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When Wonder Showzen was cancelled, many people wondered what’d be PFFR’s follow-up to it — and they were probably expecting another sketch-comedy show, perhaps with a similar hook. Instead, they got the intentionally-poorly-CG’d Xavier: Renegade Angel, a 15 minute program on [adult swim]. The Cheap-Sims-knockoff-looking show at first didn’t really even feel much of anything like Wonder Showzen, and I don’t believe it ever found the same audience, but it might just be more rewarding.
The show — which, honestly, is pretty indescribable, plot-wise — follows a wandering quasi-mystic… man… thing, with brown fur, a beak, snake-arm and backwards knees. The snake-arm sometimes, though rarely, speaks and seems to be a sentient being in its own right. Though when the snake arm eats, it goes to Xavier’s stomach, so there you go. This is probably getting hung up over nothing, but it’s a fair enough explanation of the show. If you can’t get behind a protagonist such as this, then the show probably isn’t for you.
On the other hand, if you’re intrigued by this — you might be a Firesign Theatre fan. And that’s a definite good thing, and a surprisingly huge touchstone for this. Each episode has very dense sound design (sadly, the show was only done in 2.0 Stereo; I’d love to hear what they’d do with full 5.1 Surround) and the dialogue is made of layer upon layer of wordplay and puns — about every other word has at least two or three different meanings. Like Firesign, it’s easy to let wash over you and just go along for the ride, but if you take the time to delve in, there’s a lot of different stuff going on that rewards multiple viewings…. particularly the first season finale, which is Xavier talking to another Xavier for the entire episode.
While each show stands alone, the two seasons each have their own overall story arc; the first season is Xavier trying to track down the man who killed his father (NOT A SPOILER: It’s Xavier), and the second is to track down his previously-believed-deceased mother. The second season goes a bit more into Xavier’s past (including revealing how he ended up being born as a hodgepodge of animal parts) — they’re both about the same level of quality, though, and work being watched back to back in a day-long marathon. (That’s what I’ve done, after watching about half of the episodes when they aired and on On Demand.)
It’s a bit of a cop-out to say the show doesn’t make sense — and, oddly enough, it DOES have its own internal dream-logic. In two episodes, Xavier has contact with a computer (from where and how, it’s not really revealed) — the computer is played by John Flansburgh from They Might Be Giants, sans-glasses and in a hilarious bowl-cut wig, in a stuttering, Max Headroom-like split-screen, sitting at a terminal — though, it seems that Flansburgh’s character himself is actually the computer, or more accurately, part of the visual display and interface of the computer. That idea, like Xavier himself, is, again, a pretty good indicator of the dream logic that governs this show. It’s not to everyone’s taste, but it’s much better than it looks. We need more television like this — and we need more from PFFR, who have realized that we, apparently, must destroy television in order to save it.