The Lonely Goatherd Blog And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats - Matthew 25:32
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July 19, 2008
DVD Review: TV Funhouse In a long and distinguished career, Robert Smigel has been among other things a writer for Saturday Night Live and Conan O'Brien. This includes creating the immortal Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog and the Saturday TV Funhouse cartoon shorts on SNL.
Those cartoon shorts provided the basis for the short lived Comedy Central series TV Funhouse, which aired a total of eight episode in 2000 and 2001. These have now been released on DVD.
I caught a couple of these at the time, and thought them fairly amusing. They're actually considerably more impressive now, watching them all carefully on DVD. They really filled out and expanded the idea a lot from the SNL shorts - without using any of the SNL characters, best I remember. For one thing, they didn't use The Ambiguously Gay Duo - the most popular SNL creation.
There's really a lot of thoughtful writing meat on these faux kiddie show bones. They get stuff working in multiple simultaneous directions. I particularly liked the faux-50s educational film on "Overcoming Bowel Movements." It's got a lot of clever details as a parody of the educational film style. But it's also an ideas-level critique of supposed moral concerns involved in telling kids not to masturbate. They argue quite colorfully and imaginatively that telling people to deny or feel ashamed of the biological urge to masturbate is about as dumb and untenable as telling people to resist defecating.
The basic setup of the series had the relatively subtly perverse human host Doug showing up in costume for some theme of the day, only to find himself abandoned by the Anipals puppets, off for their own depraved debaucheries in Tijuana or Atlantic City. Special credit for creative perversion goes to the "Christmas cheer" episode. Turns out that "Christmas cheer" (which of course the Anipals lacked) was a drug, a chemical that they could get from the host's spinal fluid, which they boiled down to a powder and snorted. Doug's willingness to repeatedly subject himself to pain and abuse for the Anipals benefit was probably the strongest direct manifestation of his perversion.
Probably the best episodes were the Safari Day and Astronauts day episodes which the Anipals spent in Atlantic City. Robert Goulet was priceless as drinking buddy and wise confidant to the Anipals, trying to warn Chickie off of falling in love with a chimpstitute.
This also includes a great guest starring role for Triumph, the most near to character development I've seen for him. Plus, he has a great song about humping an "Underage Bichon." There's more excellent Triumph action in bonus features, especially his contribution to a Rob Reiner roast.
Perhaps partly this show didn't take off because a fair amount of it went over people's heads, even with the constant poo jokes and such. But also, the show was really dark in tone - far darker than the Simpsons or even South Park, the obvious points of comparison. Might have just been too evil for most people to watch. Watching eight episodes of this back to back was almost too dark even for me - but it sure was funny.