Take Michael Moore, give him a better wardrobe and a silent partner, surround him with naked women and an extremely short person, and let him use whatever kind of language he wants, and what do you get? Penn Jillette. Magicians Penn and Teller turn their comedic talent to bullsh*t in this two-DVD set, comprised of nine episodes from the seventh season of Penn & Teller Bullshit!
Although I don’t live under a rock, I have to admit that I don’t watch much television. We don’t subscribe to premium channels because they disappoint, and we have stacks of books we want to read, so we don’t lack entertainment. It’s not that our television set is never in use; we use it for Netflix (both DVDs and streaming). As much as I’ve enjoyed Penn and Teller in the past, I had no clue that they have their own show, or that it’s been on for seven seasons (or more).
In Penn & Teller Bullshit!, each episode focuses on an American obsession. In season seven, that includes organic food, taxes, lawns, stress, orgasms, video games, astrology, apocalypse, and lie detectors. Penn and Teller take a skeptic's journey around and into each topic, presenting those who support it, and those who deride it. The derision is always much stronger than the support. Where Michael Moore might react with indignation, Penn Jillette reacts with shock, disbelief, and revulsion, providing a much more dramatic (and hilarious) presentation.
Of the episodes presented, “Organic Food” was the one I liked most. I have recently read and viewed other presentations on the subject, and could especially enjoy this entry. Surprisingly, the program on “Video Games” had a sad ending, and those on “Astrology” and “Lie Detectors” inspired angry reactions, although I doubt I can ever be as irate as Jillette feigns to be. Sometimes, as with “Lawns,” we react with a sad shake of the head, unless we, too, are obsessed with the subject matter. “Orgasms” was the least entertaining—it had such a high ickiness quotient that had it been the first episode I watched, it might have been the last.
Many people would be offended by the irreverence Penn & Teller Bullshit! exhibits; to them I say, “Oh, well…” (or maybe “Lost your remote? The TV has a manual switch, y’know.”). First impression might be that Penn and Teller respect nothing, but I’d argue that they do respect their audience. I have a feeling, though, that they are preaching to the choir. I imagine that most of their fans already agree that popular culture phenomena are fertilizer, jammed down our throats by those who have something to gain from them. We watch, dumbfounded, as one sucker after another pledges allegiance to something we know is just a crock, or pursues a goal that is basically a waste of time. I suspect that a large segment of Penn & Teller Bullshit!’s audience realizes that Penn and Teller are also heavily seasoning their program with their own brand of bullsh*t. Discriminating viewers undoubtedly prefer the Penn and Teller brand.
Extra features: Episodes one and two from the third season of Californication. Missing feature: Penn and Teller’s “Vatican” episode from season seven. Penn & Teller Bullshit! is scheduled for a May 4 release.
Bottom Line: Would I buy/rent Penn & Teller Bullshit!? Yes! Having seen the seventh season, I am ready to go back in time and view earlier seasons.