AMC, Thursday, 9:30 p.m.
AMC, Thursday, 10 p.m.
The bombast of professional wrestling and the dolefulness of roadkill may have never struck you as a logical pairing, but perhaps they will once youve seen Immortalized, an aggressively strange new show on AMC that may be landing at just the right time. Football season is over, baseball season hasnt started, basketball and hockey arent for everybody, so why not competitive taxidermy?
Immortalized pits an outside challenger against one of four expert taxidermists the Immortalizers, as theyre called in the shows hyperactive parlance to see who can interpret a given theme most effectively. The program is apparently part of an effort by AMC to capture the coveted oddball demographic on Thursday nights.
In addition to the Immortalized premiere, Thursday also brings Freakshow, about the Venice Beach Freakshow in California and the people who run it. Its a fairly jarring one-two slap, the kind of spectacle you know you should probably look away from, but by the time you force yourself to hunt down the remote, the ending credits are rolling.
Immortalized is the better of the two because it revels in its own absurdity.
Get ready to watch art and animals collide, says the host, Zach Selwyn.
Soon he is welcoming the Immortalizers Beth Beverly, Dave Houser, Page Nethercutt and Takeshi Yamada who are introduced in a hail of hyperbole reminiscent of pro wrestling or a heavyweight fight.
In the first episode a challenger named Kevin Clarke, who isnt a taxidermist but an insect mounter, goes up against Beverly, who, were told, once made a hat out of a fox scrotum. Their challenge is to interpret the theme Size Matters, with the resulting works critiqued by three judges, who then declare a winner.
Other shows, like American Stuffers on Animal Planet and Mounted in Alaska on History, have leaned toward conventional taxidermy, but here the idea isnt preserving a piece of nature so much as creating a piece of art. Whether the pieces really are art will depend on how liberal your definition of that word is, but when you see them, you have definitely seen something.
And if this is art, certain musty museums could take a lesson from the presentation. Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to tonights smackdown between the Rajah of Realism, Andrew Wyeth, and the Doctor of Drip, Jackson Pollock.
Freakshow is kind of drab compared with Immortalized, especially for anyone who has ever lived within driving distance of Coney Island. It centers on Todd Ray and his family, who run the Venice Beach Freakshow, with its collection of two-headed animals and a group of humans who have unusual skills or physical attributes.
The opening episode involves Rays efforts to persuade George Bell, who is 7 feet 8 inches tall, to join the show. Bell is put off by the word freak. Ray tries to explain that his intent is to ennoble the word, to celebrate uniqueness. Its not a very convincing argument, but the juxtaposition of Bell and Amazing Ali, who is 3-foot-5, is kind of endearing.