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Showtime presents
Penn and Teller Bullsh*t: The Complete Fourth Season (2005-6)

"Hi, I'm Penn and this is my partner Teller. Teller has decided to swing on a trapeze and spit nickels until I say the title of our show. Why? Because we love arbitrary promises. Arbitrary promises prove that we can make and live by our own rules, with no need for a higher power. They prove we alone control ourselves through our choices and our will."
- Penn Jillette

Review By: Rich Rosell  
Published: February 20, 2007

Stars: Penn Jillette, Teller
Director: Star Price

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (language, nudity, sexuality)
Run Time: 04h:48m:00s
Release Date: February 20, 2007
UPC: 097368513747
Genre: television


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A- A-BB D-

DVD Review

The fourth season of Showtime's blunt news-magazine-style program finds magicians/debunkers/hosts Penn and Teller rebounding from the occasional misfires of their third season with a solid block of episodes that tackle a range of potentially prickly subjects like abstinence, the death penalty, and prostitution, along with other seemingly less explosive themes such as the Boy Scouts, manners, and pets.

But the show is called Bullsh*t!, so that essentially means a particular topic will be branded such, and over the course of a half hour, even though both sides of a subject is shown, there is a definite Penn and Teller slant that will either irritate or entertain. And I suspect if it irritates, you won't make it much further than an episode or two.

Just as 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. It also means ample opportunity to lob firebombs at the religious right or government control, or anything that threatens to violate individual freedoms. Or things that just seem stupid.

You might ask what could possibly be wrong with the Boy Scouts. Penn and Teller take a look at rampant homophobia and atheist discrimination within an organization that receives extensive federal and state money. That's where this season begins, and over the course of 10 episodes there is a nice mix of exposé, humor, occasional nudity (certainly more than previous seasons) and a this-is-so-f***ed frothy anger that permeates each half-hour installment.

Even though the message is usually coarse and direct at times, typically the payoff is smarter and perhaps more eloquently conceived than one might expect from a couple of magician types. Take the abstinence ep, which as the father of a 15-year-old daughter seemed a little more relevant to me, personally. Their pitch that denying teenage sex is folly (easy for someone without teenage children to say) started out as one of those rare times where I was actually going to have to disagree with their pitch; by the end, their message that the information presented by so-called "abstinence only" educators is dangerously vague and often completely off the mark helped me see their point a little more clearly.

Is the show one-sided? Sure. Clearly the opposing view, though presented, is made to look goofy, but that's part of the conceptual fun. There's an agenda to be played out, and Penn Jillette—along with the silent Teller—constructs a whole swath of expletive-laced digs, rips and then surprisingly sound, logical explanations that maybe won't win over those on the religious right, but as an alternative to the safe approach taken by network news magazines it is pretty liberating to sit through.

I might not be as quick to fully discount the potential existence of Bigfoot as they are (see the cryptozoology ep, one of the funniest of Season Four), but that doesn't diminish the fun factor.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A-

 

Image Transfer

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


Image Transfer Review: All 10 episodes are presented in their original aspect ratio. Nothing overtly flashy about the image quality, but the in-studio bits with the hosts that pepper each episode look the boldest and sharpest—in part due to the dramatics of the all-white background. The interview segments that make up the bulk of each ep fall in line with a typical news/magazine show, delivering evenly rendered and natural colors, with just a bit of occasional grain.

Image Transfer Grade: B

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoSpanishyes
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: English audio options include 2.0 stereo and 5.1 Dolby Digital surround. The stereo blend is more than suitable, with the reality that this is basically a talking head show (albeit a gloriously subversive one), so it's not like you'll be missing out on any grand surround effects. The 5.1 choice is most notable for the way it adds a nice bottom end to Penn's very large voice, and the opening theme song sequence does sound deeper and wider. No big surround moments with the 5.1 other than for a few modest music cues, just a slightly more natural and thunderous Penn.

A Spanish language mono dub is also included.

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 60 cues and remote access
Cast and Crew Filmographies
4 Other Trailer(s) featuring Brotherhood, Sleeper Cell: Season Two, Dexter, The L Word: Season Three
Packaging: Thinpak
Picture Disc
3 Discs
3-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: Extras are basically nonexistent but what's here appears on Disc 3, with the poorly titled More Penn and Teller (:32s) simply being a promo for the show. There's also filmographies and a photo gallery featuring 10 promotional photos of the hosts, both together and individually. A few Showtime trailers conclude the minimalism.

Extras Grade: D-

 

Final Comments

Season Four gets back in the game after a somewhat inconsistent (but still enjoyable) third season, offering a full slab of meaty subjects for Penn and Teller to dissect and debunk in their own special way. This three-disc set may not have much in the way of extras, but the episodes promise to stir up plenty of discussion, and if nothing else you have to love the blunt force frankness of their approach. Take that, Diane Sawyer.

Highly recommended.

 


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