Like a lot of people, I’ve got cable TV (you may well have Sky instead but for the purposes of this post, same thing) which much of the time seems to amount to not much more than the ’14 channels of shit’ that Roger Water’s sang of on Pink Floyd’s ‘The Wall’.
But every so often, when you’re idly skipping through the channels in a desperate search for something even remotely interesting to watch, you can actually unearth a bona fide gem, which is what happened the other day when I came across a series of short documentaries on a channel called FX called ‘Penn & Teller’s Bullshit‘.
Okay, so any programme featuring Penn & Teller is an easy sell so far as I’m concerned. I’m unashamedly a fan. But what raises this show into the televisual stratosphere so far as I’m concerned is its format and raison d’etre.
In each half hour show, P&T take on a subject they consider to be raddled with bullshit, which means, in the main, pseudoscience, supernaturalism and popular fads, misconceptions and conspiracy theories, and systematically rip them to pieces in their own inimitable style.
How can I best describe the show?
How about as atheist, rationalist, libertarian, polemical, swearblogger TV.
That’s the best desciption I can think of, something akin to a James Randi debunking presented by Devil’s Kitchen – in short, absolutely fucking brilliant. And to top even that, I find that the show has been running since 2003 in the US and has racked up nearly 50 episodes covering everything from Alien Abduction and ESP to Creationism and Biblical literalism to the obesity and eternal youth industries.
To give you just a brief flavour of what to expect, P&T are not normally noted for using copious amounts of profanity in their stage act, which Penn explains in the first epsiode of the series by pointing out that calling some of their targets frauds or liars could result in them being sued for slander even in the face of massive evidence of chicanery, so its actually safer, in legal terms, to call them assholes and motherfuckers instead because, in the US, ‘vulgar abuse’ is not generally held to be legally slanderous because it expresses and opinion not a statement of fact. Damn, you’ve just gotta love that First Amendment.
Trust me. The show is brilliant, even if its likely that you won’t agree with all of P&Ts chosen targets – well DK might – just check out this YouTube clip from the show called ‘The Bible: Fact or Fiction’ and you’ll see what I mean:
Oh, and a search on YouTube for ‘Penn and Teller Bullshit” turns up loads more clips from different episodes although, sadly, if you want more you’ll need to order the DVD’s from Amazon US and have an NTSC compatible DVD player – or fire up your bittorrent client.