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#1
Old 04-13-2004, 06:47 PM
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Penn & Teller's Bullsh*t!

This may be more appropriate for GD, but since it's about TV I'll put it here.

I generally like this show (I've been watching it on DVD), but does anybody else find it a bit misleading? For example, Bjorn Lomborg was their leading guest to rebut environmental hysteria- and there certainly have been legitimate instances of hysteria and inaccuracy on the part of Greenpeace, ELF and other radical organizations- but Lomborg is considered a lunatic by many middle-of-the-road environmentalists as well (many of them people of impeccable scientific credentials). And while I love any show where Sylvia Browne, John Edward and Rosemary Altea get shown for the frauds they are (not that it will do any good), I thought that the episode on alternative medicine and UFOs deliberately went to an effort to find the loopiest advocates out there rather than interviewing the more middle of the road folks.

So other watchers of the show: do you consider Penn & Teller fair? Have you caught them in any errors? Favorite or least favorite moments?
#2
Old 04-13-2004, 06:57 PM
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Funny you should mention the alternative medicine episode, because that's where I decided that the show wasn't really all that good.

I like that they are trying to debunk "myths", but they are also trying to entertain, and let's face it, television is about the most biased media there is (in terms of editing what people see). I resented that they chose complete idiots to talk about environmentalism, (although they still have a valid point about people being sheep and whatnot,) but the clincher was the chiropractor. I've seen a chiropractor, my ex saw a chiropractor and it changed his life, and I KNOW that they are not all quacks. That doesn't meant that there aren't some out there, because that's what Penn and Teller certainly dug up. But they had that one dead wrong.

I lost interest after that. They are just as biased as the people they are trying to prove wrong.
#3
Old 04-13-2004, 07:06 PM
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well when it comes to chiropractors Penn and Teller were too late to the subject.

It was a quack treatment when it first came out. They'd cure everything from Neck aches to Pneumonia. However in the intervening time most of the useless BS has been weeded out (by the mainstream chiropractors anyway) and the applicable functions have been kept. I can't imagine why they bothered.
#4
Old 04-13-2004, 07:25 PM
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I think Ghanima's is the typical response. Great show, love to see them skewer the lunatics and frauds, uness the lunatics and frauds they're skewering believe the same things we believe.
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#5
Old 04-13-2004, 07:26 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ghanima
I've seen a chiropractor, my ex saw a chiropractor and it changed his life, and I KNOW that they are not all quacks. That doesn't meant that there aren't some out there, because that's what Penn and Teller certainly dug up. But they had that one dead wrong.
They specifically noted that their target was not mainstream chiropracters who help people with back problems, but the fucking psychos who break babies' necks and shit.
#6
Old 04-13-2004, 08:17 PM
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Quote:
I think Ghanima's is the typical response. Great show, love to see them skewer the lunatics and frauds, uness the lunatics and frauds they're skewering believe the same things we believe.
Ahem. Let me clarify. I like the idea behind debunking myths, and I encourage it, even for the things that I "believe." For example, I don't believe that chiropractors can cure your pneumonia. However, if you have a chronic back injury related to a car accident four years ago, then yes, I believe a chiropractor can help you. My disgust is with the bias, not with the topics.
Quote:
Originally Posted by friedo
They specifically noted that their target was not mainstream chiropracters who help people with back problems, but the fucking psychos who break babies' necks and shit.
I must have missed THAT disclaimer. That would perhaps have changed my final judgment. But allow me to continue with my analysis. The "environment" episode was another good example of selecting the exact person they need to make their point. They talked to untrained, undereducated volunteers who of course don't really know what they're doing. They don't go and talk to a recent graduate with a major in environmental science who might actually know what they're talking about, for example. And so on.
Now, I'm NOT saying that they don't have a point. I know there's hysteria spread around about the environment. But that doesn't mean that every person who is concerned about the environment is an uninformed nutcase. And that is what I think P&T suggest in their show. Therefore, I am not terribly impressed.

