Have you ever watched a news report or read an article in a newspaper by a respected journalist and though "That's bullshit." If you have, the comedy/magician team of Penn and Teller have just the show for you: Bullshit! This half hour show that airs on Showtime revels in pulling back the curtain and showing the little man behind it…and making fun of wack-jobs. The first three seasons of the show have been released on DVD, and if this show has passed under your radar for one reason or another, you can purchase all three in one fell swoop.
The inaugural season is clearly the best and sets the tone for what's to come. Penn and Teller set their cross-hairs on pseudo-science and other mumbo-jumbo and do a great job of debunking some of the idiocy that people believe.
One of the best episodes deals with Feng Shui, the supposed ancient oriental "science" of arranging furniture to bring good luck and fortune. Penn and Teller rent a house, fill it with furniture and hire three Feng Shui experts to optimize the living space according to the rules of this discipline. First though, they get all three decorators to go on camera and state that this is a science with well defined rules and procedures, and that they are experts at implementing the system. Of course the three designs that these self-proclaimed experts are totally different from one another and have very little in common.
This season also goes after alien abductions (it's great seeing Penn dressed as a woman at a UFO convention), creationism and ESP. Granted some of these topics are like shooting fish in a barrel, but the team adds a lot of comedy to the show so that even when they are talking about something as totally idiotic as Ouiji Boards, the show is still highly entertaining.
Season one rating: Highly Recommended.
The second season takes an ever-so-slight dip in quality, but it's still very good. They start out with a powerful episode on PETA (the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals). Penn and Teller do a great job of showing the hypocrisy of the group and how they care more about monkeys than man. I've never been a fan of the organization, but this show had some very interesting revelations.
Another good episode is the one on the War on Drugs. They used some startling statistics to illustrate how ineffectual this campaign has been and how idiotic the whole approach has been. The clips from both Refer Madness and the 'This is your brain on drugs' commercials are humorous, but the realities of prisons filled with non-violent criminals is sobering. As Penn puts it" Man, if we started arresting everyone who is miserable due to a bad decision, we need to cuff anyone who chose to see a Pauly Shore movie."
Of course there are some episodes that will rub people the wrong way, but that's not a bad thing. People need to examine their convictions every once in a while. The episode entitled The Bible: Fact or Fiction will certainly falls into that category as does the one on love where they claim it's an illusion.
This season also has its share of pseudo-science debunked, the thing that these guys do best. They take on hypnotism and strange diets that claim to keep you young forever.
Season rating: Recommended.
Things start to go south with this season as Penn and Teller start to run out of interesting ideas and have to defend weaker positions. Like the previous two seasons they take on a wide variety of issues, but this time they are more political and not so clear cut. They have a much harder time coming up with convincing reasons for their positions and have to rely on anecdotes and biased tests that they come up with.
One such episode is the one on Big Brother, where they take the government to task for the Patriot Act. Personally, I agree with the show and think that the law contains too many infringements on personal liberties, but even I wasn't convinced by this show. They make fun of the people on the right who agree with the act, but they never successfully answer their claims that it is making the country safer. In one section they show creates a mock surveillance situation. They have a van parked across a street from a house with a car parked in the driveway. They hire four people and teach them to use the equipment in the van to monitor the house of the 'suspected terrorist', and only that house. Then, to make things difficult, they hire some actors to put on a little show in the house next door. A woman walks up, talking dirty on her cell to her boyfriend who naturally lives in the house that's not under surveillance. They start to have sex in the front room with the curtains opened, but then his wife comes home and the shit hits the fan. Of course, as soon as this is over the 'boss' comes in and asks the hapless employee if he caught the terrorist leaving the house on camera. While the sex was going on they moved the car. This was a funny setup but it didn't prove a whole lot. Out of the four people that they hired, they only showed one person falling for the gag. They never mentioned if the other three were on the ball or not. Even if they weren't I'm not really convinced that a minimum wage employee watching people screwing around is a huge infringement on my civil rights.
Another episode that they really didn't make a good case for was the one on college. Their premise basically boils down to this: you shouldn't go to college because there are liberals there and it cost a lot of money. They have several experts mention that you need a college degree to make it in today's society, but that point is never addressed. They mention that Bill Gates doesn't have a college degree, but they don't mention that he was already making more money from his new company than most people with degrees when he dropped out, and they fail to mention the tens of thousands of rich people who do have college degrees. A pretty weak episode overall because it wasn't convincing.
This season isn't all bad, there are some good shows, but they are in the minority. The episode on life coaching was funny though I have to admit I'd never heard of a life coach before seeing the episode. The one on heavenly signs such as the Virgin Mary appearing on a grilled cheese sandwich was the best of the season, but cutting and humorous. I also really enjoyed installment Holier Than Thou where they uncovered the warts on Mother Theresa, the Dali Lama and Gandhi. I didn't agree with every thing they said, but it was an interesting show.
Season rating: Rent it.
Funny, entertaining and informative, this is a great show that does
an excellent job of cutting though the
This three season set is just the individual seasons shrink wrapped together. I was a little disappointed in that because each season comes in different packaging and none of it matches. Each of the three seasons contains thirteen episodes on three DVD.
This show has both 5.1 and stereo English soundtracks as well as a stereo Spanish dub. The 5.1 wasn't really necessary since the rears are rarely used, but for this type of show I wasn't expecting a lot of fancy panning or a dynamic mix. The show is dialog based and sounds very good. There are no dropouts, hiss, or other audio defects. There is an odd flaw in the thrid season however, the first second or two of audio is clipped from some of the shows. The upshot is that on these episodes the first word or two is lost.
The full frame image looks fine, though there is a bit of aliasing in the background, nothing major. Some of the on sight camera work looks a little less sharp and well detailed than the studio footage but that's to be expected. Overall a nice looking set of shows.
The first season has a good number of bonus items included. There's nearly half an hour of deleted scenes, an 18-minute interview with magician and pseudo-science debunker James Randi, a fifteen-minute look at ghosts captured on video tape, a behind the scenes featurette, and over 15-minutes worth of bloopers split into two menu items. This really added a lot to the first season and I devored all of it and wanted more.
On seasons two and three however, the only extras are filmographies and a photo gallery. Now that's bullshit!
Penn and Teller: Bullshit! is a funny show that enjoys
skewering some of the crap that people have come to believe. While
no one will agree with everything in this show, you're not really supposed
to. The whole point is to question and examine what you believe.
The first two seasons are absolutely great, while the third season falls
off quite a bit. Still it is an enjoyable show that is also informative.