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TV Land: The persistence of the peculiar

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FEBRUARY 08, 2012

Come with me now on a journey through space and time. The gang’s all here. My ol’ compadre and resident straw-hat enthusiast Sir Lester Butterfill XXIX is in the house. And today, we’re joined by the best company television can provide. There’s Tony Reason — manta ray and record executive to the stars. There’s the Hitcher — top hat-wearer and noted Cockney serial killer. And then, there’s Jackie Chan — martial arts expert and rumored wearer of pants. It’s not a party without the lead from my favorite film: “Shanghai Knights.”

Now, you may wonder why we’re all here. You may wonder why Butterfill, the gentleman that he is, befriended a Cockney murderer. More likely, you may be wondering: “What the fuck is going on?” Don’t worry your heads about that. Go get some popcorn and sit on down. There’s room between Chan and Butterfill on the futon. So, relax and take a breather because this is going to be a strange ride.

During the last week of January, something bizarre happened. Of course, something weird happens to me most days. For instance, yesterday I found out that Prince Charming/Tsar Nicholas II fan art exists. And last weekend, I spent four hours watching a lady scrub a floor in Edwardian-era costume. But those glorious, final days of January introduced something far more perplexing: the premiere of “Noel Fielding’s Luxury Comedy” and a screening of “Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie.”

It’s time for introductions. Noel Fielding is, according to the title of his art book, a “madcap shambleton.” He’s also one half of The Mighty Boosh — the psychedelic British comedy duo responsible for the Hitcher — and the man behind Tony Reason. Tim and Eric are an American comedy duo and creators of the Adult Swim program “Tim and Eric’s Awesome Show, Great Job!” Ostensibly, these two entities couldn’t differ more. The first revels in the whimsy of a deranged child’s imagination and the second, while still infantile, is more scatological. And yet, these two share kindred spirit. They’re both insane.

I mean insane in the best way possible. Insane as in having a character that shoots light out of their mangina. Insane as in having a diarrhea machine called the “Poop Tube” and an entire show dedicated to Jackie Chan. Insane as in the best kind of art. I’m talking Salvador Dali painting a giraffe on fire or Marc Chagall drawing a goat playing a fiddle. These are two shows (apply that term loosely) that I would like to induct in a new genre of television. One that transcends boundaries of story, setting, character and even logic. This is avant-garde TV.

Let’s break a minute. This might sound a tad pretentious, perhaps even absurd. When I asked Tim and Eric earlier this week (in an interview for their upcoming movie) how they create these crazy characters like Taquito (a perpetually sick man-boy played by John C. Reilly), Tim responded: “We don’t think too hard on this kind of stuff.” But, that oversimplification does their work a disservice. They may “go with their gut,” as Tim explained, but that doesn’t render their deranged creations any less meaningful than the social realism and articulate planning of something much more lauded like “The Wire.”

The same goes for “Noel Fielding’s Luxury Comedy.” It’s also an extremely off-putting sketch show. Fielding plays a version of himself that lives in a type of treehouse with Andy Warhol and a man named Smooth who has an elephant’s nose. And, in one particularly disturbing bit, Fielding plays the “Ghost of a Flea” who visits poet William Blake on his 100th birthday. Yup. “What the fuck?” is the right response. But, like it or not, “Luxury Comedy” has a pure aesthetic — an artistic palette entirely its own.

Sadly, our time here is winding down and Tony Reason looks ready for a nap (manta rays sleep 19 hours a day). The Hitcher has a hankering for more homocide and it looks like Sir Butterfill’s gotten into my chocolate drawer. Meanwhile, I’ll just stand by, watching these weird but wonderful works of art.

Contact Jessica Pena at 


FEBRUARY 08, 2012