourself. The gospel according to Penn (considering Teller doesn't say much) is loud, abrasive, and intelligent, punctuated with a great sense of comedic honesty. These are smart attacks on a lot of subjects many folks probably hold dear, and if you can go in with an open mind you just may end up looking at things a little differently.

Funny AND informative. You have to love that.

Highly recommended.


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