Now if you'll excuse me I've got to go worship Gaia before my chiropractor's appointment.
#7
Old 04-13-2004, 08:48 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ghanima
I must have missed THAT disclaimer. That would perhaps have changed my final judgment. But allow me to continue with my analysis. The "environment" episode was another good example of selecting the exact person they need to make their point. They talked to untrained, undereducated volunteers who of course don't really know what they're doing.
They young woman they spoke to frequently was one of the organizers of a protest. They expected someone who organized a protest to actually know what she was talking about. They even said "Hey, it looks like we're picking on this poor girl but keep in mind she organized it. She should know what they're all about."

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#8
Old 04-13-2004, 08:49 PM
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I really liked the "culture of fear" episode. Penn really went off on the cops who invaded the high school with drawn guns and dogs looking for drugs. (An incident I had heard about because of a Pit thread that I can't find right now.) The only time I have really questioned their logic was during the episode about food. I pretty much agreed with what they had to say about genetically engineered foods that could feed everyone on the planet. But by their logic we should all be vegetarians because it's more efficent then feeding grain to animals and then eating the animals. But they didn't follow their logic to its conclusion.

And no, I'm not a vegetarian.
#9
Old 04-13-2004, 10:03 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ghanima
Ahem. Let me clarify. I like the idea behind debunking myths, and I encourage it, even for the things that I "believe." For example, I don't believe that chiropractors can cure your pneumonia. However, if you have a chronic back injury related to a car accident four years ago, then yes, I believe a chiropractor can help you. My disgust is with the bias, not with the topics.
Oh, rest assured I place myself squarely in the same category. I loved the ones on, like, survivalism and UFOs and such. The anti-smoking one pissed me off, and I knew better than to watch the PeTA ep. Not that I'm a virulent anti-smoking activist or animal rights activist but I knew the being pissed off would overwhelm anything they'd say. My overall feeling on the series is they make the mistake too often of debunking the movement/idea/whatever based on an extremist adherent.
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#10
Old 04-13-2004, 11:03 PM
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Actually I would have to respectfully disagree. Bjorn Lomborg is very highly considered and his work has withstood significant (sometimes underhanded) attack. Indeed, the people this show attack are often the people we see every day, that is the people we come in contact with when dealing with these issues. Their take on PETA was excellent as that really is a creepy movement. They highlighted it as the radical cult that it is. Morever, for the most part, chiropractors are quacks and should be avoided as much as possible.
#11
Old 04-14-2004, 12:26 PM
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I was rather annoyed with their bottled water segment where they chose to perform a blind test in New York of all cities. Conveniently ignoring the fact that NY has some of the best tasting tap water in the world. Now, if they had chosen to do it in some place with absolutely abysmal, sulfurous water, then I am sure the results would have all been convincingly in favour of the bottled water.
#12
Old 04-14-2004, 12:34 PM
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Also, I found that there was a disturbing amount of editing going on when they are trying to paint someone as crazy. I have no way of verifying if the editing they do is honest so generally I try and be sceptical of what they purport the other side is saying. That said, their science is usually fairly top-notch.
#13
Old 04-14-2004, 12:35 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sampiro

I generally like this show
Quote:
We at Showtime Online express our apologies; however, these pages are intended for access only from within the United States.
Great.
So what's the show? A skeptic show hosted by P&T?
#14
Old 04-14-2004, 01:02 PM
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Yes it's a skeptic debunking show. I've only seen one of them (where they attacked the talking to the dead readers) it seemed fairly decent. Of course that isn't something I believe in or endorse so maybe that might colored my opinion of it.
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Old 04-14-2004, 01:15 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by yojimbo
Great.
So what's the show? A skeptic show hosted by P&T?
Penn & Teller's Bullshit.

Here's a non-Showtime site about it.
#16
Old 04-14-2004, 01:25 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MGibson
They young woman they spoke to frequently was one of the organizers of a protest. They expected someone who organized a protest to actually know what she was talking about. They even said "Hey, it looks like we're picking on this poor girl but keep in mind she organized it. She should know what they're all about."

Marc
Slight nit pick:

Actually IIRC the woman was "hand picked by the organizers to represent them" she was not "The organizer". I am (and I believe you are) referring to the woman who kept on fudging up the answers and asked to start over a few times.

They did talk to an organizer (at a different event I think) but it wasn't that woman.

My take on that episode it that they were tring to enlighten people that they should be more aware of what they are supporting. There were hundreds of people that signed the "Ban dihydrogen monoxide" petition just because they thought it was helping the planet.

