Monday, September 05, 2005

Review: G4's Barbed Wire Biscuit

Barbed Wire Biscuit is the new late-night block on cable channel G4. It is the channel's attempt to take on the late-night cable behemoth that is Cartoon Network's Adult Swim. While Barbed Wire Biscuit is not yet a real threat to Adult Swim, it has the potential to become a popular, viable alternative.

Barbed Wire Biscuit consists of the following programs: Cinematech: Nocturnal Emissions, Happy Tree Friends & Friends, Brainiac, and Anime Unleashed. An hour's worth of these shows airs weeknights at midnight ET (and repeats at 3:00 a.m. ET). Check your local cable listings to find out which show comes on when. I was able to see all the shows except for Anime Unleashed and I will review the remaining shows one by one.

Cinematech: Nocturnal Emissions--Cinematech, which airs during the day on G4, is probably one of the cheapest shows on cable television. All it consists of is footage from video games. The show features trailers, FMV (full motion video) segments, and gameplay footage set to music. While newer episodes have themes and feature live-action content produced with the people at Gamespot, it's still basically footage from video games. Cinematech: Nocturnal Emissions is basically a "mature" version of Cinematech.

The footage shown in Cinematech: Nocturnal Emissions mostly falls into one of three categories: sexual, violent, and strange stuff from Japan. You get to see the ladies of the game Rumble Roses gyrate and wrestle, the fatalities from the most recent Mortal Kombat game, and footage from a truly strange samurai video game from Japan among other things. Sometimes the categories of footage overlap. One Japanese game shown had women in swimsuits competing in vaguely sexual events such as rubbing a thermometer to make it "hot." Another Japanese game shown was a shooter which featured very creepy-looking muscled men fighting bosses that can only be described as "very gay."

While there is some bizarre enjoyment in seeing footage from unusual games that will never make it to the States, I hope that Cinematech: Nocturnal Emissions is just a placeholder on this block until they get more shows. I see few people actually tuning into this show weekly. This is the type of show that you happen across when you're still awake and watch only if there's nothing better on and you don't want to go to sleep.

Happy Tree Friends & Friends: This show is an anthology that features the infamous Happy Tree Friends shorts combined with other animated shorts from the Internet and elsewhere. Like any anthology, this show is hit-or-miss. In the episode I watched, there were some shorts I had seen before, such as "The Polygon Family," a short that mocks both Japanese culture and video games. Most of the other shorts were ones that I had not seen before. They didn't really make much of an impact. However, I was very glad to have watched the episode because of one particular short, "Here Comes Dr. Tran," that was spread out across the entire show. This hilarious short is a sharp parody of movie publicity as an announcer, in true movie trailer fashion, tells of a movie featuring the famous "Dr. Tran." However, "Dr. Tran" is really an unnamed 5-year-old Asian boy who is relentlessly hounded by the announcer. I couldn't stop laughing as the poor boy reacts to the announcer's increasingly ridiculous lies.

In theory, Happy Tree Friends & Friends is a great idea. There are a ton of wonderful animated shorts out there that most of the general public doesn't get a chance to see. However, it all depends on the selection of shorts. If they can acquire more shorts as good as "Here Comes Dr. Tran," this show could become appointment viewing.

Brainiac: This UK import is probably the best show on Barbed Wire Biscuit. It's a fun combination of Jackass and shows like Mr. Wizard, Beakman's World, and Bill Nye The Science Guy. The show, subtitled "Science Abuse" features various scientific and pseudo-scientific stunts that are as interesting as they are entertaining. One stunt attempted to determine the effectiveness of pheromone sprays. Using smell alone, the show had a woman determine her blind date between an ugly man wearing pheromones, a little person wearing aftershave, and an athletic guy who was sweaty. Another segment had a man who hadn't slept in days going up against a man who was wired on caffeine in a series of bizarre stunts that included balancing a bowl of water on their head while balancing on an exercise ball. Another interesting segment had a man actually walking across a swimming pool filled with custard. During all these segments, the scientific principles behind them are explained.

I'm definitely looking forward to seeing more episodes of Brainiac. It's a surprisingly smart twist on the average "stunt" show. I mean, how often have you ever watched Jackass and came away learning something you didn't know?

Overall, Barbed Wire Biscuit isn't as bad as it could've been. Right now, it seems kind of like a mish-mash of shows as opposed to a cohesive block. If it's to survive, it needs quality programming that is more than mindless sex, violence, or "adult humor." This block doesn't need to aim for the lowest common just needs to aim for the audience that thinks Adult Swim is pretentious, geeky, and strange. Shows like Brainiac are a step in the right direction. Time (and ratings) will tell if G4 can actually pull this off or if Barbed Wire Biscuit will end up an utter failure like Spike TV's The Strip.

No comments:

Post a Comment