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.
Wonder Showzen premiered in 2005 on MTV2. It's a Kids' Show — if by Kids' Show you mean a nightmarish mishmash of satire, evil, and the painfully funny. The opening alone cuts between images of happy children, JFK Jr. saluting his father's coffin, lollipops, the Hindenburg, a child playing Airplane with his father on a building, and others. The show is almost entirely populated by children and puppets, except in animated segments or those where adults are being interviewed.
The show is reminiscent of plenty of other parody children's shows. For me, the association is strongest with TV Funhouse, the short-lived show based off of the Saturday Night Live segments, but I'm sure that you have seen the idea before. Wonder Showzen is different. It's smart, it's daring, and it's funny enough to make your ribs hurt. The show's approach to composition, writing, and art is nothing short of mindblowing.
Each episode is themed — it might be brought to you by History, Diversity, or the Ocean, as well as several corporate sponsors. Much of the material in each episode is at least tangentially related to the subject, especially those parts involving the host, Chauncey, and his friends. Usually the show will have a thin plot involving Chauncey and the gang which is interrupted by cartoons, shorts, and other bits. The plot segments are true to form: they take place in a Teletubbies-looking meadow world, where puppets wander around and interact with children, sun and clouds with faces on them, and talking letters, numbers, and animals. This is not to say that these aren't among the more disturbing parts of the show — they contain just as much death and terror as anything else.
The show, like any stereotypical kids' show, spends much of each episode in shorts. Many of these are recurring: every episode contains a Beat Kids segment ("Kids on the street, kids on the beat, BEAT KIDS! BEAT KIDS!"), an interview segment with Clarence, who goes around New York City asking people irritating questions related to the episode's theme ("What are you running from?"), Q & A with kids ("Why is America #1?"), and others. Many of these are only semi-scripted: the reactions of the adults to the children or puppets harassing them are real, but the children's questions (or in some segments, their answers) are prearranged. Other recurring sketches include D.O.G.O.B.G.Y.N., "We Went to A
" (farm, meat-packing plant, et cetera), and Mr. Body.
The best explanation for Wonder Showzen is that it seems to be specifically aimed at disturbing stoned viewers. The writing, editing, and jarring transitions are unnerving to the sober viewer, but it is my understanding that anybody watching the show under the influence of drugs will find it somewhere between a half-hour epiphany and a half-hour nightmare, depending on their mood. It is not uncommon to find an episode where the first half of the show is run backwards, now containing Satanic messages, or for a happy cartoon suddenly to turn horrifically violent, or for a bit to be a five-minute attempt at making you doubt your sanity.
The show is very smart and very funny. Introspection and metadiscussion of the forms and expectations of television and of children's programming are the norm, as is cutting social commentary and biting judgment. If you can get past the offensive content and realize that yes, it is meant to be irony and no, the show's writers are not really bigots, and yes, the Wonder Showzen kids are very cute, you will have a very good (if very weird) time. Although I cannot specifically condone the use of alcohol or drugs, I have been assured that while under their influence, the show is like having somebody grab your brain by the throat and not let go for half an hour.
The second season of Wonder Showzen began in late March of 2006, to the delight of fans everywhere. With the show's popularity on the rise, and critical acclaim pouring in, its future looks bright.
- Horse Apples
- Clarence Special Report