In a TV era punctuated with Queer As Folk, Queer Eye For The Straight Guy and The L Word, the most casually gay show may be MTV's Wildboyz, the innovative (and insane) follow-up to stunt-orgy Jackass. Following the line of Jackass that reveled in self-deprecation and humiliation as well as the love that one man can share with another (and leaving the bully-humor side of Jackass for the far less interesting Viva La Bam) Wildboyz absolutely soaks itself in surreal moments and weirdness.
The show could simply have been a continuation of Jackass and it would have been great: It stars two of the funniest, most compelling members of the Jackass team, Chris Pontius, who played "Party Boy" and the devil, and Steve-O, the thong-wearing sideshow performer. But Wildboyz (presented on DVD with all the profanity intact) truly takes stunt TV where it's never gone before: It drops the follies of these two wackos in a nature show setting. With Steve-O and Chris Pontius (along with occasional sidekicks Johnny Knoxville and hilariously weird animal expert Manny Puig) traveling the globe looking for adventures with wildlife and indigenous peoples, there's no way the show was going to seem derivative.
Even though the first season is just eight episodes long a lot seems to happen. In South Africa the boys swim with sharks without any protection. In Australia they stick their hands in the mouths of giant clams. In Florida they swim with alligators. And in Belize Chris tries to handle a boa constrictor blindfolded, resulting in a nasty bite.
There are plenty of dangerous moments but there are plenty of "sensual" moments as well that really push the boundaries of what you can expect to find on TV. I lost count of how many animals Steve-O and Chris come on to or make out with but the image of Steve tongue kissing a giraffe won't leave me any time soon. They also make out with birds and mammals alike.
It's TV absurdity in the real world. As a deliriously tired Steve-O says in an outtake, "It's not about just being on safari. It's about being on safari and getting totally RAD!" There are often quite a few things happening simultaneously: There's how Steve-O and Chris treat themselves, how they treat each other, how they treat the animals, and how they treat the locals. Each of these weird little relationships adds another strange level of depth to the show. When it comes to their treatment of themselves, the fellas are fearless. This show definitely jumps into the debate over where bravery ends and stupidity begins with both feet. Often putting themselves in extreme danger they come off like little kids who never grew up and subsequently never realized that you can hurt yourself doing dumb stunts. Their extreme body-stunts look really painful at times, and very unappetizing at others, but their willingness to put themselves out there makes the show compelling. Time was that Divine eating dog crap in Pink Flamingos was too shocking for words. I'm happy to report that putting doo-doo in your mouth is just as disgusting today as it was then but Steve-O and Chris Pontius do it with glee at least twice. This is subversive and bizarre behavior that really pushes the limits of what many viewers will be able to take. Between the endless male nudity and the scatological jokes, the penis-obsessed stars invent their own TV format.
The way they treat each other is one of the most unique things about the show. You can tell they have genuine affection for each other and, even though they aren't "together," theirs is probably the best unconventional love affair on TV since Mulder and Scully were still just making googly eyes at each other over disemboweled corpses. Steve-O and Chris spend the majority of the show naked or very close to it, often in full contact. Jackass and Wildboyz really challenge what a frat-boy audience is able to put up with. These antics are definitely bold (or "ticklish," as Steve-O might describe it) and Wildboyz ups the homoeroticism of Jackass to ridiculous levels, but the camaraderie on the show makes it that much more interesting. This is probably the number one factor that helps the show stand out from the other reality shows on MTV. No other stars are willing to put themselves out there the way Steve-O and Chris do. It's absolutely insane but it pays off big in making the show feel not just funny but honest.
The way they treat the animals is similarly interesting. First off, Wildboyz is the exact opposite of the kind of cruel sadism on display in Viva La Bam or DVDs like Bumfights. If anything, it's about having complete respect for the animals. They may not understand anything about the animals themselves (and their super-serious, yet wholly inaccurate, descriptions of the animals are truly funny) but they do understand that wild animals operate on their own set of rules. Whether it's feeding a pelican a banana shoved in Steve-O's ass or trying to playing catch with a hunk of meat in the middle of a pack of hyenas, the Wildboyz give their subjects their own brand of respect. Another side-effect of the fearlessness and openness of the crew here is that they do get some truly fantastic footage. There are great shots of beautiful wild animals as well as plenty of excellent underwater photography.
The way the show treats the indigenous people they visit is similarly smart. I remember articles criticizing Wildboyz as being condescending but that couldn't be more wrong. If anything, the show is the least condescending portrait of indigenous peoples mainstream TV has seen in a long time. The wildboyz treat each person they meet as if they've been friends for life. There's no talking-loud-and-slow condescension here. They talk to everyone they meet, from Zulu warriors to Central American guides to Eskimos as if they were already in on the joke and are always ready to share a hearty laugh. They also break the ice by humiliating themselves over and over. After all, regardless of whether you speak the same language, people all over the world can appreciate a good mooning.
Even though each episode of Wildboyz is only about 22 minutes without commercials it feels like a lot happens. Not every segment is a classic (there are a number where the guys just goof on an animal's name and then look at each other like "what the hell is going on?") but the show doesn't dwell on slow spots. There are so many animals and people to meet that the pace is mostly pretty brisk. There is real enthusiasm both among the cast members and the way the show is made. The mix of "science" and clownishness is perhaps best summed up in what might be the show's finest moment: Faced with a bank covered with Alaskan salmon that died before they were able reproduce, the Wildboyz do the only thing they can to help out. Chris squeezes a stream of eggs out of a dead female into Steve-O's mouth followed by a load of salmon sperm. You read that right: Wildboyz features a man mixing salmon eggs and sperm in his own mouth. If that's not just about the most insane thing to ever pass over my TV screen then I just don't know what is. Divine would be proud.
The second disc in this two-disc set contains the bulk of the extras. The most important is a selection of footage new to viewers of the broadcast version of the show. Sequences of "outtakes" and "additional scenes" from each episode are available. Some sequences are only a couple of minutes but some are quite meaty. Some scenes, like a night Steve-O and Chris spent in a Soweto family's house during the South Africa shoot are invaluable. You can see why this lengthy scene didn't make the cut for the original episode, but it's a perfect example of why the show doesn't condescend to the people it meets. In fact, the show's weird brand of respect is evident when the woman offers a special dinner of sheep stomachs for birthday-boy Steve-O. It's hilarious to consider that Steve-O refuses the meal, not because he thinks it's disgusting but because he knows full-well that he'll vomit if he tries and THAT would be rude!
A "Making of Wildboyz" special (22 minutes) also gives some excellent insight into the folks that make the show, including a little more about daredevil cameraman Mark Rackley. In typical Wildboyz fashion Chris starts of the special by saying "Everyone wants to know how our magic happens. But we're not telling!" And then he does just that.
There are some less visually exciting extras that are still fun, like a list of animals that have bitten the boyz and a Wildboyz encyclopedia. There are also trailers for other MTV DVD releases and a couple of music videos from Turbonegro, who perform the theme song. I also found one Easter egg of a collection of clips of the Black Mamba sock puppet slapping various sleeping crew members.