Wonder Showzen aired its final episode in 2006, but the legacy of the MTV2 series that was absolutely, definitely meant to be viewed by actual children lives on in memes, GIFs, and rants by preachers who never thought they’d live to see God commit suicide. Today, in celebration of its 15th anniversary, The Ringer rounded up creators Vernon Chatman and John Lee, as well as a several members of the show’s crew, for an oral history digging into its taboo madness.
Chatman and Lee, who’ve gone on to work on mild-melting shows like Xavier: Renegade Angel and The Shivering Truth, unpack everything from the show’s prank-fueled origins to their battles with MTV’s standards department to the experience of having knives pulled on them, a topic they also discussed with us some years back. It’s also wild to consider what the show would’ve looked like had it been picked up by USA, the first network interested in its premise.
One of the most interesting bits to emerge from the oral history concerns Trevor Heins, the sweet redhead who regularly terrorized oblivious New Yorkers as the host of “Beat Kids.” According to Lee and Chatman, the pair pitched MTV on Trevor Heins 2028, a Boyhood-style movie in which they’d spend 20 years trying to get the kid elected president.
Chatman: That was the [election] year Trevor would have been 35. We thought, “We start this kid running for president right now. We try to get some weird small town in, like, Ohio to elect him mayor, and start making lobbying groups.” If the movie had worked, we’d have kept doing it as a TV show where he keeps running.
It was this long-term project—like Boyhood, but about the presidency. And I genuinely believed that if we spent this kid’s entire childhood and adulthood doing this as a joke, he’ll definitely be president. By 2028, people would have to vote for him.
Lee: And that’s what happened. Donald Trump is who Trevor was going to be. He’s the redheaded Beat Kid.
Heins also swings by to discuss how he got cast and the experience of dressing up like Hitler as a pre-teen. “I was in sixth grade, so I was 12 at the time. I went to the audition, and they asked me, ‘If you could rule New York for a day, what would you do?’ And my response was, ‘I would go up to the Naked Cowboy in Times Square, pull down his pants, and say, ‘Ha-ha! Who’s naked now?’ From that response, they were like, ‘We want this kid.’”
Read the full oral history here.
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