Penn & Teller: Bulls--t!

Common Sense Media says

Unscientific debunking for laughs; adult material.

Age(i)

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Quality(i)

 

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Uses humor and questionable science to attack ideas, institutions, and widely cherished beliefs.

Violence

When the topic calls for it, the imagery pulls few punches.

Sex

Full frontal near-nudity and sexual topics -- in some episodes.

Language

Major league cursing in many scenes: "f--k," "ass," "s--t," and so on.

Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

The dangers of secondhand smoke were downplayed in one episode.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this show is a comedy -- it is as much about humor as it is about "reality." It's less about establishing fact than it is a platform for name-calling, showmanship, and the hosts' views. Its target audience will find it hilarious, while its targets may well find themselves ambushed. Also, while some episodes are rated TV-14, others have had ratings for more mature audiences -- you may want to check before you view.

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

In Showtime's PENN & TELLER: BULLS--T!, the two famous magician-comedians debunk ideas they believe to have questionable basis in fact. From UFOs, ESP, and Ouija boards to feng shui and life coaching, to such venerated institutions as the Boy Scouts, the Endangered Species Act, and the Bible, almost any type of subject matter seems fair game to Penn Jillette and his silent partner, the one-named Teller. In each episode, the debunking duo generally ridicules the subject matter through skits, stunts, and commentary. Other elements include stock footage and interviews with proponents, experts, and sometimes victims of the featured idea or trend. And they also set up \"experiments\" that are more satirical than scientific; famously, in an episode about bottled water, they presented a variety of bottled waters with various brand names to people who were asked to select their favorite brand. Only after a winner was chosen was it revealed that the brand names were fictitious -- all the bottles had been filled by the garden hose behind the studio.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

The series' choice and treatment of topics is likely colored by Penn and Teller's own political and personal beliefs. They don't set out to investigate a complete situation or consider arguments opposing their own. Instead, they present a premise (that topic X is bulls--t) and set out to prove it. The results are often amusing, and sometimes even hilarious, but the humor comes before the pursuit of objective reality. Possibly to avoid liability, Penn slings around phrases like "ignoramus," "a--hole," "spineless bastard," and "state-funded knucklehead" to describe those whose views are being targeted. (Teller is always silent; that's part of the team's act.) Apparently, these phrases are only seen as vulgar abuse, while phrases like "liar" and "fraud" open doors to legal action for defamation or slander.

Penn and Teller's humor is smart, pointed, and inventive. Those who enjoy it may well find this show a laugh riot -- and those who can approach the ideas tackled here with an open mind might find themselves thinking differently about something they hadn't considered before. That's Penn and Teller's schtick -- they are the illusionist masters of disillusion. Just remember that they also use illusion to make their disillusionist point. Perhaps we'd be paying them the highest compliment by applying healthy skepticism to the views they support.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the nature of skepticism, and how facts are proven or disproved. What's the difference between an opinion and a fact? How could you go about investigating something for yourself? What types of sources are more credible than others? Why? Also, does the show want viewers to laugh with people who hold the views being debunked, or at them? Can we disagree with or laugh about an idea without laughing at (or disrespecting) those who believe in it?

TV details

Network:Showtime
Genre:Reality TV
TV rating:TV-14
Available on:DVD, Streaming

This review of Penn & Teller: Bulls--t! was written by

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  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Quality

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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Teen, 16 years old Written byBranislavDJ September 11, 2010
AGE
16
QUALITY
 
Show opens your eyes.Only too much nudity,even for me.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Parent Written byChessPiece19 July 25, 2012
AGE
15
QUALITY
 

Meh.

Yes, this show is pretty vulgar. It depicts every swear word we know, marijuana (which is actually just bullsh-t so that doesn't count) and beer. The only thing not shown is actual penetration, although nude public masturbation and nude females being pleasured by tantric sex males publicly. However, the truth is, most 15-year-olds are probably jacking off to porn by this age (90 percent of boys and 70 percent of girls at least) so either confront them about that or let them watch this. The rest is nothing not on cable or used at school. Some episodes are even almost completely clean, for instance those on Recycling, Organic Food, and Video Games. Just stay away from those on Porn, Prostitution, and Abstinence. That's just... common sense.
What other families should know
Great messages
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Teen, 13 years old Written byJon Hardwick February 5, 2012
AGE
15
QUALITY
 

rips on soccer moms and sesitives perfectly

its shows what is bulls--t in life it makes anti free speech activist and soccor moms look dumb and speaks the truth.lots for profanity such as (bullsh-t,d-ck,c-ck,c-nt,pr-ck,assh-le,p-ssy,b-stard,b-tch. nudity is feature in a lot of episodes(mostly female,breasts,buttocks,vagina, and some male nudity like non-erect penis) one episode is about porn.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing

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