Be more aware of what you are supporting and ask questions. Its ok to love the enviroment and want to protect it but know what you are supporting and where your money/time is really going towards.

Quote from Ghanima
__________________________________________________________________________
I must have missed THAT disclaimer. That would perhaps have changed my final judgment. But allow me to continue with my analysis. The "environment" episode was another good example of selecting the exact person they need to make their point. They talked to untrained, undereducated volunteers who of course don't really know what they're doing. They don't go and talk to a recent graduate with a major in environmental science who might actually know what they're talking about, for example. And so on. Now, I'm NOT saying that they don't have a point. I know there's hysteria spread around about the environment. But that doesn't mean that every person who is concerned about the environment is an uninformed nutcase. And that is what I think P&T suggest in their show. Therefore, I am not terribly impressed.
__________________________________________________________________________

Yes you definately missed the disclaimer. It was early in the episode so it was easy to miss.

Didn't they speak to a college professor? He is teaching his crack pot theories in class rooms and "educating" our youth. They went to the source instead of one of his former students.
#17
Old 04-14-2004, 02:15 PM
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I haven't seen it (no Showtime). Does Teller ever talk?
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Old 04-14-2004, 03:15 PM
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I just finished watching the first season on DVD. I loved it, mostly because I'm entertained by pretty much anything Penn & Teller do. But yes, it does definitely go to extremes to make fun of the people they're debunking. As was mentioned before, in the medium of television, to make your point you often have to go to extremes.

The one big error that jumped out at me was when Penn mentioned burning witches in Salem. A factual error that big really took me by surprise. Because I'm on their side, though, I chalked it up to dramatic hyperbole, kind of sloppy though, to do in a show where you're trying to look like you did your research.

If you aren't entertained by their act and don't agree with their politics, yeah, I can see how this would be a very annoying show.


Quote:
Originally Posted by gatopescado
I haven't seen it (no Showtime). Does Teller ever talk?
Nope, he stays in character.
#19
Old 04-14-2004, 03:30 PM
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Originally Posted by Big_Norse
Quote:
Originally Posted by gatopescado
I haven't seen it (no Showtime). Does Teller ever talk?
Nope, he stays in character.
I forgot to mention, he did co-author most of the scripts, though.
#20
Old 04-14-2004, 04:17 PM
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I wish I'd seen the PETA episode, just for laughs. PETA people really creep me out.
If they did speak to a college prof about the environmental hysteria thing (don't remember this either, but I've only ever seen the two shows, long ago) then that's exactly who I think they should be talking to, and my opinion of the show will increase a bit. Maybe enough to motivate to watch the PETA episode.
#21
Old 04-14-2004, 04:43 PM
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Just wanted to stand and be counted as a big fan of Penn & Teller's Bullshit! While I haven't caught them in any mistakes, I do recognize that they will go for the most "television-friendly" extreme images out there. On the other hand, they will also (usually in a voiceover) give a fair presentation of what their target's views are, so IME it's not as if they're trying to be intentionally deceptive.

I'll forgive them a little visual extremity in return for having them on our side in the War Against Ignorance.
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#22
Old 04-14-2004, 05:30 PM
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I love this show. I have to say that the PETA episode was one of the best that they have ever done. They really ripped into PETA and what they support. Yes, they were biased as meat-eaters but they did a really good job about showing the PETA people as hypocrites. (PETA has a freezer for euthanization of animals which they are against, they are against animal medical research and using things that stem from it yet one of the VPs is diabetic and insulin comes from medical research. She justified that one by saying her life was worth it. Not hypocritical. Nope.) I'm all for animal rights, but comparing animals to slaves and wanting total liberation? Are they really prepared to live and deal with all the wild animals running around?

The best clip on that show was one of the ALF supporters talking at a high school and comparing himself to Jesus, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King, Jr., all supporters of non-violence means of getting their points across. The ALF is a terrorist group that firebombs animal labs and such. Yeah, great comparison there.

The safety hysteria episode made me giggle when the owner of the company that makes some of the products was having trouble using them! Hee!

