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Subverted Kids Show / Live-Action TV

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  • The show TV Funhouse was built around this concept, featuring drinking, smoking, drug-using, psychotic puppets and parody cartoons like "X-Presidents" and "The Ambiguously Gay Duo" to great effect. It originated as a series of animated shorts on Saturday Night Live, though "Ambiguously Gay Duo" dates back even further, to the short-lived The Dana Carvey Show.
  • Chappelle's Show had one sketch where puppets (voiced by the regulars of the show as well as Snoop Dogg) taught the kids about things like homelessness, drugs, masturbation, and STDs.
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  • Saul of the Mole Men, which pastiches Sid and Marty Krofft shows of the '70s such as Land of the Lost and somehow borrows heavily from/straight-out parodies the short-lived 70s toku Dengeki! Strada 5.
  • The cast of Rainbow, a British kid's show, recorded this joke segment which was obviously never meant to air.
  • Life On Mars and Ashes to Ashes (2008) both have occasional children's programs from their time periods, altered in a way to comment on the plot. The most blatant example is their take on Camberwick Green, as seen here.
  • Predating most of these, Andy Kaufman often affectionately invoked and subverted kids show tropes, particularly hosts, in his work. (He actually hosted a kiddie show in Boston in the 1960s, and acts such as "Mighty Mouse" were ones he had developed and perfected as a performer at children's parties in his youth — now presented to adults.) The most famous example of this on film would be his much-delayed-from-broadcast 1977 TV special, which climaxes with an actual, sincere interview with Howdy Doody (the original puppet and voiceover performer were used), but also has such segments as "The Has-Been Corner" and reveals that his Excited Kids' Show Host Hates the Job, Loves the Limelight. In his PBS Soundstage appearance, his alter ego Tony Clifton turns up as a puppet and literally kicks the butt of a Howdy Doody imposter, and a Winky Dink and You-inspired segment proves to be the key to his getting back to the show when he's banished to a desert island for "going too far". Plus, a friend recounts in the documentary The Real Andy Kaufman that Andy had broached the concept of a Christmas Special that would, among other things, have ended with a disaster involving a skydiving Santa whose parachute doesn't open...
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  • Paul Reubens' character Pee-Wee Herman had a Subverted Kids Show done with the Groundlings that eventually becoming a real one in Pee-wee's Playhouse. After Pee-Wee's... incident in 1991, his real kids show completed the Circle of Life and became fodder for subversion, such as the In Living Color! parody ad for a Pee-Wee Herman doll with a motorized rapid-motion arm "so Pee-Wee can beat... this drum!"
  • The Daily Show:
    • The series used to have a recurring segment called "News 4 Kids". Jon Stewart donned a cardigan, sat surrounded by stuffed toys and tiny plastic furniture and explained current affairs for the very young — in an incredibly cynical and depressing way, while smoking a cigarette and drinking from a hip flask. (They stopped making the segments in 2000 when Stewart quit smoking). They later started featuring Gitmo instead. Islamic Terrorist Elmo!
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    • Jon Stewart Jizz-Ams in Front of Children... uh, Jon Stewart Touches Children... oops!, Jon Stewart's Story Hole.
    And that'll be... Our Little Secret.
    • The show also introduced a parody of School House Rock explaining the (non)importance of mid-term elections, explaining in cynical and graphic detail as to how corrupt the system really was.
  • One Monty Python's Flying Circus skit has Eric Idle as a kiddie TV presenter who realizes the book he's reading is pornography barely disguised as a kiddie storybook.
    Eric: Hello, children, hello. Here is this morning's story. Are you ready? Then we'll begin. (opens book, reads) "One day Ricky the magic Pixie went to visit Daisy Bumble in her tumbledown cottage. He found her in the bedroom. Roughly he gabbed her heavy shoulders pulling her down on to the bed and ripping off her..." (audience laughter)
  • From Flight of the Conchords: "In the marmalade forest, between the make-believe trees, in a cottage cheese cottage, lives Albi... (Albi)... Albi... (Albi)... Albi the Racist Dragon!"
  • One of those Top 50 Somethings shows on British TV had Sweep shouting "F**K OFF!" at the presenter. Now I know you can say it's just a beeping note, but anyone who grew up with those characters always knows what it means.
