Penn & Teller: Bullshit!

Season 3 Episode 11

Endangered Species

Aired Monday 10:00 PM Jul 18, 2005 on Showtime

Episode Fan Reviews (1)

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out of 10
41 votes
  • Some points of their argument were weak, but all-in-all a pretty good show. As always, their humor was on the mark and the show was still funny as hell.

    I don't watch Penn & Teller: Bullshit! because it's educational, I watch it because it's funny. What can I say, those guys make me laugh. That being said, since the show is based on debunking popular ideas and agendas, it's also important that they deliver a fairly solid argument. This episode fell a little short on that count.

    Granted, I don't hold Bullshit! up to the same standards as say Frontline, but more often than not, Penn and Teller have delivered some pretty compelling arguments. They do sport their own research team and, to use their own words, "do their homework." So when I sat down to watch the Endangered Species episode, I figured there'd be some fireworks with the magic boys on top winning the argument. Unfortunately, it just wasn't up to par with their usual fare.

    The crux of the episode is that the Endangered Species Act is a failure and not what it was cracked up to be. The guests were all pretty top notch for both sides and I think having the former co-founder for GreenPeace was a real coup for the show. With all this on-screen talent, you'd think that you'd have a slam dunk - it wasn't.

    Penn and Teller's position was that the ESA hasn't actually done anything itself. Instead, other agencies, or natural means have actually done the work in bring back species from extinction. Grey whales are no longer extinct because the U.S. stopped whaling, not because the ESA did anything. That point was clear and succinct. In addition they showed where the US Lumber industry took a huge blow due to the Spotted Owl and that the US has been forced to import lumber as a result. That point was clear and succinct as well.

    If they had stopped there, then the episode could have been top notch. They clearly illustrated their point that the ESA really hasn't done what it was intended to do. Yet, that of course begs the question "what IS it doing then?"

    Penn and Teller's position is that it's about government being able to have carte blanche over what a land owner can do about their land. Thanks to R.J. Smith, they established that the ESA can do thing not allowed by even the Constitution, which would have been a real anchor to use. Instead, they chose to serve up William Snape III, when he made the on-air comment "There just aren't private land owners that I can identify where the value of their property has radically declined as a result of the Endangered Species Act. These landowners don't exist."

    My mouth watered when Bill made that comment, because I knew that the Bullshit boys would run with it. I expected to see lots of evidence and case after case of average joes that had been screwed over by the ESA. Instead, the only person BS chose to interview was a lady by the name of Lindy. She's a woman with cerebral palsy and is living at a friend's home due to all the hurricanes in Florida, where she lives. It seems she owns a plot of land, but can't build a home thanks to the ESA. It seems that there's an endangered species of bird that inhabits that land - the Florida Scrub Jay.

    Having Lindy as evidence is certainly compelling given the fact that her land is in a residential neighborhood and is located very close to a Super Wal-Mart. There's no doubt that she's getting screwed over by the ESA. However, I would have liked to have heard from other people as well. Lindy's story is certainly sad and I don't mean to diminish what she's faced with, but I think her personal plight overshadowed the point they were trying to make. I think having a few more people getting screwed over would have helped.

    Doing this review and having to look back on the show, I see where their points were really strong, but they way in which they drew out the slam on William Snape III made the points a bit more convoluted and not as strong as other episodes. They kept going off on other story lines and then coming back to Lindy, then going off again. It ended up taking a great deal of time before we the audience really understood what Lindy's full story was. The way the show was put together, their points were a little fuzzier than they could have been and thus lost their impact.

    All that being said, I still laughed my fanny off. There's something about Penn's way of narrating the show that I find refreshingly funny. Regardless of the topic, when he says, "And then there's this [insert expletive here] guy..." that I find riotous. This show and the series as a whole is unique and I can't wait for the next episode!
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