I think it's a great show. And remeber that the girl they were talking to for the environmental episode was "hand picked" by the group they asked to talk to. Most of that episode was spent criticizing those who went to the protests but really had no idea what they were supporting.
#23
Old 04-14-2004, 05:43 PM
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Sometimes I think of it as "Penn & Teller's Bullshit, brought to you by the Cato Institute!" but I still like the show a lot.

I think while it does a pretty good job of pointing out bullshit, it also is itself an exercise in spotting bullshit. I can picture watching it with my daughter and discussing things like editing interviews, choosing the wackiest crackpots, and interviewing "experts" who don't have any credentials in the area in question.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ghanima
I must have missed THAT disclaimer. That would perhaps have changed my final judgment.
You must have been distracted, or just got it into your head early on that they hated all chiropractors, so you selectively perceived the episode. Their designated reasonable expert on chiropractic frauds was a chiropractor. The mainstream kind who treats back injuries and such. He outlined how to spot a legitimate practitioner versus a quack.

IIRC, the clueless girl in the environmental show was actually the designated spokesperson for one of the less-well-known groups that organized that rally (some save the rainforest outfit, I think). They did indeed say, "Gee, it seems like we're being jerks, but this is the person the organization offered as their official spokesperson!" (paraphrasing).
#24
Old 04-14-2004, 07:22 PM
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Quote:
IIRC, the clueless girl in the environmental show was actually the designated spokesperson for one of the less-well-known groups that organized that rally (some save the rainforest outfit, I think). They did indeed say, "Gee, it seems like we're being jerks, but this is the person the organization offered as their official spokesperson!" (paraphrasing).
Good lordy, that is SO pathetic. Makes me wonder what the heck kind of organization would choose such a person. In a non-SDMB conversation I had about this episode, I recall some speculation about "maybe the clueless girl was a representative of a group that specializes in large demonstrations, etc. and offers their services to activist groups, therefore she wouldn't necessarily know that much about the actual cause." But it sounds like that's not the case. How embarrassing, I wonder if she was humiliated after the show aired.
#25
Old 04-14-2004, 10:36 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ghanima
Good lordy, that is SO pathetic. Makes me wonder what the heck kind of organization would choose such a person. In a non-SDMB conversation I had about this episode, I recall some speculation about "maybe the clueless girl was a representative of a group that specializes in large demonstrations, etc. and offers their services to activist groups, therefore she wouldn't necessarily know that much about the actual cause." But it sounds like that's not the case. How embarrassing, I wonder if she was humiliated after the show aired.

Maybe this organization was smart enough not to fret over the matter. If the girl was going to be interviewed by a a sympathetic press, her subpar knowledge wouldn't be an issue, and if she were interviewed by a more antagonistic press it doesn't matter if she sounds stupid because it won't dent their fanatical support base. And the inteviewer could have thrown any number of questions at her until she misses one, and that's the one they show.

I can't remember, was the actual name of the organization named once, twice, at all? If they even thought she would hold up surely they would have made sure it was. Maybe the name mention/nonmention was part of the deal.
#26
Old 04-14-2004, 11:15 PM
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I just viewed the episode and they did in fact name the group several times. It looks like she was a lakey they assigned to take the camera people around. She was a ditz. Good show.
#27
Old 04-15-2004, 12:01 AM
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My favorite moments (and the ones best at exposing intentional Bullshit):

*the three Feng Shui experts paid to redecorate the same home (each came up with a totally different arrangement of furniture using the "science" of Feng Shui)

*the debunking of hypnotists who enable people to "relive" past lives and alien abductions (no charge, but a suggested donation of $90 per hour)

*the opening of the "Creationism" episode (Penn demonstrates the view of Darwin by reciting a long eloquent quote from The Origin of Species, Teller represents the Creationist p.o.v. by hitting him with a Bible), but I thought they could have grilled the Fundies a bit more and should have gone more into the scientific definition of Theory (i.e. it's not the same as saying "it's a theory that the Masons, Mafia & Mormons killed JFK"). (The scariest part of that episode were the teachers who were in favor of teaching creationi...uh...Intelligent Design Theory.)
#28
Old 04-15-2004, 12:57 AM
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Great show! I have only been able to check out episode 1 on DVD, but I am sure I'll see all of them. I particularly liked the way they exposed the hypocrisy of Smoking Nazis and their disinformation campaign based on a "cooked" EPA report from the early 90's.
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#29
Old 04-15-2004, 03:18 PM
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Am I the only person who misses the staged skits? Like the Designer Water Restaurant, or the mall "doctor" who offered to give people free magnetic-theraphy sessions?

