Sunday, December 7, 2008

Wonder Showzen

Wonder Showzen was the first show by PFFR, the band that also makes Xavier: Renegade Angel on Adult Swim. Whereas Xavier's made with very ugly computer graphics, Showzen is a mix of traditional animation, puppets, and live action segments, including stock footage and interviews with people on the street. On the surface it resembles an educational show for children, but as it constantly reminds the viewer, it's nowhere near appropriate for kids. It's violent, has lots of disgusting shots of things from real life, and treats tons of sensitive topics like suicide, race, and abortion with a crude sense of humor. But there is a lot of intelligence behind it, intelligence that only pops up occasionally but still shows that satire runs the gamut from subtle to as subtle as hitting you in the head with a hammer.

Some of the best segments are the ones on the street, where a kid dressed as a reporter or a blue puppet named Clarence asks people questions, usually to hilarious effect. The kids usually just trick adults into agreeing to something stupid, but Clarence is an expert at pissing people off. It's funny how often people will start freaking out and cursing at a hand puppet, and the final episode consisting solely of Clarence asking people to make compelling television set to original music has some great moments. Like they do in Xavier, they often divert from the story to just screw around with brain twisting stuff like having the characters watch a bootleg knockoff of their show, on which the knockoff characters are watching the original show in return, and so on. It's a funny show that quite often becomes avant garde just to annoy the audience. But if you can tolerate being screwed with, it's pretty enjoyable.

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