Greenfield, Massachusetts native Penn Jillette, the talking half of the Las Vegas-based magic act Penn & Teller, turned his TV lens back on his hometown this month, for a half hour episode of “Penn & Teller’s: Bullshit!” which aired nationally on the Showtime Channel. The episode, which began airing March 30th for a week, was on the subject of Wal-Mart, and featured another Greenfield resident. “They did the filming about three months ago,” explained Sprawl-Buster Al Norman. “They told me that Penn & Teller were libertarians, and that they would trash my point of view.” Norman said he agreed to appear on the show anyway. “I didn’t really care what they said in rebuttal. I looked at a sample of the show and decided it was pretty much a farce from start to finish — mainly distinguished by its Guiness Book record string of expletives. Norman appears in the show giving the film crew a Sprawl-Busters tour through Greenfield, including the classic downtown Garden Theater, where Jillette stops the film to reveal that he once worked at that theater selling popcorn. Norman narrates how Greenfield’s downtown has struggled with four Wal-Marts surrounding it on three sides. Jillette suggests that existing buildings downtown be demolished and a Wal-Mart built downtown. “Not a bad idea,” Norman said. Jillette also reveals that he’s more of a “Target Man” than a Wal-Mart shopper. In the course of the show, a professor attempts to defend sweatshop jobs, a young Wal-Mart worker thanks the retailer for her $8.50 an hour job, and a Chicago Alderman explains why he wanted to keep Wal-Mart low-wage jobs out of his city. The show also features filmmaker Robert Greenwald, whose film “The High Cost of Low Prices,” prompted Wal-Mart’s PR machine to go into hyperdrive. Jillette refers several times to Wal-Mart’s “average wage” of $10.16 an hour — yet all the show could come up with is a woman who makes $8.50 an hour. “The show is short on substance,” Norman concluded, “and even shorter on entertainment value.” He said the show ends with a sequence in which five women strip naked by removing their Wal-Mart T shirts. “Because of the language and nudity, the Execs in Bentonville, Arkansas won’t be screening this show during lunch breaks at Wal-Mart,” Norman said. “It’s too R-rated for Wal-Mart’s tastes. They’ll have to edit it, just like they edit the rest of the media.” Norman said two of the members of the film crew were members of a union, and said they had no use for Wal-Mart stores.
Other films more edifying are found on the Sprawl-Buster’s website. If you wait long enough, the Penn & Teller BullShit show on Wal-Mart will be available in chain video stores everywhere, including Wal-Mart. If you want to praise Penn Jillette for his defense of Wal-Mart, try finding him in the check out line at Target.