Comedy Central's TV Funhouse

When prolific “Saturday Night Live” writer Robert Smigel created this spinoff series in 2000 it was called “ahead of its time”… and promptly cancelled. Or maybe it’s only called “ahead of its time” now as viewers look back at the various shows of 2000 and compare them to the haphazardly nonsensical and unexplainably popular shows of recent years such as “Aqua Teen Hunger Force,” “Family Guy” and “Drawn Together.” “TV Funhouse” fits right in with these newer shows, though when it was on the air in 2000 – when “Tenacious D” was on HBO and “South Park” was in its infancy, it’s no surprise that this show didn’t make it past a first season.

For those who don’t know, and it’s doubtful that you’re reading this if you don’t, the show is based around Doug the Host (played with an endearingly depressing array of facial expressions by Doug Dale) attempting to deliver a genuine kids’ show with the help of his friends the Anipals – a rooster, a dog, a cat and a turtle. These foul-mouthed and un-pc animal puppets make Doug’s job quite a bit harder than he’s planned, though the animal’s misbehavior forms the backbone of the show. Whether they’re going to Mexico to witness a cockfight and visit a brothel (as they do in the “Western Day” episode) or heading to Atlantic City to see Triumph the Insult Comic Dog – yes that Triumph the Insult Comic Dog – (as they do in the “Safari Day” episode) their escapades are at least consistently innovative as the writers find ways to incorporate actual live animals into the puppet’s sketches. “Greg the Bunny” took this idea and ran with it a few years later.

It’s unfortunate that Doug the Host is so prominently featured though, because he tends to slow down the action and drag the episodes (aside from one bright point when he actually cuts a star off of the American flag to make a Hawaiian flag) but the setup of the show – numerous short films and cartoons shoved in around a simple plotline - basically requires a host to provide brief introductions to the amalgam of short clips. The short clips themselves are hit and miss. Hits like the black and white cartoon “Christmas With Tingles” and the hilarious parody “Mnemonics - Your Dear, Dear Friend” do a bit to counter-balance misses like “Kidder, Downey & Heche: Private Trespassing Investigators” and “Sally Jesse Raphael ‘Endangered and Single’,” though there’s a bit more misses than hits.

The bottom line though is that this is a cult classic television show cancelled too soon and there are enough fans out there to warrant putting the show out on dvd now. The uninitiated may not find much here to enjoy and there have been a few complaints that this “complete” set is a little less than complete, but if you’re looking to relive a nearly decades-old show, “TV Funhouse” is there for the viewing.

Zach’s Rating: C-
Perfect For: Those who were crushed when the show was cancelled
Stay Away if: You’ve never heard of “TV Funhouse”

For more information, visit Comedy Central’s homepage
To purchase Comedy Central’s TV Funhouse, visit Amazon

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