Over this past weekend, not only have I aged another year to something like 36, but I also had the chance to go back and revisit a television show that managed to last two seasons on a sequel network to a channel that has been guilty of false advertisement for the past twenty years. How this show managed to go two seasons is beyond me, considering the content that was on display.
The assault on the human spirit I am referring to is called Wonder Showzen. Originally a short promotional pilot called Kids Show that was pitched to the USA network, creators John Lee and Vernon Chatman managed to land this carnage of humanity and decency at MTV2 in 2005 after the USA declined due to bleeding retinas.
The odd thing here is that I say all of the above as a compliment. This crack-riddled mocker of all things PBS takes everything you remember from the Children’s Television Workshop and infuses it with demonic mixings of a down-on-his-luck television producer who offered the dark denizen Be’lial his soul, a handy-j, and an autograph of Scott Baio for the chance to get the craziest, most offensive show on the air.
Again, I’m saying all this as a compliment.
While Avenue Q finds the raunch in much the same vein as Wonder Showzen, the popular stage show functions more as a satire on the concept of children’s public programming in general while aiming specifically at Sesame Street. Wonder Showzen, however, prefers to molest and abuse every wonderful thing you remember from your childhood of watching Street, The Electric Company, and Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood and serve it to you on a gold plate with a side of miracle bacon.
In short, this shit will make your jaw drop into your lap with the things they managed to get away with while the laughter emanating from your gaping maw is a result of sheer disbelief coupled with the resistance you are struggling with to embrace the wrongness.
I mean take your pick of offensive hilarity – songs about slaves, G.I. Joe-style cartoons about hobos with PTSD, puppets harassing random folks on the street, children interviewing random folks on the street with inappropriate questions and comments, puppets getting high, letters of the alphabet having sex, old footage of educational films (like touring a meat factory) with questionable commentary by children, or a Q&A segment where children answer questionable interogatives with questionable responses. Yeah, there’s a variety of fun mess on display.
And take notice of one of the most common recurrences in the paragraph above. Unlike other attempts to rape our youth for black comedy, this show utilizes real children in many of their segments. In what has to be either due to some clever editing, parents who don’t mind exploiting their children for a quick buck, or the fact that these kids are probably the offspring of the folks who worked on the show and are therefore forever tainted, Wonder Showzen is not afraid to let kids deliver the shock value. Now to be fair, most of it is pretty tame out of context. But every so often you sit there wondering how the show was able to get away with something that slipped out of an elementary student’s mouth.
And that’s the big question at the end of the day – how the hell did this show manage to make it on the air, let alone go two seasons? Wonder Showzen has enough content to offend everyone. My only guess is that it had to be a combination of the fact that it aired late at night and that it was featured on a network nobody watches. I mean, this is the same channel that aired the Andy Milonakis Show. If you just said “Who?”, then you have proven my point.
Still, despite being dumped in isolation on channel 235 and managing to cause even a possessed Regan to stop with the crucifix long enough to blush, Wonder Showzen is one of those programs that just managed to air at the right place at the right time and get away with just the right kind of off-colour content to give us two seasons worth of rewatchable horror. It’s a guilty pleasure, for sure – with emphasis on guilty. It won’t matter, though. This show is addictive.
It’s like getting blitzed off of imagination.