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Thursday, April 19, 2018

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Because we have been waiting for you for a decade

TV That Takes The Piss

The Polka Dot Glory Hole

The art of parody is more than simple recreation. For parody to stand out there needs to exist a true undermining of original intention, something that elevates it from simple mockery and often, parodies are best played straight. In the galaxy of cable programming, two of the funniest and certainly one of the most disturbing shows that transcend mere parody are the BBC show Look Around You and MTV’s Wonder Showzen.

Wonder Showzen, now in it’s third season, is a savagely strange and disturbing kids show that is explicitly not for kids. Now on DVD, the show opens with a warning: “…contains offensive, despicable content that is too controversial and too awesome for actual children…If you allow a child to watch this show, you are a bad parent or guardian.”

Presented to look and run like a legitimate children’s variety show, Wonder Showzen is more like a mutated, illegitimate and twisted version of Sesame Street that its creators John Lee and Vernon Chatman have unleashed on the 30 something generation of viewers who still believe their childhood was a more innocent time. Hosted by puppets and a variety of foam letter and numbers (some of which have addiction issues) the show ‘s format runs like a conventional kids show. But with cartoon segments featuring characters like “Pottymouth”, who allows his friends to crap in his mouth (that’s shaped like a toilet), musical numbers dedicated to slaves (who built the Pyramids, the Parthenon and America), episodes where God gets a sex change or blows his head off with a gun and numerous moments of puppets literally screwing each other, Wonder Showzen is anything but innocent children’s fare. While it’s shocking when the kid who interviews people for the investigative news section “Beat Kids” does an impersonation of an old guy at a horse track by going: “gamble, gamble, gamble, die” or when Clarence the puppet goes to Harlem to ask people what gets them riled up and gets answers that range from, “the white man” to “Jews”, it’s in these moments that you realize there is something more devious going on. By having children relate to adult material and by pushing issues like racism, sexuality and global economics, the twisted truth of reality concerning what kids ought to be learning really kicks you in the crotch.

The BBC show Look Around You is a slightly more innocent, but no less thorough parody that takes its form from the educational shows from the 1970’s and 80’s. Here a group of studio hosts explore and investigate the world around them in a half hour program that looks at the way the world is and what is in store for the future. With episodes dedicated to health, food, computers and music, Look Around You, complete with subtlety and classic British understatement, pokes fun at the way we looked forward when we were behind. The ever-smiling hosts are shallow, composed and have immoveable hair. The science is faulty and ridiculous (Germs are not from Germany) but always presented in earnest with segue graphics and electronic music so perfectly period specific, if you didn’t know better or were more of a twit you might think it was legit. Throughout the shows, our four hosts graciously guide the viewers and audience through the inventions and information that is presented as innovative and cutting edge, but which is of course, in reality, utter rubbish.

If your childhood consisted of watching shows like 3-2-1 Contact or The Electric Company and your life now consists of waking up hung-over even on Tuesday, both these shows are the perfect thing to get you through those foggy five hours between sleeps. Dark, strange and not to be trusted, these artful parodies play on our weakness for nostalgia, but take us to a time that never dared to exist.

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