TV Funhouse - The Complete Series - Buy from Amazon
A TV series created by Robert Smigel, who is best known for his animated bits on Saturday Night Live
and for creating Triumph the Insult Dog. This show is a combination of those two ideas, which should have been an easy path to comedic greatness.
(Before I get to the review, I feel the need to point out that while I am a fan of Ambiguously Gay Dou, Fun With Audio, and most of the animated bits, I was never a fan of Triumph The Insult Dog and this show has more in common with the latter than the former. Take that into account while reading this review.)
This show is in part a parody of a Saturday morning kids TV show with host Doug and his friends, the Anipals. Doug is there to introduce cartoons and short bits like Porn for Kids and The Safety Gang while having themed days like Western Day and Caveman Day. But mostly the show follows the exploits of the anipals, who are oversexed, amoral animal puppets. It's a show that aims for bizarre and outrageous, and in this area it hits the mark more often than not, but they fail to capitalize on that and generate real laughs due to no real sense of comedic timing. More times than I care to remember, they took what could have been an interested and funny bit and beat it to death with a heavy-handed approach or simple repetition, sometimes before the bit even starts. For instance, there's a parody of Scooby Doo that takes the show A Pup Named Scooby Doo one step further creating Fetal Scooby Doo. It's basically Scooby Doo but everyone is a fetus and they all have really long umbilical cords. ... That's it. Other than that, it is practically identical to every other Scooby Doo spoof out there. And as I said, before the introduction was finished, the joke was already explained and the actual parody felt unnecessary.
There were some funny bits, which I won't spoil here... okay, one spoiler... I laughed the most at the scene with the puppet cat 'giving birth' to the real life kittens, especially when one tried to climb back. It was a good chance for some improve. However, these were outnumbered by the jokes that just don't work, the jokes that went on too long, or the jokes that were repeated too often till they killed the humor. I can't imagine they would have been able to keep the show going for a full season, so it is probably best that it ended after just 8 shows.
On the other hand, for a short-run series, the 2-disc set is packed with extras. All 8 episode have audio commentary tracks by the 3 men most responsible for the show, creator Robert Smigel, writer Dino Stamatopoulos, and actor Doug Dale. As one would expect, the three fill the tracks but they lean to the entertainment side of the spectrum. Other extras include a video commentary with some of the anipals that runs just under seven minutes, but even then it overstays its welcome. There are 8 minutes of outtakes and finally two behind-the-scenes bits. Over on disc two there are two additional appearances by Triumph and a deleted sketch. This is more than one would expect given the show's short run and fans should be happy.
TV Funhouse was a show that lacked the proper comedic timing with too many jokes that went on way too long killing whatever humor was there. Watching an anaconda hack up a big meal might be funny to some, but not when it takes a minute for him to do it. And the second time they use the same gag, it is even less funny. That said, the show does have a cult following, and for them The Complete Series is certainly worth picking up. If you have never seen the show before by like some of Robert Smigel's work on Saturday Night Live, then you should check it out, but give it a rental first.