    • On a similar but genuine note, the performers doing the slide whistle noises that formed the speech of The Clangers had actual words in mind, and if you know what they are you can actually recognise it. As shown on QI, one particular line was "Oh, sod it! The bloody thing's stuck again."
  • Look Around You. Look around you. Just look around you. Have you worked out what we're looking for?
  • A recurring sketch on Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In features a kid's show hosted by Uncle Al, the Kiddies' Pal. "Uncle Al had a lot of medicine last night!" was the hungover host's usual catchphrase.
  • Saturday Night Live has a lot of sketches that are about screwed-up kids' shows or have premises that would make it a screwed-up kids show if it were played during the hours when kids may be watching.
    • From the 1970s, there was Mr. Bill, a little clay guy who was constantly squashed, sliced, and otherwise tormented, often by the aggressive Mr. Sluggo. He got no help from his supposed friend Mr. Hands either. "Oh nooooooooo!" Later incarnations of Mr. Bill were actually pitched at kids as well as adults, without having to change things!
    • From the 1980s, Eddie Murphy played a drinking, smoking, cynical Gumby ("I'm Gumby, dammit!") and Mr. Robinson, an inner city take on Mr. Rogers ("Here's how we answer the door in my neighborhood, children... WHATCHU WANT?!").
    • In the 1990s, there was "Jingleheimer Junction", a show with Umberto Unity (Horatio Sanz), Katie Kindness (episode host Cameron Diaz), and Clara Caring (Ana Gasteyer), all of whom wore sweaters with the letters of their first names. When Freddy Friendship (Will Ferrell) joined the cast, Jingleheimer Joe had a major Oh, Crap! moment, while Freddy, Umberto, Clara, and Katie all remained blissfully unaware, insisting that their new friend should be at the front.
    • The Season 24 episode hosted by John Goodman had "The Happy Smile Patrol," which combined this with the "Funny Aneurysm" Moment (another trope SNL is familiar with) with repeated news reports of the actors and actresses from the show involved in violent, horrific acts interrupting the broadcast.
      News anchor: Once again: Teddy Tickles, Glenda Giggles, and Harry Hugs have now taken their own lives, after a killing spree that claimed, among others, Cuddly Kevy. A tragic, tragic day. We now return to "The Happy Smile Patrol".
    • Season 26 (2000-2001) brings us "Der Lächeln Beherrscht", or "The Smiles Masters," a twisted show of German origin airing on Nickelodeon.
    • The 2000s brought us a one-off sketch on the Season 28 (2002-2003 season) episode hosted by Ray Liotta where one of the cast members of a Barney & Friends-esque TV show has grown boobs during her hiatus and the director (and the actor in the Barney-esque costume) trying to do the show despite the actress's Gainaxing and the ensuing Accidental Innuendo.
    • Season 33 had, in the Seth Rogen-hosted episode, a parody of The Muppet Movie in which their bus hits and kills a guy. When a cop (Kenan Thompson playing 1970s comic Nipsey Russell) pulls them over to question them, Zoot shoots him!
    • The second time James Franco hosted (during 2009-2010's Season 35) had an SNL Digital Short featuring Franco as the special guest star on a children's show called The Tizzle Wizzle Show where the kid actors dance around in pajamas. It turns sinister when the knives and pills are handed out and the show ends with Franco as the sole survivor of a dangerous murder-suicide game.
    • The TV Funhouse cartoons by Robert Smigel (that became a short-lived show already mentioned here) are mostly this. One segment featured a ''Dora the Explorer" parody named Maraka who asks the audience why her father left her and if Robert Blake was innocent. When she tells the audience to slide on their tummies like a penguin, she eventually says, "Do it asshole!".
    • The season 45 episode hosted by David Harbour features a parody of Joker (2019)... with Sesame Street characters called Grouch with Harbour/Oscar the Grouch in place of Joaquin Phoenix/Arthur Fleck, Sesame Street as a Gotham City-esque Wretched Hive, Susan Robinson as an expy of Debra Kane (the social worker Arthur sees early in the movie), Bert and Ernie getting mugged (with Ernie getting stabbed after calling the mugger a "bitch"), Grover saying "ass" and "damn", the Count as a drug addict, Elmo as a (female) drug dealer, Cookie Monster as a homeless man, Snuffleupagus as a pimp, an aged-up Prairie Dawn as one of Snuffie's hookers, and Big Bird as a (female) stripper.
