A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this darkly hilarious MTV2 series is absolutely not meant for children. A disclaimer before the show says, among other things, that "If you allow a child to watch this show, you are a bad parent or guardian." It's tongue-in-cheek, but accurate. The main characters look like Sesame Street-style puppets, but instead of education, they deal with sex changes, depression, drug use, politics, casual sex, and more. Other segments include graphic cartoons, a puppet who harasses strangers, and kid "reporters" who conduct confrontational interviews with adults (in one, a child's impersonation of the life of an elderly racetrack regular is "Gamble, gamble, gamble, die"). It's offensive, tasteless, and hysterical -- if you're a grown-up who likes your humor pitch-black.
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What's the story?
WONDER SHOWZEN is peopled by fuzzy puppets who look like Sesame Street characters, but these puppets are strictly for adults only. Storylines for Chauncey, Him, Wordsworth, Sthugar, and the gang (many characters are voiced by show creators Vernon Chatman and John Lee) have them engaging in casual hook-ups, hunting down God so they can do battle with him, and trying to stop Mother Nature's sex change. Meanwhile, puppet-on-the street Clarence pesters unsuspecting people mercilessly (\"Will you accept Jesus?\"), cartoon segments feature characters like the expletive-spewing Potty Mouth and a team of hobo \"superheroes,\" educational films mock old black-and-white tutorials, and innocent-looking children answer questions like \"What is heaven?\" with responses like \"I'll never know\" and \"That's where drunk daddies drive to.\" And then there are the \"Beat Kids\" -- a rotating group of kid reporters who try to get a rise out of dazed grown-ups by peppering them with provocative questions.
Is it any good?
Wonder Showzen is the kind of series that makes viewers gasp as often as it makes them laugh. Whenever you think the show has gone as far as it can go, Chatman and Lee will dream up something even more audacious -- as they did in the first season's "Patience" episode. After viewers were subjected to an excruciatingly slow first 15 minutes, the entire thing ran backward, only to be followed by another version of the show in super-fast-forward mode.
For adults who appreciate cynical, pitch-black satire, Wonder Showzen is a dream come true. But younger children will be confused and upset by the things coming out of the furry, brightly colored puppets' mouths, and even some older teens may not be able to place the show's humor in the right context. It's absolutely a good idea to preview each episode before sharing it with children of any age -- and if you decide to keep it to yourself, enjoy ... and be sure to delete it from the TiVo when you're done.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what makes this show funny. Can envelope-pushing satire ever accomplish more than typical TV laughs? Does anything in the show shock you, as well as make you laugh? Why? Does mixing edgy content with innocent-looking puppets make it even more subversive? Is it OK for the producers to involve kids in the show? Do you think the kids know what they're saying -- or why it's funny?
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