And in the case of fairness, I don't mind when Penn & Teller's Bullshit! debunks something I thought was true, such as the second-hand smoke stuff. Fighting ignorance requires releasing your preconceived notions...
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#30
Old 04-15-2004, 06:50 PM
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Am I allowed to quietly mention that I was interviewed for this show? I don't know if they'll use any of my interview, or, if they do, when it will be broadcast, but the interview was for the second series which I believe is just being broadcast now. I don't think Showtime would want me to say what I was being interviewed about, but I can say I thought it was a very funny subject and I can't wait to see what P&T do with it.

Yet more proof that when there is ignorance to be fought, they can't get by without inviting the SDMB (or a Charter Member thereof) to participate!

Sadly, the show doesn't air over here (UK) on normal telly, so I can only get to see it on DVD.
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#31
Old 04-16-2004, 12:35 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ianzin
Am I allowed to quietly mention that I was interviewed for this show? I don't know if they'll use any of my interview, or, if they do, when it will be broadcast, but the interview was for the second series which I believe is just being broadcast now. I don't think Showtime would want me to say what I was being interviewed about, but I can say I thought it was a very funny subject and I can't wait to see what P&T do with it.

Yet more proof that when there is ignorance to be fought, they can't get by without inviting the SDMB (or a Charter Member thereof) to participate!

Sadly, the show doesn't air over here (UK) on normal telly, so I can only get to see it on DVD.
I believe the show is called "English People Think They're So Cool 'Cause They're on a Secret Show, but They're Not."
#32
Old 04-17-2004, 12:57 PM
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The OP refers to the show as "Penn & Teller's Bullshit!" The actual title is "Penn & Teller: Bullshit!", but I think the OP's phrasing might more accurately describe the program. Much like Matt Stone and Trey Parker, they seem to me more interested in promoting capital "L" Libertarian ideology than honestly appraising their subjects. Their ideological inclinations are generaly not apparent (or important) on apolitical subjects like feng shui or communication with the dead. Their attempt to portray the environmental movement (a favorite Libertarian bugaboo) as mostly a collection of ill-informed kooks exposed their fundamental intellectual dishonesty. No mention was made of legitimate concerns about global warming or water table pollution, or that these concerns are often raised by scientists of impeccable credentials; it was just "set up the straw men and turn on the wind machine!"
#33
Old 04-17-2004, 02:33 PM
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P&T have never hid their political beliefs. They regularly describe themselves as libertarian atheists. That said, the episode was about "environmental hysteria," not reputable environmentalism, which, of course, they support.
#34
Old 04-17-2004, 06:28 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by friedo
P&T have never hid their political beliefs. They regularly describe themselves as libertarian atheists. That said, the episode was about "environmental hysteria," not reputable environmentalism, which, of course, they support.
Well, I think that some think that their use of Bjorn Lomberg shows that they were not at all interested in "reputable" environmentalism, thus causing the opinion you were responding to.
#35
Old 04-18-2004, 04:30 PM
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Jeez, I didn't even know this show existed until I read this thread - we don't get it here in Canada.

I downloaded a couple of episodes, and it's brilliant! A good mix of hard fact, skewering them that needs skewering, and good comedy and magic.

And John Gray is a total wiener.
#36
Old 04-18-2004, 11:07 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by threeorange
Their attempt to portray the environmental movement (a favorite Libertarian bugaboo) as mostly a collection of ill-informed kooks exposed their fundamental intellectual dishonesty. No mention was made of legitimate concerns about global warming or water table pollution, or that these concerns are often raised by scientists of impeccable credentials; it was just "set up the straw men and turn on the wind machine!"
They did the same thing as they did with chiropractics, they took on a part of it, not the whole thing, as Freido mentioned

Did anyone catch the Soutpark reference? When finishing up on John Edwards, Penn summed him up (with a wry smile) as the Biggest Douche in the Universe.
#37
Old 04-19-2004, 10:11 PM
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I just watched DVD 1 of the first series, and got a lot of laughs. I'm solidly on P&T's side on most things, but having said that I can't say they achieve that much higher a standard than those they lampoon.