  • MADtv:
    • The Reading Caboose, which mingled the tropes from children's shows with subjects from the Conspiracy Theory page, all hosted by George Carlin, to boot.
    • A direct parody of Schoolhouse Rock! ("Public School House Rock"), featuring musical grammar and vocabulary shorts such as "Expletives" (compare "Interjections", the original).
    • "Tickle Me Emo", a skit where Elmo is a bratty, overdramatic, suicidal emo.
    • The Sesame Street spoofs derive their humor for dealing with grown-up themes. Sesame Street is bought out and bulldozed by real estate developers, Bert is revealed to be a sexual predator, Big Bird has to be incinerated because he contracted bird flu...
    • Their Disney Princess sketch starts off like your standard Disney song, but then it's revealed that she's in South Central LA, running into bums, tranny hookers, and gangbangers, before going to a movie set to shoot "Snow White and the Seven Positions".
  • Primetime Glick featured a segment called "Tales from Lalawood," which featured Jiminy Glick telling children gruesome tales of celebrity murders, suicides, etc., told for the children with cute marionette puppets.
  • The Angel episode "Smile Time" involved a children's TV show being used by evil demonic puppets to suck out the life force of the children watching the show (at one point, the demons get into an argument over whether this constitutes quality edutainment). While investigating, Angel ends up being turned into a puppet himself. And can still kick Spike's butt (although admittedly Spike was a bit too busy laughing his ass off to put up much of a fight...)!
  • Biffovision, an aborted BBC series by the co-creator of Teletext's surreal gaming magazine, Digitiser, sees the traditional Saturday-morning magazine show given a surreal and overtly adult twist.
  • Goodness Gracious Me, an English TV sitcom, did a skit called "Skipinder the Punjabi Kangaroo" which took sections of Skippy the Bush Kangaroo and used a Gag Dub to portray him as bigoted, sexist and foul mouthed with a thick Indian accent.
  • The Game Show Fun House was an actual kids' show. Its Spin-Off College Mad House... not so much. They basically replaced the kids with college students, made the stunts risque, and changed the names of the obstacles in the house to things like "Roommate from Hell".
  • In Germany, Die Sendung mit der Maus is a favorite model for this. Like this parody from the German show RTL Samstag Nacht (yep, it's the Transatlantic Counterpart of Saturday Night Live): "Hello dear kids! Today we'll show you how to turn your hamster into a nice doorstopper, how to drill a hole into the wall to watch your big sister taking a shower, and how to burn down a home for third world refugees."
  • German late night Harald Schmidt Show had a recurring segment featuring sock puppets Bimmel und Bommel explain each letter of the alphabet by citing deadly diseases and mass-murdering dictators beginning with said letter, along with crude sexual references.
  • Brian Conley did a famous (in the UK) series of sketches poking fun at the tropes of kids' TV presenters, "Nick Frisbee and Larry the Loafer", which feature both age-inappropriate material and the audience going 'ooh' when Larry (a squirrel puppet) is beaten by Nick, to which he responds "IT'S A PUPPET!!"
  • In Living Color! went to this well more than once. The Candy Cane Show had a female presenter who couldn't hide her neuroses (about relationships, aging, etc.) behind her perkiness, and The Scary Larry Show was hosted by an unstable Vietnam veteran/postman who had a similarly shell-shocked buddy as a sidekick.
  • RuPaul's Drag Race often includes putting one of these on as part of the competition of its Drag Queen competitors, with the aim to of course cram as much innuendo as possible into the sketches.
  • SCTV had "Mrs. Falbo's Tiny Town," a parody of children's television where Andrea Martin plays a naive kids TV show host with John Candy as her dumb jester clad sidekick who do insane things that almost get them killed like visiting a populated maximum security prison. In the final, Cinemax-produced season, alcoholic Happy Marsden hosts a children's show called "Happy Hour" live from a local tavern.
