Penn and Teller: Bullsh*t: Season 7
We live in an age where information is disseminated at a rate unimaginable to people just a few short years ago. Couple this with the privilege of living in a country with a written guarantee for the freedom of speech and the inevitable result is there is a lot of half truths, misleading statements and outright lies washing over our perception like a hurricane force wind. There is a pair of men with a mandate to exposure such deception, as well as an extremely lucrative contact with the Showtime cable network; Penn and Teller. While best known for their long running stage act featuring magic and illusion this seemingly mismatched pair of comedians have turned to providing a humor laden form of social commentary. The platform they have used for the last seven seasons is a late night series called ‘Bulls**t’. Well that was an attempt to keep this review family friendly but you get the idea. Each episode this pair takes on a different subject holding it up to their unique brand of satire. With this approach individual appreciation of an episode will heavily depend on your personal viewpoint of the subject. This is particularly applicable with the more controversial themes especially those involved with religion. Overall each episode is funny in an ‘MA-17’ sort of way. Since the series is part of the original programming of a premium cable network there are ample opportunities for nudity and overtly sexual content. You might think that after seven seasons they would be running out of topics but there is apparently no shortage of perceived nonsense out there so this series may still continue for years to come. While this ways never a series that I would give a prized slot on my DVR to it was a regular item for me with video on demand. It is well construct and lives up to its controversial framework but has a tendency to be a touch uneven; a byproduct of its format. Of course the other side of that is if you dislike one episode the next is likely to wow you.
The duo hosting the series consists of slightly built ever silent Teller and his more massively proportioned extremely verbal partner Penn Jillette. Teller was born Raymond Joseph Teller but has legally shortened it to just his surname. I have enjoyed their antics for years even before they began to pull the mystical curtain back from the craft tricks of their fellow illusionists. It was only a short, natural leap for them to broaden their scope encompassing just about every conceivable facet of life. The format is done with a typical documentary style with a number of topic specific ‘taking head’ experts although some rapidly become the butt of many of the jokes for the topic. I have to wonder just how they manage to convince people many with advanced degrees and all passionate about their given topic to sign the legal releases to be shown on this show, it has been around long enough for people to know what is going to happen and even if they don’t know the history the name of the show should given them a clue. Still episode after episode people line up to be ridiculed by the former magicians.
Orgasms: The quest for bigger and better sexual release fuels a multimillion dollar business. Penn and Teller look at sexual couches, seminars, and remote controlled devices to show how many people are exploiting this human need.
Astrology: The belief that the time, date and place of your birth influence and even direct your life. This episode includes a couple of non-scientific tests to determine the accuracy of this pseudo science.
Violent Video Games: Many hold the trend of increasing first person violence depicted in many popular video games as a primary cause of real violence including school shootings. To help examine the possible link a nine year old gamer was given an opportunity to fire a real assault rifle. This episode did have a more somber nature to it largely because the debate has children caught in between the opposing sides.
The Apocalypse: in particular the growing belief that the world will end on December 21, 2012 according to various predictions including the Mayan calendar. Along with the testimony of opposing factions represented by astrophysics post docs there is someone certain it will happen because the aliens that took him on their craft told him so.
Lie Detectors: This Episode examines whether it is possible to tell if a person id telling the truth or lying. Methods ranging from sophisticated bio-metric devices to the examination of body language and facial expressions. There is also a look at how trusting a lie detector can ruin lives.
Organic Food: another popular trend involves locally grown, all organic food. This episode features another of their semi scientific experiments with a head to heads blind taste test of regular and organic foods.
Taxes: Ben Franklin noted that the only things certain in life are death and taxes. This episode focuses on the overly complex United States tax code that not even the experts can explain and no layman can begin to understand. Would a flat tax work or is that just another myth?
Lawns: You might not think even this resourceful duo could find controversy in a patch of grass but Penn and Teller did it. Some claim lawns help offset ecological damage while in some communities the regulations pertaining to lawns are so strict you could lose your home over them.
The Vatican: The season concludes with the most controversial and irreverent episode of the batch as the pair take on the center of one of the worlds largest and most powerfully influence religions. Among the themes considered are the church’s views on condom use, homosexuality and premarital sex and how that juxtaposed to the many church sex scandals.
This award winning series certainly does have its moment but it is definitely not for anyone that is easily offended. Even if you feel the only BS being flung is on their part they do manage to forward some fairly cognizant points. It has to be remembered that their approach is very similar to Michael Moore in that they want to put forth their opinion but do so in an entertaining fashion. They occasionally offer an opposing view albeit one that they tend to ridicule but it is never a mystery what side they fall on any given subject.