The psychics, extreme chiropractors, and UFO nuts give their anectodal evidence - P&T give theirs. In terms of point/counterpoint I call it a draw.

However, P&T are not the ones claiming to converse with the dead or convince people that Armageddon is iminent. As such, they win big time. Add to that the fact that they're funny as hell and it's no contest. I nearly pissed myself in the "baby bullshit" episode when they got all the new fathers to put on diapers (it would also have been really ironic if I HAD actually pissed myself).

I found myself comparing the show to Michael Moore's "Bowling for Columbine". Very entertaining, asked some good questions, but didn't really answer any. Hell of a funny show, and I can't wait for the next two DVD's.
#38
Old 04-20-2004, 04:35 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Eternal
I believe the show is called "English People Think They're So Cool 'Cause They're on a Secret Show, but They're Not."
So, tell me, do you wake up every day resolving to be a little ray of sunshine, or are you making an extra special effort, just for me?
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#39
Old 04-20-2004, 09:47 PM
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I just watched DVD 1 of the first series, and got a lot of laughs. I'm solidly on P&T's side on most things, but having said that I can't say they achieve that much higher a standard than those they lampoon.
I'm not sure that's inappropriate. As old Ben once said, "You cannot reason a man out of a position which he did not reason himself into.". Many folks have tried using reason to debunk the various forms of, well, bunk, to the extent that I suspect anyone who's going to be convinced in that way already has been. What remains are those whom will only be swayed by a less rigorous approach, and if P&T can fill that niche, so much the better.

By the way, ianzin, your sig has been driving me crazy for some time now. I gather that it's one of those things which makes sense when you say it aloud, but I can't quite get it to work. Help, please?
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#40
Old 04-22-2004, 01:54 AM
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If anyone's vaguely interested, when the shows first came out, I posted an extensive review of the "Alternative Medicine" show here. The review itself is fairly boring, but the comments are priiiiiiceless. For one thing, the reflexologist that was roundly spanked on the show left a series of comments (woo! I'm famous!) detailing the "scientific" basis of reflexology - a hearty dose of snake oil with a generous dollop of meaningless jargon and obfuscation. I argued with him for a bit, but quickly realized that it was going to be like arguing with a lead sinker.

Also, one of the rabid SOB's posted the letter that the American Chiropractic Institute sent to Showtime after the show aired. They missed the point almost completely, the putzes.
#41
Old 04-25-2004, 11:52 PM
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Join Date: Aug 2002
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ogre
If anyone's vaguely interested, when the shows first came out, I posted an extensive review of the "Alternative Medicine" show here. The review itself is fairly boring, but the comments are priiiiiiceless.
I see you dodged the question... ART thou the Teller?

I love the "I'm guessin its gotta do with magnetic somethings" explication of his "science".
#42
Old 04-26-2004, 12:59 AM
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Quote:
I see you dodged the question... ART thou the Teller?
Yeah, that's what made me throw in the towel. I sensed that stringing them along with hints that they'd uncovered my secret role as Penn's sidekick might be...unfruitful.
#43
Old 04-26-2004, 01:13 AM
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Join Date: Apr 2004
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Posts: 14
Penn & Teller admitted once that the are only trying to make fun of the people who believe in bullshit.

They do argue their side of the case quite well, so that is why I watch the show. I could always look up the other sides of the argument if I feel that P&T are wrong.
#44
Old 04-26-2004, 11:00 AM
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Join Date: Oct 2003
Location: Norway
Posts: 194
I think it's pretty appearent form the show that they are not trying to appear unbiased at all. I mean, they frequently edit interviews to pick out the most hilarious phrases that we can't even be sure are in context. I think they are just showing us their viewpoints while having some fun making biased television.
#45
Old 04-26-2004, 01:03 PM
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Join Date: Aug 2001
Location: on your last raw nerve
Posts: 17,550
I went out and bought the DVD. I have only seen the first two episodes, but I'm not impressed. They aren't doing anything special here, and what they are doing isn't especially funny or entertaining.

I was expecting something a little better. Hopefully, the rest is better...........
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