  • The rationale behind casting Tom Baker as the narrator in Little Britain. With his distinctive voice being fundamentally linked to the childhood of a large chunk of the audience, he spends his role babbling in a similar tempo and vocabulary to that used by the Doctor he played. Of course, what he's saying is invariably obscene, bigoted, sexually depraved or any combination of the above.
  • Black Mirror:
    • An in-universe example in "The Waldo Moment" - Waldo is a character from a segment on a late-night satirical show where a cartoon bear interviews various celebrities in a set designed to look like one from a children's show, where he uses a lot of foul language and crude humor. There is a certain amount of subtle Stylistic Suck applied.
    • "Fifteen Million Merits" is shot, acted and written in a way that Pastiches the revival series of Doctor Who, which Charlie Brooker admits he loves. But not only does no Doctor figure show up, but the love of the hero's life gets Brainwashed into a life of happy sex slavery...
    • "Rachel, Jack, and Ashley Too" is written beat for beat like a Disney Channel Original Movie, even going as far as using a former Disney Channel star as one of the leads... in a plot about how manipulative and contolling her superiors were and how her Contractual Purity took its toll on her. There's even a foulmouthed living toy involved just so people don't get the wrong idea.
  • Dutch television is notorious for this, especially shows from the progressive channel VPRO. In the 1980s they had an actual children's show called Theo en Thea in which the presenters explained topics such as drugs, prostitution and homosexuality to actual children, but in a fun and comedic way. Despite complaints of many parents this show remained broadcast in the children's timeslot and was a hit with kids and adults alike! Another VPRO show notable for this is Purno de Purno (see the Western Animation folder).
  • A Spring 1994 episode of the French children's variety show Jacky Show became a quite accidental example and caused a bit of a scandal when singer/actress Mallaury Nataf performed her single "Fleur Sauvage". As clearly seen in a brief video, she was wearing a very short dress, twirled a bit too energetically and ended up performing a Marilyn Maneuver that flashed both sides and showed she wasn't wearing any panties under her tights. Miss Nataf herself, however, claimed some years later that the video in question is not from the live broadcast but a separate performance after the show.
  • Puppets Who Kill is a show about puppets who get help with their problems from humans, just like the puppets on Sesame Street. However, those problems aren't everyday kid problems-they are usually related to violence (except for Buttons, who wants to find a girlfriend). It doesn't help that two of the actors starred together in The Noddy Shop and Groundling Marsh, two puppet shows that were actually aimed at kids.
  • Supernatural Season 13's "ScoobyNatural" involves the Winchesters getting trapped in an episode of Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!, animated by the same team as the modern Direct to Video films—except, per Supernatural standards, the ghost is real and is actually killing people. Deconstructive Parody ensues.
  • [adult swim]'s Mr. Neighbor's House is a parody of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood that establishes its true insanity right off the bat in the form of several Funny Background Events in the opening, followed by loads of Fridge Logic and Insane Troll Logic (the main character has thrown a 5th birthday party every year for the past 31 years, which is later revealed to be because his mother left him and his father on his actual 5th birthday) and increasingly bizarre imagery (such as the main character running ahead of his bike, putting a pile of chips on a table without a bowl, and decorating the interior of his house with toilet paper). By the end, everything completely breaks down and it's then revealed that it was all the dream of a mental patient watching a Show Within a Show. The sequel released around a year and a half later takes it even further.
  • In-universe literal example in Mystery Science Theater 3000: Joel was trying to have an honest instructional segment in the episode "Gamera vs. Gaos" for any kids watching. However, Crow and Tom kept interrupting him with horrible things for the kids to do, like cutting out picture from library books and drawing on their bedroom walls. It ends with Joel carrying off Tom; meanwhile, Crow starts telling the kids that the secret word of the day is "booger", at which point Joel yanks him off-screen.
  • The Studio C sketch "The Crayon Song" is about a group of actors dressed as crayons on a kid's show singing about their respective colors...except Black keeps interrupting everyone else's parts with more morbid lyrics, and threatens the others with a taser when they try to stop him. Aside from that, Green's lyrics are rather nauseating (with Black deciding not to change them) and the sketch ends with Black's implied death and the reveal that they got a black actor to play a tan crayon labeled "skin color".

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